Written by Supreme Prior Dave P. Kleppel (Washington University, ’82)
Stories of Sigma Alpha Mu: 3.3k Sammies Share How Sammy Made a Difference in their Lives
As I start as Supreme Prior, the Fraternity finds itself 2+ years into executing the ΣAM 2030 Strategic Plan. The goal of this plan is to establish Sigma Alpha Mu 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.
How can we make such a lofty statement easier to understand and relatable to prospective members? How do we reconnect with alumni members who lost connection to the fraternity after graduation?
After two years, Sigma Alpha Mu concluded a project to collect personal Sammy Stories from its members. These stories provide a myriad of examples 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. The significance also includes contributions to the lives of their families and 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 of who we are, what we stand for, and why being a Sammy is something to be sought after and valued.
This oral history was edited for brevity.
“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 ΣAM 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 ΣAM 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 ΣAM 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 ΣAM 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?”
I believe this story demonstrates that ΣAM is far more than the media portrayal of an out-of-control, collegiate party club. Our organization exists to make peoples’ lives better during and after college through lifelong friendships, supporting others in need of assistance, improving our communities, and, most importantly, instilling in our members a common foundation of values that 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; however, life is about more than parties. If we are going to realize our goal of being recognized as the first choice of collegians, then we need to show the world that we’re more and make a positive difference in their lives.
Our fraternal experience does not end when our members finish school. Sammy membership is for life. Since graduation, many of us have found our membership supportive time and again. Whether by continued friendships, job mentoring and networking, being welcomed to a new city by a ΣAM brother, and in times of adversity when a helping hand and moral support of friends is really needed. Sigma Alpha Mu has been a cornerstone for many of its members. For many of us, it still is today.
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 ΣAM 2030 goal.
A personal note of thanks to 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. You were there for me in the fall of 1981. I was the guy with the viral infection. You extended the hand of friendship and enabled me to build the life that I have. Opening my heart and mind to see how my life would be enhanced by becoming a part of this organization. The guy who was never going to become a member of ΣAM has taken on the role of Supreme Prior because we continue to live the values of Sigma Alpha Mu. I will try my best to continue following your example.
Fast and Firm,
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