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.
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. It started small, but grew quickly as word of mouth spread. Within a year, over 400 Penn students had attended Reflect dinners.
The brothers of the Illinois Alpha RLC at Illinois were awarded the Honor of Philias in recognition of their ongoing support of a nonprofit run by their late brother and faculty fellow, Fred Gottheil, Illinois Renaissance. Gottheil and his family started Josh’s Fund after his son lost his battle with lymphoma at the age of 19.
Years after Josh’s passing, some of the brothers in the chapter to sought out Gottheil, a renowned economics professor, as their faculty advisor. Both he and his wife, Diane, became valued mentors, frequently giving the young brothers advice on pursuing their personal and professional dreams. Gottheil’s input was instrumental in the development of Illinois’ Residential Learning Community and, as the chapter’s faculty fellow, he taught a course in the classroom in the chapter house for eight years.
Since 2000, the chapter has honored their beloved professor and mentor by hosting various fundraisers to support Josh’s Fund. What began with a small Monopoly tournament has become a series of events in support of what is now the chapter’s sole philanthropy. As of 2017, Illinois Alpha had donated more than $51,000 to the organization.
After Gottheil passed away in 2016, the chapter honored him by naming the chapter classroom Gottheil Hall.
The award was given to the brothers of the Missouri Zeta RLC at Southeast Missouri State University for their service to the family of chapter brother Bobby Christman, who lost his life defending his girlfriend and brother during an attempted armed robbery in St. Louis, Mo. When a man entered Christman’s parked vehicle and tried to steal his girlfriend’s purse, Christman intervened and was fatally wounded during the struggle. Even in death, however, Christman continued to give life. He was a registered organ donor, and as he passed away, he was able to donate five organs to individuals across the country who were also fighting for life.
In the weeks that followed, Christman’s chapter brothers could not forget the legacy, impact and unfailing love he had shown in life and death. To honor his selfless example, they created an endowment that would support future brothers of the Southeast Missouri State RLC and preserve Christman’s memory. Working with his family, friends and the university, the brothers raised more than $40,000 in his honor.
At the 2015 Conclave in Nashville, Tenn., Past Grand President Steve Shanklin, Murray State ’70, recognized the chapter’s service by awarding them SigEp’s Honor of the Philias. He then announced that SigEp would donate an additional $5,000 to the Bobby Christman Memorial Fund.
The award was given to the California Beta Gamma Chapter at the University of California – Riverside for their remarkable service to a brother in need. Christopher Lee, California–Riverside ’13, was critically wounded in an automobile accident. Following Lee’s accident, his chapter brothers didn’t stop at just visiting him the hospital – they moved out of their house so Lee’s family could move in; they organized a vigil that brought brothers from five surrounding SigEp chapters to pray for Lee; they raised $3,000 to cover the family’s travel costs and medical expenses; and they organized visits so Lee would never go long without the company of a brother. Brother Lee is on his way to a steady and complete recovery, and is determined to join his chapter at the 2015 Conclave.
The brothers of Drake’s Iowa Delta Chapter earned the Honor of Philias for its support of Shiv Morjaria, Drake ’14, throughout his battle with cancer. Shiv, an honor student from Kenya, learned during his first semester at Drake that he was stricken with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. With home so far away, his fraternity brothers provided immediate brotherly love. Brothers drove him to and from chemo treatment, brought him soup while he was working one of his two jobs, left him little notes to show support or simply played a video game with him. During his cancer treatments, his brothers shaved their heads to show their solidarity in helping him beat the disease. When Shiv shared his mother desperately wanted to be in the states with her ill child, the executive council and Alumni and Volunteer Corporation pledged to make it happen. She ended up coming on her own dime, and the Fraternity allocated its funds instead to Shiv’s chemo treatment.
One of your three roommates, a chapter brother and friend from back home, falls ill. It is sudden and unexplainable. Doctors run every test they can, including a spinal tap. For weeks your brother is going from hospital to hospital in search of answers. His symptoms? Loss of central vision. It is so bad that his eyesight is rendered 20/800. He can no longer drive. He can no longer read. He can no longer recognize people’s faces unless he stands really close to them.
You and your roommates reach out to help your brother when he needs it the most. He contemplates dropping out of school. You all tell him not to give in. You all tell him he will adapt to this condition and find a way to excel.
You help him study by reading the assignments to him. You and your SigEp roommates help to drive your sightless brother around. Soon Jeremy Poincenot learns how to live with his rare, genetic disease Leber’s Hereditary Optic Neuropathy.
For all these acts of brotherly love, the 2009 Honor of Philias is awarded to Josh Roush ‘11, Eric Loya ’11, and K.J. Higgins ‘12 from San Diego State.
In August 2005, Hurricane Katrina would be the third strongest hurricane to make landfall in the United States. The devastation in New Orleans was so intense that Tulane and Loyola cancelled their semesters; however, the Louisiana Alpha Brothers knew they couldn’t sit back and not help. Six brothers volunteered immediately for Red Cross training and were dispatched to Mississippi to help with recovery efforts. Other brothers made plans to render aid in the recovery. When classes resumed in January, many Tulane students did not return to campus. Every SigEp came back! Their bond to each other and New Orleans had been strengthened as a result of tragedy. The chapter continued seeking ways to aid in the ongoing recovery. They took charge of projects, participating in several programs for the Neutral Ground Restoration Project, Seventh Ward Restoration Project, Outreach Tulane, Habitat for Humanity, CACTUS and numerous paint rallies for New Orleans public schools. As so many have reached out to help New Orleans in so many ways, our Louisiana Brothers at Tulane University have represented the cardinal principle of brotherly love by reaching out with their time, their hands and their love to touch the lives of the people of New Orleans in a way that they are seeing new value in the fraternity men at Tulane.
Scott R. Erwin, Richmond ’04, delayed his senior year to travel to Baghdad, teaching democracy to Iraqi youth. Insurgents tried to kill him, and his life was saved by an Iraqi translator. Scott was a leader among the noted students on the Richmond campus. He seemed to carry an extreme his Fraternity’s tenet that life has a meaning and purpose that carries with it certain responsibilities to our fellow men as are embodied in our cardinal principles of Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love. Scott went well beyond his job working for the Coalition Provisional Authority and created Ambassadors for Democracy, a program which empowered Iraqi college students to understand, learn about and then teach other people about how democratic government works. Scott modeled the program after one he created in the United States, “Veterans Engaged in Teaching Service and Sacrifice.” He employed a “train-the-trainer” approach, and his goal was to prepare university students in Iraq to become teachers themselves, to teach the basic tenets of democracy at centers throughout the city of Baghdad.
Through their touching display of brotherly love, James N. Blazer, Oklahoma State ’67, and James D. McKellar, Jr., Oklahoma State ’67, enabled their Brother Ray Murphy, Oklahoma State ’68, to achieve an advanced degree and be a champion for the improvement of quadriplegics. Paralyzed at a wrestling meet in 1970, Murphy’s biggest worry was that other people would have to care for him. Together Blazer and McKellar co-founded the Ray Murphy Fund and have helped Murphy live with courage and dignity. Murphy earned a magna cum laude degree in computer programming in 1988, and he went on to become a leader of research into new technologies for quadriplegics. For over 30 years, Blazer and McKellar have spearheaded annual fund raisers for Ray, visited him weekly, and even built a home next door to Murphy for his 24-hour-care nurse, Joyce. Blazer and McKellar were humbled by the honor and commented that seeing Ray achieve is more than enough reward.
During World War Two, Henry A. Pope Jr., Pennsylvania ’43, showed a special form of brotherly love to his Pennsylvania Delta brothers overseas. Pope, because of a medical deferment, was unable to fight in the war, so instead he corresponded with his chapter brothers on the front lines. The letters he received in response became a newsletter called The Delta Pen. The newsletter was sent each month to the Pennsylvania Delta Chapter brothers fighting in the war allowing them to stay in touch with each other. Throughout the war, Pope sent out 27 issues and received more than 700 letters in return. It is because of this great service to his brothers in need, that Pope received the Honor of Philias at the 2001 Centennial Conclave.
After deciding to implement the Balanced Man Project, the men at the Dartmouth chapter agreed that the role they would play in their community, both individually and as a group, would involve a local elementary school. Some chapter members were involved in the building and maintenance of new athletic facilities and volunteered to provide instruction and coaching in various sports. Other members acted as teacher’s aides and tutors, while some provided musical education where there had been none offered before. Most importantly, these men consistently fulfilled the role of big brothers, friends, and mentors to a group of children who lacked those important aspects in their lives. Chapter members continued to push their own involvement to the next level by soliciting financial support from the community to purchase new computer equipment and software for the school. Not only did the chapter members succeed in meeting the most pressing needs of this elementary school, they were involved for seven years, representing more than 15,000 hours of time. For dedication to significant service to the local community and honoring all members of SigEp through unselfish acts of caring, New Hampshire Alpha was added to the distinguished list of Honor of Philias recipients.
For the first time in the award’s history, the Honor of Philias was presented to an individual. William Markt, father of Brother Jesse W. Markt, Oregon ’99, worked with the Oregon Beta Alumni and Volunteer Corporation, giving both time and money, to see the chapter’s facility made accessible to his son who was confined to a wheelchair after a car accident. Markt was awarded the 1997 Honor of Philias because of his extraordinary commitment to his son and his influence on the men of the Oregon Beta Chapter.
The Guardian Angels of Illinois Nu were the recipients of the 1995 Honor of Philias. It all started when one of the chapter brothers, Kevin Dwyer, Eastern Illinois ’96, volunteered to become the roommate/mentor of a fellow classmate, Alex Kusmanoff, who was diagnosed as autistic his freshman year at Eastern Illinois. Dr. Gail J. Richard, professor of communications disorders and sciences, stated “Kevin was a godsend who took Alex under his wing, and nurtured his development in campus situations that I could not enter as a professor. Kevin also included Alex in social situations at the fraternity house, where the young men accepted him readily.” During their 24-hour-a-day watch, they helped Alex make friends and cope with the hazards created by autism.
The Houston SigEp chapter was awarded the 1993 Honor of Philias for the special brotherly love they expressed to Brett Sweetland, Cal State-Long Beach ’90, diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Brett was a special inspiration to the chapter brothers with his courage and love of his Fraternity. In the words of Past Grand President Jack Wheeler, “It was my honor to stand before the Conclave and tell the attendees of Brett’s courage and his love for his Fraternity and to publicly say thanks to the Houston chapter for understanding the value of love”.
When a brother from Barton College transferred to East Carolina due to an accident which left him paralyzed, the brothers of North Carolina Kappa slowly began to get to know him. He started coming to brotherhood events and to just hang out with the chapter. But he had one problem at the house as there were no handicap ramps. So one brother took the initiative and organized a fund raiser to generate funds to build this much needed ramp. After the brothers raised the money, they pitched in and built the ramp that gave this brother the access he needed. This showed real brotherly love and the reason that East Carolina SigEps were awarded the 1991 Honor of Philias.
Sigma Phi Epsilon’s first Honor of Philias honored a group of balanced men at Baylor. Since its chartering in 1976, the Baylor SigEps managed a 300-acre cattle ranch with 75 head of cattle for an elderly couple, Barry and Helen Winn. Without the SigEps, the Winns would have to give up their ranch. The brothers managed the ranch, including the daily feeding and care for the live-stock, fence building and upkeep, machinery operation and repair, land management, and general ranch maintenance. The brothers also painted the ranch houses, built a full-sized barn and put up miles of fence around the property.