Phi Delta Theta in the World of Tomorrow

Ben_PutanoBy Ben Putano, Ohio Lambda #728

I consider myself very lucky as I reflect on my first weekend at Kent State during my freshman year. I followed a group of new friends to a fraternity cookout, where I was told there would be food, beer, and girls. When I arrived to the house that afternoon, there was no beer—or girls for that matter—but plenty of food, volleyball and a group Phi Delt brothers. Later that night, I went back for a bonfire, talked with several members, played chubby bunny (look it up), and I was hooked. On day one of my college career, I found a great chapter from the best fraternity on the planet. Like I said, I was lucky.

I texted my dad that day to tell him I was hanging out at a fraternity. He replied, “Be careful”. And I said, “No Dad! Would you believe that the fraternity has an alcohol-free property? Don’t worry!” He said back, “Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

In a way, Phi Delta Theta is sort of an oxymoron in the fraternity world. Over the past decade, we have grown faster, stronger, and smarter than many any other fraternal organizations. In the words of Brother Rich Fabritius, “We have colleges calling us, wanting us on their campuses.”

It’s a turbulent time for many Greek communities, and many organizations are doing little to help themselves. Excessive drinking and hazing has pushed many chapters and organizations to the brink of existence. I’m proud of the tough decisions that Phi Delt has made, the example that it has set, and the benefits that it provides to young men.

I think the reasons for my pride and the Fraternity’s success is simple, but it may not for the reasons you would expect. When Phi Delt adopted alcohol-free housing, we set the groundwork to become the best fraternity that we can be. Now, I am definitely not some anti-booze snob who will stick my nose up at the sight of alcohol, but I do believe that there is a time and a place for drinking, and our policies have established the guidelines perfectly.

Living in an alcohol-free property at Ohio Lambda for three years, I was reaffirmed of this over and over. Yes, my brothers and I would go out and have fun, but at the chapter house, we made our own fun, like kids playing on a playground. We bonded and grew to know each other in unaltered states of mind. In the absence of alcohol, we focused on each other, and we became a better chapter because of it.

I also believe that much of Phi Delta Theta’s success stems from the Fraternity’s approach to leadership conferences. The training that our members receive at Kleberg, Recruitment Workshops, and the Presidents Leadership Conference, in absence of alcohol, is second-to-none. There is NO WAY we could have an effective conference, waking up at 8 a.m. and going until 10 p.m. for three days, if our members were out drinking the night before. Because of this, our members return to their chapters after a conference and they are prepared and motivated to make serious change at their school.

When I was at PLC this winter, I had a friend also attending a conference for his fraternity at the same time. After the weekend, we exchanged stories. The majority of his energy was spent out at bars and wild excursions through the city. Although it sounded fun, I knew his experience could not top my own. Phi Delt takes preparing its leaders seriously, and it shows in the quality of our chapters and our alumni. We are a different breed of Fraternity man.

Phi Delta Theta has always been a leader in the fraternity world, but it has never been truer than it is today. I believe that in an uncertain future for fraternities, Phi Delt is preparing itself greatly for long-term success.  Because of the decisions we’ve made and the vision we possess, I feel confident that Phi Delt will truly be a Fraternity for life, and for my son’s life, and for his son as well.

I am grateful for an opportunity to give back to a Fraternity that has given me so much. I’m Proud to be a Phi.


Love the Adventure – Lessons from a Recent Graduate

563824_10200381555039529_1057149594_nBy Colin Hueser, Iowa Gamma, #1797

Although I’m absolutely thrilled to be joining the Phi Delta Theta staff in a few short weeks, I’m currently in limbo. Like many recent college graduates, I’m back at my childhood home, sitting in an old bedroom that both looks and feels different from when I left it four years ago. However, my stay here is brief; I’ve got adventuring to do.

In the time between my graduation from Iowa State and the beginning of my career as a Leadership Consultant, I’ll be going on a whirlwind of a trip. I will have traveled through multiple states, taken a camping trip garnished with days boating on a pristine lake, attended a three-day music festival and visited three of the largest cities the country. All the while, I’ll be fortunate enough to laugh and reminisce with the people whom I cherish most, spending time telling stories and hypothesizing about what the future may hold for us. It’s the perfect way to use these transitional days, both fitting and rewarding.

Even though I’m not in the “real world” yet, I’ve already done quite a bit of reflection on my college days – the people I’ve met, the places I’ve gone, the experiences I’ve shared, the roles I’ve filled, and the growth that I’ve undergone. As I embark on my post-grad road trip and prepare for life on the road with Phi Delta Theta, I can’t help but think of some of the most important things I learned while in college and how they have led me to my current journey. They are lessons that I plan on taking with me everywhere I go; lessons that I hope each undergraduate Phi Delt learns.

Value Your Values

The Cardinal Principles: Friendship, Sound Learning, and Rectitude. As men of Phi Delta Theta, these are the values that we have sworn to hold true. As a fraternity man, a college student, and a gentleman, I hope that you adhere to far more: acceptance, honesty, duty, integrity, loyalty, modesty, valor, etc., etc. To be honest, I’m far less concerned with which values you deem most important, but more so on how you choose to live through them.

In the words of John Stewart, “If you don’t stick to your values when they’re being tested, they’re not values, they’re hobbies.” Make your values known to others and internalize them. When faced with a difficult decision, it is always worth the extra second to examine how your decision-making has aligned with what you deem most important. You’ll thank yourself for it in the long run, I promise.

Try New Things

Your world is only as big as you allow it to be. Fortunately for college students, you find yourselves in a position of limitless potential. While on your college campus, pursue things that sound interesting to you, shake every hand you possibly can, get involved early and immerse yourself in whatever world you choose to explore.

Eat new foods with new friends in new parts of tow and explore your city’s hidden gems and secret hideaways. Take a weekend trip for every reason and for no reason. Go abroad and learn to appreciate a culture other than your own. Grow your world.

Don’t Be Afraid

Don’t be afraid of life. It’s going to happen to you no matter what and there’s no stopping it. The only difference between being a driver and being a passenger is that drivers decide the destination and receive better view for the ride. Be a driver.

Challenge tradition. When others act in a way that defies your values or our values, stand up. Do not fear the majority, do not fear failure, and always take the tough road if you know it to be right. The things you’ll regret most are the things you don’t do.

Make Mistakes

You will never have a better opportunity to make mistakes in your entire life than right now. You are young, you have a strong network of brothers to support you and you most certainly have a lot of things that you’ll need to learn the hard way:  staying up too late, under-preparing for an exam, breaking a friend’s trust and oversteping your bounds.

I’m not telling you that you should do any of these things, however, you’ll do them on your own. My advice to you is that when these things do happen to you, take the time to recognize your mistake and learn everything you can from the experience. Make these mistakes while you can still afford to.

Be Honest

Be honest with yourself and in your relationships. Be honest with your brothers. This was perhaps the most difficult lesson for me to learn. Don’t hide your emotions in an attempt to be “a man.” The best men I’ve ever met are full of honesty, emotion and life.

Your feelings, your past, your future, your fears and your desires are all part of what make you who you are. Not being open to them limits your potential for love and success. Love openly and love often. Honesty is easy to neglect, but sorely missed once gone. One dishonest encounter is enough to destroy a relationship that took years to build. Take it from me.

Love the Adventure

Learn to love the adventure. Chase the good, appreciate the bad and learn everything you possibly can along the way. Not every part of life is as fun or glamorous as a fraternity social, tailgating a home game or a post-grad road trip. Truthfully, many things in life are the exact opposite: summer jobs, trips to the DMV, study sessions, grocery shopping, conference calls, dusting, commuting to work, and filing paperwork, to name a few. However, only you are capable of determining how you feel about these other aspects of your daily life. Take time to appreciate the beauty and significance in every situation. Your happiness is always under your control.

By doing these things, I know that you will become a better and happier man. This advice is amongst the most valuable things I that I learned during my college years, and nearly all of it is directly related to my time with Iowa Gamma.

However, I write these lessons with no intention of suggesting that I have everything figured out or that I am a perfect model for my own advice. My practice is imperfect, and at times, I have found myself to be a hypocrite. Nonetheless, I have no doubt that my next two years with Phi Delta Theta will give me even more insight and even more advice to give. I don’t know how and when that will happen, really, but that’s just part of the adventure.

Proud To Be A Phi For A Reason

269438_10151065624391386_187624421_nBy Matt Letcher, Missouri Delta #421

To me, four years is a short period of time. As a history major, I am used to analyzing causes and effects over hundreds of years. Over the last few weeks of my undergraduate career, I have begun to realize and appreciate the effect that these four years have had on me and how they will continue to shape me. The relationships and experiences that I have gained are extensive and strong, and the majority of them were founded in the Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. I would not be the man I am today without Phi Delt and everything it has offered me.

With each semester and Phikeia class that entered the Fraternity, I was given opportunities to meet new people and form bonds that will withstand the test of time. I can think of brotherhood events, alumni events, or just regular weekday nights when the only thing that mattered was the fact that we were either talking about memories we had or making new ones. That type of comfort that comes from understanding what true brotherhood is tough to replicate during college.

If I could identify one lesson that I was constantly reminded of throughout my time at Saint Louis University, it would be that everything happens for a reason. I chose Phi Delta Theta and everything that I gained because of that decision was because of the initial feel that I acquired during Rush Week. I chose to be an education and history major, and the classes that I was required to take provided me with knowledge and practical experience for my future field. I chose to student teach this last semester and therefore missed out on many of the social aspects of a second semester senior, but I was able to help countless numbers of students grow socially, academically and cognitively. I was recently asked if I had any regrets from my time at SLU. I was able to confidently state that I did not because of this mentality that everything happens for a reason. I would advise younger Phis to keep this is mind throughout their own time at school.

As I look forward to what is to come, I am proud to be able to look back and relive everything that has happened. There is excitement both in what we remember and what we have to look forward to. This is especially true knowing that I will continue to have Phi Delta Theta as a part of my life and knowing everything it has given me already.

Brotherhood – What It Means To Me

Goughneour_headshotBy Rick Goughneour, Pennsylvania Pi #0093

What do we think of when we see or hear the word brotherhood? The word “brotherhood” is used from the time we start recruitment and continues to be used everyday as a way to describe why we joined or what we’re looking for in the Fraternity. Few people ever find their true meaning to the word “brotherhood” but for some reason, Greeks everywhere use it because they think it is what brings us all together.

For me the word “brotherhood” was always something that I searched for within my own chapter, but I could never find a definition or phrase to describe it.  It took me losing one of my mentors and brothers on February 28, 2012 to realize what true “brotherhood” really meant to me.

Losing this person has been one of the toughest things I’ve had to deal with in my short 22 years of life, and it changed me for the better. Before, I thought losing a relative or friend was hard but this just seemed to hit a little harder than any of those. Although we love our friends and family, losing a fraternity brother who I respected caused me to feel a whole new series of emotions that I hadn’t felt before that day.

Michael R. Haines was someone we could count on at PA Pi. As a Founding Father and CAB member he was involved from the time he was initiated until the day he passed. Mike would have given anything he had if we as a chapter told him we needed it, and that man lived our values to the fullest in every extent of his life. Whether it was waiting tables at Eat N Park, selling phones at Verizon, collecting money in an armored car, or being there for his brothers, Mike Haines was passionate and put his whole heart and soul into every part of his life. We all had respect for him and although he was tough on every memmber of the chapter, we knew there was a reason behind it. He was sometimes stern but would also be the first person to shake your hand and tell you that you did a good job at something.

My first real connection with Mike came during the fall semester of the 2011-2012 school year, shortly after recruitment was over and we were beginning the Phikeia process with our new guys. We were talking outside of a building on camups just catching up before any of the brothers had arrived. It started off as a normal conversation about the week and what had been going with the chapter and just general things that were going on in our lives. I remember him being extremely happy about the new job that he was hoping to get and how good of a change it would be for him. But as we all knew with him, things went from happy to serious in the blink of an eye when it came time for business.

He started telling me how impressed he was with the chapter and how things had been going over the past year and that he couldn’t wait to see where we could be in five years if we kept up our hard work. As I look back on that now, I truly wish that he would be here to see how much of an impact he had on us as a chapter up to that point, and I wish I had told him that one of the main reasons we were where we were was because of him. We kept talking and after awhile he shook my hand, looked me in the eye and told me that he was proud to see how I had changed since my initiation. He also mentioned that in his eyes my pledge class was the “second founders” and without us, the chapter would not be where it is.  From that moment, until the minute I heard the news that Mike had passed, I had worked to make sure he was satisfied with the chapter, and at the time I had not realized it, but I had earned Mike’s respect. Every member of Pennsylvania Pi can probably say that Mike had a positive effect his life or on the way we thought about things.

My true meaning of “brotherhood” happened shortly after his passing when we were all sitting in a room together with local alumni, our Province President Jordan Palitto, General Council member Chris Brussalis and brothers that knew Mike since the day he was intiated. We were laughing and telling stories of how Mike had touched our lives or made us laugh. That “feeling” we all had sitting in that room, as our former CAB Chairman Mike Hortert described it, was “brotherhood” in every sense of the word. The feeling we get when we think of the others in the chapter. The feeling we get when we all come together to support each other and share memories. The feeling we get when we think of Mike Haines. I can honestly say that I have never been more proud to call myself a brother of Phi Delta Theta than I was that night. Seeing the amount of support and care that we all had for each other in a time of need is what this is truly about.

Today, I can finally say that I’ve found my definition of the word. It’s not something that can be defined with words or descriptions, but more of a feeling when you’re surrounded by those you call your brothers, and you see that they are willing to give as much of themselves to you as you are willing to give them. It’s that feeling we all get when we see a brother doing something that represents our values. It’s that feeling we get when we’re at a Phi Delt conference and get chills doing ritual with members of different chapters. It’s that feeling we get when we think of the person that brought us into Phi Delta Theta. It’s that feeling we get when we’re proud of our accomplishments as an organization or as an individual chapter. Sit and think about that “feeling” and a time that it has hit you during your time as a member of this great organization.

What does brotherhood mean to you?

Brotherhood: What I’ve Learned Through Loss


By Ryan Schell, Expansion Consultant

There is a well-known fraternity cliché that I am sure the majority of people reading this have heard before. It is said that fraternity brothers will be the first to arrive at your wedding and the last to leave your funeral. While I have yet to attend a fraternity brother’s wedding, I plan on making an early appearance. Unfortunately, I cannot say so much for the latter.

Trent Taylor was the kind of guy that you couldn’t help but gravitate towards. Trent was our star intramural athlete, our head of recruitment, the chapter member who always had a sorority date night to attend, he was my pledge brother, and most importantly he was the first person to meet you with a smile as you entered the chapter house courtyard. At one point I remember thinking of Trent as the Florida Gamma “welcome mat.” He was always there, always with a greeting, and always prepared to dust you off after a long day. Trent made everyone feel comfortable. Trent made everyone feel at home.

trentOn April 7th 2012, a fellow Phi, Trent Taylor was involved in an accident and suffered a traumatic brain injury. Over the next few days, the staff at Orlando’s Regional Medical Center struggled to find room for the influx of family, friends, and Phis that traveled to be with Trent and his family. We watched, waited, hoped, and prayed for Trent to improve. We cried, we joked, and we laughed at the many stories that Trent had been the center of.

On the evening of April 12th, hundreds of friends from the Florida State community gathered on campus to memorialize Trent. Some told stories, some said prayers, and others came simply to support our chapter. For many, this was their chance to say goodbye. Ian Trent Taylor passed away on April 12th as we gathered at Florida State’s Westcott Fountain to remember him.

In the year since Trent passed, I have tried to make some sense of his death and all of the experiences that surrounded such a tremendous loss. I am not sure that I will ever truly understand, but I have certainly learned a few things about Fraternity and Brotherhood.

Brotherhood is Support

As a leader in my chapter, I frequently felt that I was carrying my chapter through every situation no matter how small or large. I felt as if I was constantly supporting one of our one hundred forty members. I had a very different realization during Trent’s memorial service in Orlando. I sat in the second row behind Trent’s closest friend and roommates. I sat there to support them, as the same brothers were also some of my closest friends. What I noticed in that moment was the two hundred or more Phis who sat in the rows behind me, supporting me as I did my best to support those that sat in the row ahead. I believe this is an essence of Brotherhood that leaders frequently fail to realize. We do not support our brothers and carry their burdens because we are stronger or better suited to do so. We support them because while we struggle, there are always brothers behind us carrying a little bit of the weight.

Brotherhood is more than Friendship

As Brothers of Phi Delta Theta, we all recognize Friendship as one of our cardinal principles. But I believe that Brotherhood is more than the word friendship could ever explain. Friends share experiences and memories, as Brothers we share a bond that few outsiders will ever witness. We feel with one another through every success and every failure. We laugh and cry as much for each other as we do for ourselves. When Trent passed, I shed as many tears for my Brothers’ loss as I did for my own. We are connected by far more than Friendship. We are truly linked heart to heart.

Brotherhood is real

No one would argue that members of Phi Delta Theta are Brothers. We have defined our relationship as such. What I am talking about exists outside of our definition of our association. Common knowledge would suggest that as my chapter mourned the loss of Trent, we were one less member and therefore our Brotherhood had shrunk. In reality, it had soared to levels that I could have never imagined. Trent’s passing had ignited a flame in all of us. We may have been one less member, but our Brotherhood was stronger than ever. As we returned to Tallahassee for classes, exams, and eventually graduation, I could not help but feel stronger and closer to my Brothers than ever before.

As Brothers we are far more than the sum of our parts. We are more than chapter meetings, parties, and even the ritual that guides us. Brotherhood exists outside of the individuals that embody it. Trent will forever be a part of that Brotherhood.

As I travel the country growing our great Fraternity as an Expansion Consultant for Phi Delta Theta, I carry Trent’s memory and our story. Through our Brotherhood, he touches every campus, colony, and individual that I work with. Trent, and what he meant to my chapter, will always be a part of how I define Brotherhood and Fraternity.Brotherhood is the good and the bad, the smiles and the tears, the weddings and the funerals. But most of all it is real and it is lasting. And it has changed my life for the better. Though we are separated by distance, Mary Todd Taylor, Tanner Taylor, and the Florida Gamma Chapter will always be in my thoughts.

The Florida Gamma Chapter will be hosting the Inaugural Trent Taylor Memorial “Power Strut” 5k this weekend benefiting the Brain Injury Association of Florida.

If you enjoyed or related to this post in any way, please consider making a contribution in Trent’s memory at

The Phi Delta Theta Foundation: For Every Phi — And Why That Matters

LogoLgcBy Joan Schiml, Director of Annual Giving

Established in 1958, the Phi Delta Theta Foundation is the philanthropic arm of the Fraternity, meaning that its purpose is to engage alumni and friends of Phi Delta Theta in sharing their time, talent or treasure on behalf of current and future Phi Delts.

What does it mean to give a gift of time?

Although not tax deductible, giving time to the Fraternity is of great value.  Serving in a volunteer leadership capacity, organizing a chapter service event, or helping a Brother through a difficult day are all examples of sharing your resource of time.

What does it mean to give a gift of talent?

Giving a gift of talent means that a person shares a skill he has without receiving the revenue traditionally associated with his work.  This type of gift is often referred to as “pro bono” work and may be tax deductible under circumstances deemed appropriate by the IRS.

Examples of this type of giving are: using your engineering degree to design a water pump for a village without water in Africa, using your business degree to serve on the board of a local non-profit, or using your medical degree to provide medical care to an underserved population.

What does it mean to give a gift of treasure?

Fully tax deductible when given to a non-profit with a 501(c)(3) tax status, a gift of treasure is literally the giving of money, property, or other securities such as stock.  Gifts of treasure can also be made by leaving a portion of an estate in your will.

While the tax benefits associated with the giving of treasure are significant, sociological studies on why people give indicate that this is not a key motivator.  The top two motivators are belief in the mission of the organization and civic pride.

The work of the Phi Delta Theta Foundation benefits all chapters in North America and that makes the Fraternity as a whole stronger and more competitive.

While it is natural for undergraduates and alumni to feel fiercely connected to their alma mater chapters, the reality of the Greek market place is that to be successful, a Fraternity needs to show impact on a large, cohesive scale.  Being able to offer leadership development programs such as the Presidents Leadership Conference and Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute to all Phis is integral to the success of the Fraternity as a whole.  Offering scholarships to students based on merit and need and not on chapter affiliation is also essential.  Having strong central programs which shape undergraduates into leaders also gives the Fraternity the leverage it needs to influence the direction of the future of all Greek organizations through advocacy on Capitol Hill and among peer professional groups as well.

Ways to give treasure to the Foundation:

Phi Delta Theta Annual Fund.

The Phi Delta Theta Annual Fund is the yearly campaign to raise dollars that will be used in the current year in support of activities and expenses incurred.  About $1 million is raised each year at an average gift size of $100.  That means impact is made through the efforts of many people giving at a level that is comfortable for them.

Knights of Pallas.

The Knights of Pallas is the undergraduate giving program in support of the Phi Delta Theta Annual Fund.  Each year, students make gifts of either $18.48 or $30.  The chapter that reaches 100% participation first wins a 3’ statue of a knight to display in their chapter house.  In 2012, $48,000 was raised making Phi Delt undergrads leaders among other Greek student giving programs.

Building on the Bond

This is the fundraising campaign to raise $20 million by December 2020.  All gifts will be directed to the Leadership Academy, student scholarships and the infrastructure necessary to sustain the robust growth of the Fraternity.  In short, the donors who give to Building on the Bond (usually in amounts of $50,000 or more) will set Phi Delta Theta squarely on the path to becoming the best version of itself.

Living Bond Society

The Living Bond Society is the giving club for those who name the Fraternity in their will or estate plan.  In 2012, over $400,000 has been given by members as they have entered Chapter Grand. The majority of these donors wish to set up scholarship funds with their gifts.

Phis are known for their loyalty and pride.  Sharing your resources of time, talent or treasure is one way to show your loyalty and pride.  It also exemplifies the Fraternity motto: “We enjoy life by the help and society of others.”

Ten Things You Can Do To Be Philanthropic Within Phi Delta Theta

  1. Make a gift to the Phi Delta Theta annual fund.
  2. Volunteer to visit Phi Delt donors in your area and thank them for their support.
  3. Become an Iron Phi by accomplishing an athletic goal and raising $1,000 in support of The ALS Association and the Phi Delta Theta Foundation in the process.
  4. Organize a day of service with undergraduate members and alumni in your area.
  5. Serve in a volunteer leadership capacity (General Council, Province President, CAB, etc.).
  6. Endow a Whole Man Scholarship.
  7. Join Knights of Pallas, the undergraduate giving program.
  8. Send a thank you note to the donor(s) who funded the scholarship you received.
  9. Write an article for The Scroll about how giving of time, talent or treasure is an expression of the cardinal principles.
  10. When you notice one of your Brothers in need, do not ignore him.  Ask yourself, “What can I do to help?”  Then do it.

Philanthropy In The Phi Delt World – What It Looks Like And What You Can Do To Be A Part Of It

joan_schimlBy Joan Schiml, Director of Annual Giving, Phi Delta Theta Foundation

In this blog series, we’ll look at the world of philanthropy (aka — giving away your time, talent and treasure). Both the United States and Canada have strong histories of generosity toward others. In 2010, $211.8 billion was given away by Americans and Canadians gave away $10.6 billion (individuals only).  Key words: given away. Over $222 BILLION dollars that people could have spent on personal items or saved in a bank or invested in the stock market were given away to a person or organization in need.

In the Greek community, this trend toward generosity is also strong. Last year, overall giving in the U.S. grew by just 4% and has not yet returned to pre-recession levels. Within the Greek community, giving grew by 11%, with the average Phi Delt supporting six organizations or causes.

But, why? At a time when resources are tight, why is giving on the rise?

If we look at the top ten reasons people give, it may surprise you that it is not at all about receiving something tangible or a tax benefit. It is about strengthening an organization that means a lot to them. In short, giving stems from the heart, not the mind.

The top ten reasons people give are:

  1. Belief in the mission of the organization.
  2. Civic pride.
  3. Organization is fiscally sound and manages its money well.
  4. High regard for volunteer leadership.
  5. High regard for the professional staff.
  6. High regard for the organization’s leadership.
  7. Access to special events.
  8. Receive a tax benefit.
  9. Slick brochures.
  10. Guilt or obligation.

In the articles that follow, you will read about how Phi Delta Theta is active through its Foundation and hear from some alumni who have chosen to make careers out of the business of philanthropy.  The topics covered are:

  • An overview of the Phi Delta Theta Foundation — why it exists and how it helps
  • Top 10 things you can do to be philanthropic within Phi Delt
  • Alumni Career Profiles:  What does a career path in philanthropy look like?  Three Phis share their experiences in and motivation for working in the field of giving
  • Live like Lou.  How one Phi Delt turned a diagnosis of ALS into a life’s mission