Editor’s Note: The Sigma Phi Epsilon Citation is bestowed upon alumni who have achieved extraordinary success and stature in their chosen professions. Since the award was first presented in 1965, only 256 have received the honor. Among them are world leaders, titans of industry and commerce, renowned authors and artists, civil servants and military heroes, award-winning actors and all-star athletes.
Here, we share the story of one of the five brothers honored with this award at the 56th Grand Chapter Conclave in Houston.
Success hasn’t changed Tom Bené, Kansas ’84. Even as his career has taken him to the top ranks of corporate leadership — at not one, but two global Fortune 100 companies — Bené has remained firmly connected to the brothers he befriended as an undergraduate and continues to be involved with his home chapter. Every summer, Bené gets together with brothers from his undergraduate days for a reunion, and in the 35 years since the tradition began, he has never missed one of those weekends. He also returns to campus as often as he can to meet with the current undergraduates and support his university.
Bené’s SigEp journey began when he joined the Kansas Gamma chapter at the University of Kansas with some of his high school friends. He quickly immersed himself in campus and fraternity life. As a freshman, he was a walk-on place kicker for the university football team, and he played for the chapter’s intramural football and soccer teams throughout college. Bené is still remembered for signing one of the strongest new member classes in the chapter’s history when he served as recruitment chairman. Always a believer in the power of following up, he continued to check in with and offer support to the new members — becoming not just a brother to them, but also an influential mentor.
Following graduation, Bené started his career as a sales representative at American Scientific Products and was soon promoted to region manager. In his first year in that role, the team he led was recognized as the top-performing region in the company. Following that experience, he embarked on a more than two-decade career with PepsiCo, developing expertise in sales, marketing and supply chain, which positioned him well for a variety of general management assignments. In his final role at PepsiCo, Bené served as president of the company’s North American foodservice business.
In 2013, Bené, joined Sysco Corporation, the world leader in food distribution, as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer. In the years since, he has continued to advance within the company. At the start of 2018, Bené was promoted to lead the company as president and CEO and was also named chairman of the board later that year.
Outside of work, Bené supports several community, professional and philanthropic organizations in addition to SigEp. He sits on the board of the Greater Houston Partnership, recently concluded a five-year term on the board of the Women’s Foodservice Forum and raises funds for the Multiple Sclerosis Society by participating in its annual charity bike ride.
In his remarks after receiving the SigEp Citation, Bené shared how the Fraternity put him on the path to his future success. “I can remember those early days and things that SigEp brought me: It brought me discipline, and it brought me structure,” he said. “It created an environment where I could have the support that I needed, through friendships, to work through those good times, but also those challenging times. I think about the things that all of us need as young individuals to create the right environment for us to be successful. SigEp provides that foundation.”