Editor’s Note: The Order of the Golden Heart is the Fraternity’s highest honor. Its members have made a measurable impact on the SigEp experience through a lifetime of service, often at great personal sacrifice. The gold medallion was first awarded at the 1959 Conclave. Only 168 SigEp alumni have received this great honor, and members join a lineage of inductees that begins with Founder William “Uncle Billy” Phillips, Richmond 1903.
Here, we share the story of one of the five brothers honored with this award at the 56th Grand Chapter Conclave in Houston.
Ted Behnken, Toledo ’82, has anchored a team of volunteers for the Toledo chapter that has led one of the greatest comeback stories in SigEp history. In 2000, a membership review resulted in Ohio Iota nearly losing its chapter home and retaining only 11 members. But thanks in large part to incredible volunteer support from Behnken and others, the chapter bounced back in a big way. It has been recognized with nine Buchanan Outstanding Chapter Awards and currently has a manpower exceeding 140 members.
“Uncle Ted,” as many brothers call him, began his volunteer role with the chapter more than 30 years ago, following his graduation in 1982. Fellow volunteers say that from the start, he was a critical role player who was always willing to take on any task and help in whatever way was needed. With the arrival of the new decade came another opportunity to serve, this time as coordinator for a new chapter home on campus. Not content to stop there, Behnken also realized the time was right to make an organizational change and took steps to combine alumni housing and volunteer initiatives into a single alumni and volunteer corporation.
Once the chapter was settled comfortably in its new home, Behnken agreed to accept a new volunteer opportunity and moved into the role of chapter counselor. In this role, he supported the chapter’s first Balanced Man Scholarship — going so far as to interview hundreds of candidates himself. The chapter grew, and so did the accolades: Ohio Iota was awarded its fourth Buchanan Cup, and Behnken was presented with the Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1995.
Ready to take on a new challenge, Behnken next began working with chapter finances. The chapter and AVC were short on capital, and there were limited opportunities to host events or provide scholarships. With Behnken leading the effort, the Alumni and Volunteer Corporation raised more than $350,000 in contributions from alumni for scholarships. The funds allowed the AVC to publish two chapter newsletters a year and host a senior/alumni awards banquet. Behnken also solicited a gift of $10,000 to start a scholarship endowment. More gifts followed and, today, the endowment totals nearly $400,000 and supports seven different scholarships, including fully funding the Balanced Man Scholarship and others totaling $15,000 each year.
In 2012, Behnken became AVC president. During his term, the AVC has been recognized four times for operational excellence, and the chapter has grown from 88 to over 140 members and won four gold Buchanan Cups. During this time, the chapter also had the distinction of being the only fraternity at the University of Toledo to receive a Campus First Excellence Award.
When Behnken was inducted into the Order of the Golden Heart at the 2019 Conclave, he took time to thank his family and the former chapter presidents who were in attendance. In what may be the best possible tribute to his years of service, 11 former chapter presidents and over 50 brothers and friends were there to cheer on and thank their Uncle Ted for his leadership and support over the years. Behnken still serves as AVC president and chairman of the Greek community at Toledo and is a proud member of SigEp’s NUTS! McAuliffe Society and Board of Governors.