The Honor of Philias was established in 1989 by Past Grand President and Order of the Golden Heart recipient Jack D. Wheeler, North Texas ’61, and his wife, Kate. Chapters or individuals may receive the Honor of Philias as recognition of their special expression of the Fraternity’s cardinal principle of brotherly love.
At the 2019 Houston Conclave, the Honor of Philias was presented to Jared Fenton, Pennsylvania ’17, for his work to support college students amidst growing concerns on many campuses about mental health. As founder of The Reflect Organization, Fenton has created a unique outlet where students can discuss their feelings without fear of judgment and build a community of support.
His commitment to helping others can be traced back to when his mother introduced him to volunteering at an early age. Years later, while taking a class in high school, he became interested in mental health and realized it was something more students should know about. Then during his first year at college, he saw firsthand the importance of mental health services: A classmate died by suicide, and Fenton later supported a good friend through an unrelated mental health crisis. At the same time, Fenton was becoming increasingly aware that a lot of students were pretending to be OK even though they were struggling to cope with their responsibilities and the expectations placed upon them. Around campus, this pressure to succeed became known as “Penn face” — the need to maintain an image of perfection due to fear of being perceived as weak or less-than.
There was an outlet on campus, however, where some students were encouraged to discuss what was happening in their lives, including situations they might be struggling with. It was a group for Pennsylvania Delta chapter brothers established several years prior to Fenton’s arrival at the school. Fenton started attending after he joined the chapter.
While studying abroad prior to starting his sophomore year, Fenton heard a member of his host family openly discussing therapy with friends. It was then that he began to grasp the enormity of the stigma in America surrounding seeking help. “At the Penn Delta group, I experienced a dedicated space where my brothers and I could be there for each other,” Fenton explained. “It became clear to me that it contained the seeds of that which could greatly benefit the larger Penn community.”
Due to his personal interest in mental health and belief that it needed to be better addressed among college students, Fenton launched his nonprofit, Reflect. The organization hosts dinners where students talk about challenges in their lives in a relaxed setting.
The organization started small, but grew quickly as word of mouth spread. Within a year, over 400 Penn students had attended Reflect dinners. Students have said they’re more likely to seek help now and feel less isolated because they know they’re not the only ones struggling.
Tony Krumbhaar, ’12, one of the brothers who had organized the chapter’s discussion group, expressed pride in being part of something that served as an influence for positive change at his alma mater. “I wouldn’t have imagined this initiative would carry momentum years later. But I’m pleased to hear a fellow brother, Jared, expanded this forum for brothers to the university at large.”
The group has now spread beyond Penn’s campus and is making a similar impact at five other colleges across the U.S. In addition, students and officials from universities around the country continue to reach out to Fenton about starting chapters on their campuses.