Founders’ Day 2022

From the Office of the Supreme Prior:

Dear Frater,

As I start as Supreme Prior the Fraternity finds itself 2+ years into executing the SAM2030 Strategic Plan.  The goal of this plan is to cause Sigma Alpha Mu to become recognized as the first choice of collegians seeking a forward-thinking, inclusive fraternity which enhances the university experience and prepares the fraternity member for a fulfilling life.  But how can we make such a lofty statement easier to understand and relatable to prospective members, and how do we reconnect with alumni members that have lost connection to the fraternity after finishing school?

During the past year, Sigma Alpha Mu conducted a project to collect from its members their personal Sammy Stories.  These stories provide example after example of the profound significance that Sigma Alpha Mu has made in adding to and improving the lives of the more than 80,000 men who have been initiated into our ranks, as well as the lives of their families and also their communities.  Starting with this issue of the Octagonian I will be sharing with you selected stories from our members that bring our lofty objective down to earth and remind us who we are, what we stand for, and why being a Sammy is something to be sought after and valued.

…Two things I decided on entering my freshman year: 1) I am trying out for the varsity soccer team 2) I am not joining a fraternity, particularly not Sammy. My father, a SAM Chapter founder, was pushing me in that direction…  My soccer tryout was successful; however, during my physical I learned, I arrived at school with a viral infection. This ended my chance that season to play soccer and worse, I realized new academic difficulties for the fall semester… Sitting in my room with the door open, staying calm, figuring out how I could remain in school, a guy in a SAM sweatshirt stopped by and started a conversation. I disclosed what happened at health services.  I told him that I had my hands full so I certainly couldn’t consider joining a fraternity.  The conversation ended. He departed. Later he returned with another guy, the Chapter’s Prior.  He said that my first visitor mentioned my name in their meeting and I was on their legacies list.  They shared that they wanted to help me through my illness.  I told him I was not able to join the fraternity. He said, “it’s not about joining. It was about helping the son of a Sammy who was in need.”  

That fall, a small group of men from SAM cared for me.  They helped me to get to class, joined me for meals, brought by food, shared class notes when I was too ill for attending, etc.  Were it not for the kind support of these men, my life today would be completely different. By  November my health issue was resolved. When the SAM Prior dropped by once more, I thanked him.  He said,” Glad you’re better and sorry about the soccer season. Did you know the fraternity’s intramural soccer season is starting? If you would like to get back into shape I would be happy to get you a purple shirt and…” I interrupted and accepted the offer. Over the next few weeks, I practiced and played soccer games. I met the rest of the guys, and started developing friendships.  Despite my initial convictions, is it any surprise that I decided to join the fraternity in the Spring semester?”

Why share this story? Primarily because I think it illustrates that SAM is far more than the out-of-control, collegiate “party club” that our media and pop culture portray all fraternities as. Ours is an organization that exists to make peoples’ lives better during and AFTER college through lifelong friendships, supporting others in need of assistance, doing things to improve our communities, AND, most importantly, instilling in our members a common foundation of values that hopefully guide each of us to always try to do the “right thing”. Yes, responsible social gatherings will always be part of Sigma Alpha Mu. They’re fun and they usually provide first impressions of our organization to prospective members and the campus communities where our chapters exist. But life is about more than parties, and if we are going to realize our goal of being recognized at the “first choice of collegians…” then we need to show the world that we’re more than just a party club and the additional aspects of our fraternity will make a positive difference in their lives.

And it doesn’t end when our members finish school. Sammy membership is for LIFE. Since graduation so, many of us have found our fraternity membership there to support us time and again. Through continued friendships, job mentoring and networking, being welcomed to a new city by a newly met SAM brother, and in times of adversity when a helping hand and moral support of friends is really needed. That’s what Sigma Alpha Mu has been for many of its members. It’s what it still is today for many of us. And it is what prospective new members and existing members who have lost touch need to hear and see, in both word and deed, if we are to be successful in achieving our SAM2030 goal.

Thank you, Ted, Neil, Tony, Eddie, Lee S, Lee F, Rex, Josh, Bob, Avie, Lenny, Adam, Dub, Daren, Bruce, and the rest of the men of Phi Chapter for being there for me in the fall of 1981 when I was the guy with the viral infection. For extending the hand of friendship to me. For being a huge part of enabling me to build the life that I have. And for opening my heart and mind to see how my life would be enriched and enhanced by becoming a part of this organization. The guy who was never, EVER going to be a member of SAM has ended up as its new Supreme Prior because all of you guys live the values of Sigma Alpha Mu. I will try my best to continue following your example.

Fast and Firm,

Dave Kleppel

Supreme Prior