SigEp’s highest honor, the Order of the Golden Heart, is given to brothers who have served the Fraternity for at least 30 years.
The college years provide young SigEps with the moral compass and formative experiences that inform life decisions and expand personal abilities. As brothers set out after graduation, each day brings new opportunities and challenges. Priorities are established, daily decisions add up and the narrative of a life is written.
With more than 325,000 alumni, there are countless stories of SigEp men who have devoted their entire adult lives to ideals formed during the college years. We celebrate their triumphs and extraordinary contributions in chapter newsletters and on homecoming weekends, in the pages of the Journal and at national gatherings. Above all accolades, one award stands out. And so we present the Order of the Golden Heart at the biennial Grand Chapter Conclave — the Fraternity’s largest stage.
The Order of the Golden Heart is the Fraternity’s highest honor. Its members have made a unique and measurable impact on the SigEp experience through a lifetime of service, often at great personal sacrifice. Conceived by Past Grand President Bedford W. Black, Wake Forest ’41, the gold medallion was first awarded at the 1959 Conclave. Only 160 SigEp alumni have received this great honor, and inductees join a lineage that begins with Founder William “Uncle Billy” Phillips, Richmond 1903.
The article below shares the stories of three honored with this award at the 55th Grand Chapter Conclave. Their life journeys and commitment to SigEp virtues serve as inspiration for us all.
Gary Ordway, Drake ’66
Brother Ordway’s 47 years of service to SigEp began when he starting advising his chapter a few years after graduating. Decades before fraternities and universities began promoting alcohol awareness, he was organizing seminars for brothers on the dangers associated with drinking. It was this type of visionary thinking that enabled him to guide frustrated alumni through the chapter’s closure in the mid-1990s. As AVC president, he inspired these volunteers to work to recharter the chapter — something no other fraternity had ever managed to do at Drake. The chapter restarted in 2000 with just 15 men. By 2002, Iowa Delta had a new charter, and the next year, a Buchanan Cup. This was just the first of many Buc Cups and a period of phenomenal growth that has seen the chapter soar to more than 100 men. Through it all, Ordway was there, personally mentoring undergraduates, emphasizing the importance of academics, championing the value of a substance-free home and building a culture where mistakes of the past won’t be repeated. Today, he continues to lead the AVC and has steered Iowa Delta through RLC accreditation, a capital campaign and renovation of the chapter home.
Denis Dieker, Wichita State ’77
Brother Dieker’s engagement as a volunteer began when he became AVC treasurer following graduation. He soon began contributing to the alumni newsletter and has played a key role in keeping alumni informed and connected ever since. For three years, he served as a district governor and then resumed volunteering with his home chapter as AVC president. During this time, Dieker focused on recruiting more volunteers and established terms for certain positions. This led to stronger connections between alumni and undergraduates and more consistent mentoring of undergraduate leaders. It also enhanced the experience for volunteers by giving them the opportunity to serve in a variety of roles. Before transitioning back to the role of treasurer, Dieker kick-started fundraising efforts for a new chapter home and later managed the AVC’s successful $2.4 million capital campaign. Now a general AVC member, he spends a great deal of time working directly with undergraduates. He supports national leadership programming through the NUTS! McAuliffe Society and the Educational Foundation and has also established scholarships for brothers in his home chapter.
Bert Harris, Florida ’74
In his early years as a volunteer, Brother Harris served as an advisor and chapter counselor to two chapters while also attending law school. He later served as AVC president for one of these chapters while building his own practice. He brought a special quality to the role, gaining the admiration of fellow volunteers for his commitment and leadership in the process. His dedication and ability to lead served Harris well as he transitioned into the role of SigEp National Housing trustee and soon after, president of SENH. Over the next 15 years, he broadened the level of services the Fraternity could provide by expanding SENH’s lending capability and through the launch of the property management program. These initiatives have enabled AVCs to provide high-quality housing that enhances the SigEp experience. Harris later served on the National Board as Grand Secretary. From 2011 to 2013, he served as Grand President, laying the groundwork for the resurgence of the Balanced Man Program. Since concluding his term, he is once again volunteering with his home chapter, serving as president of the Florida Alpha Educational Foundation.