I’ve had the honor of being a part of a great organization in my four years at UW Madison. Last night was senior sendoffs and I officially became an alumni of the Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity. Below is a transcript of my farewell address. Although it was written for the members of Pike I thought I’d share with you the same message in order to show you the great things this organization has done for me. Most appropriate it stands at exactly 1868 words, which was the year we were founded.
Good evening my fellow brothers:
In an effort to not forget anything I wanted to say I have prepared a written speech for tonight. Having thought about this moment for a long time I felt this was the only appropriate way to fully express all my many feelings. I hope you take my statements earnestly for what you will hear from me is the simple, unfiltered, and thoughtful truths of a parting friend.
Before stating too much I must first recognize the debt of gratitude which I owe to the brotherhood and moreover for your continued confidence with which you have supported me in my leadership positions inside and outside of this organization. I must recognize you for being the ones who presented the opportunities I have been able to benefit from through my unwavering attachment to this organization. I have had the true pleasure of serving as Continuing Educator, Alumni Relations Chair, Public Relations Chair, and most recently the IFC delegate. In each role I have learned new skills and without your support I would not have flourished as a leader. Nevertheless, I can only hope my service to this organization matches my appreciation for you allowing me to serve in those roles. Your unquestionable support of me in whichever circumstance personal and professional has made a lasting impact on my life.
I am not here tonight to discuss the many memorable and often ridiculous stories that I have accumulated over time. They are too numerous and to only name a few would do injustice to the others. Let me instead state that Pike has given me the opportunity to do things I would not have otherwise had the opportunity to do. From community service projects, philanthropy fundraisers, social functions and continuing education events, all have served as lasting memories including even creating the rules to Can-Jam and Manorland.
I am here instead to express my experiences and understanding of fraternity life and moreover what Pike embodies. Pike is much more than just a four year college experience. It is much more than three Greek letters that we bear on our t-shirts. It is even much more than the friendships that exist within and beyond this room. Rather it is a lifestyle that has embodied my actions throughout my collegiate career and will continue to guide me as I leave Madison.
Many in this room are probably unaware and others have long forgotten, but Pi Kappa Alpha was not the original fraternity I committed myself to joining. Entering in the fall of 2008 as a naive freshman who knew he undoubtedly wanted to go Greek, I was quickly persuaded by other organizations that built their institutions on the questionable foundations of parties, women, and heavy drinking. I quickly learned that fraternity life consisted of more than these shallow entities. And even more quickly, I became attracted to the values, mission, and vision of Pike. I sensed a true brotherhood, built on the character of its men who strived to better the community in which they lived. Dedicated to these true principles and embodying the spirit of a Sellery 2A resident, I decided to pledge myself to Pi Kappa Alpha, entering into the admirable Eta class, and embarking on a journey with many unknowns that would shape the man I am today.
Some of those unknowns existed within the true state of our chapter at the time of my pledging. When I joined this chapter we were on social probation; forbidden to have any form of socials with sororities. As such, we quickly saw our relationships with the sororities on campus go from few to close to none. We were only about 40 members strong and struggled with an apathy problem, especially with the older members, and saw a large percentage of the fraternity lacking the energies of a zealous member. Financially, things looked even worse. Collection rates among members were often low and as we continually struggled to fill our house at 200 Langdon, we sank to near bankruptcy.
The brothers standing before you did not take these hardships as an excuse to give up and continue to sink into oblivion. Instead, they willingly and enthusiastically took the challenge head on to build a better future for this organization and a better future for you sitting amongst us today.
And today is a much different picture than those four short years ago. We stand today 75 members strong, short of my freshman goal of obtaining a 100 member chapter by graduation but nevertheless a vast improvement since I joined. I must qualify that unmet goal with an explanation of my great honor and excitement which I possess, for being able to leave Pike in the current population given the quality of members with which it possesses. We stand today as true exemplars of SLAG in every aspect. We continue to work towards improving our chapter GPA and have seen a reinvestment in the appreciation and understanding of the importance of high success within the classroom before all else. We stand today as leaders; not only made possible by means of our own organization, but far beyond, through means of leadership in organizations spanning across multiple interest groups including health and well being, to cultural diversity, to business based originations, to the student newspapers and even to top positions in student government. Where we could not find an appropriate organization to meet our interests or needs, our members created new ones from scratch, and built those interests into flourishing organizations. We stand today as athletic champions on the fields and courts. There have been too many playoff appearances, too many championship appearances, and too many championship victories to count. It took us about four straight years before we lost our first softball game. Our ultimate Frisbee skills went unmatched. And intramural dodge ball ended in a championship match that pitted our Pike Team 1 versus our Pike Team 2. Even beyond our numerous intramural accomplishments we see some of our members excelling in badger varsity sports. We stand today as Gentlemen. Sorority relations are at some of their highest levels in history having shown dedication to our partners in activities like Greek Week, Homecoming, and Humorology. We continue to support the philanthropies of sororities and our themed parties have not followed the norms of belittling members of the opposite sex.
From these actions and recent successes I have began to only most recently understand what brotherhood stands for. Brotherhood of course rest upon the foundation of trust and is fulfilled through means of remaining true to oneself and to your brothers. From this trust through truth we reach a status of sympathy created within this brotherhood. Sympathy is often overlooked and misunderstood, especially within a group of 75 college men. Nevertheless I aim to divulge my interpretation of how this phenomenon continues to grow within these bonds. Simply put, sympathy is the ability to understand a feeling that someone else is experiencing and also experience that feeling, or at a very minimum understand where it is coming from. In a sense, when we sympathize with a brother in times of prosperity, we similarly join him in the satisfaction and pleasure with which he conceives as the cause of his good fortune. In the same manner, as we sympathize with the sorrows of our brothers whenever he may see misery, so we likewise enter into sadness and displeasure for whatever may be the occasion. This is the fundamental aspect of brotherhood that continues to inspire me as I see it unfold on a daily basis. And it is this very occurrence that will never leave me.
Perhaps this would be a good point to stop speaking as I hope I have been able to express to you my true feelings regarding this fraternity, but alas I feel my time tonight would be of little purpose if I did not at the very least express some forewarnings to be mindful of as I graduate. I must preface, naturally, that these are merely simple offerings from a departing friend, and although I do not expect them to serve as lasting impressions I must at least flatter myself in the hopes that they will be of some partial benefit or occasional good to the chapter on the whole.
As I have stated, Pike believes in some truly inspirational and virtuous morals. Each week we recite from memory our preamble in an effort to remember what guides our convictions and to remind ourselves of the vision of our founding fathers. Yet it is all too easy to quickly stray from those morals, reinforce stereotypes about fraternity life, and devalue the brotherhood we have worked hard to build. We say those words each week for a reason, and the expectation is that we not only memorize them as a pledge but we live by them as a brother. One thing that sets us apart from other fraternities is our close bonds and understanding of who we are. It is vital to maintain our own self-identification and not allow others either on this campus or in other parts of the country define who we are. We alone should set our standards and when we begin to sink to the levels of lesser organizations we begin to lose our identity. I pride myself on the character of each individual in this room. We have strongly improved the recruitment process over the last few years and attract undoubtedly the best men on campus. As such, let it not be forgotten that the recruitment process, is truly the lifeblood of this fraternity and without a strong flow of new members, dedicated to our cause and entering into the bonds each semester our institution is threatened with many of the same disorders as I described our state only four short years ago. This being said however, as I look out into this audience I am confident for what the future holds for Pike. And I say this without a need or interest to pander but rather as my simple and sincerest confession.
I was recently asked by a member of the UW administration, which one thing I was most proud of being involved in or accomplishing while a student at UW-Madison. I had a lot to think about, seeing as I consider myself overly fortunate and blessed to have been a part of many great things here at UW. I thought about my involvement with setting policy for the university on behalf of the 40,000 students on campus, or my opportunity to help shape a positive experience for first year students through my years working at SOAR. But as I thought more I could not help but return to the experiences with PIKE. This organization has allowed me to interact with a very diverse group of students, serve the community, and has created a family of lifelong friends built over shared struggles and triumphs. I have had the direct role in shaping this organization as we continued to evolve. It is these shared experiences and sympathizes that I truly value and will take with me long into the future.
Thank you and all hail to the Garnett and Gold