My Two Phi Delt Sons

Suzie Benfield

By Suzie Benfield

As a mother of two Phi Delts, I can give a firsthand account of “learning as we go.”  When our oldest son went out of state to college in 2003, it was a whole new world for all of us.  Then after the first month on campus he called and said he wanted to join a fraternity.  His dad and I were clueless as to what that meant.  All we knew of fraternities was from the media, primarily John Belushi in Animal House.  Oh No!!  We set off to educate ourselves and to trust our son’s judgment.  Cost was also a concern, so our son promised to get a part-time job to pay his dues.  He held several leadership positions within the fraternity and campus-wide. After college, he went to graduate school and starting working with fraternities and sororities as a professional. Now, he works for Phi Delt’s headquarters. Who knew his fraternity experience would turn in to a career?

Five years later our second son decided to attend to same college and join the same fraternity as his older brother.  We were much more aware of what that meant and were fully supportive of his decision. He also had to work part time to pay his dues. The great experiences and family environment at the Phi Delta Theta house continued. Our youngest son even lived in the same room at the house, as our oldest. He also went on to find success through the fraternity and hold positions within the fraternity and became the campus Inter-fraternity Council president in his junior year.

Joining Phi Delta Theta and being an active member not only enhanced our sons’ growth and maturity, but they developed unmatched leadership experiences. The fraternity brothers encouraged each other to do their very best and provide peer stimulus to make good grades. They were a part of many community service projects while in college, and continue to practice that service.  They have developed lifelong relationships and connections for opportunities that they would otherwise not be exposed to.

We have had many Fall and Spring break gatherings at our home over the 8 years of college education.  Living in Southwest Florida was the perfect place for them to visit and go to the beach, lay by the pool and hang out in the evenings.  Sometimes as many as 10 Phi Delt brothers would come, many having to sleep on the floor.  The brothers that were international students were some of the most memorable guests and we enjoyed learning about their cultures. Every one of the young men were people we wanted our sons to associate with. I actually became famous for my fish tacos and lemon cake, while our sons’ dad was famous for his baby back ribs.  We soon became known as “Mama and Papa B,” and consider it an honor to be part of the Phi Delta Theta family. We’ve even given a speech or two to all the new parents during the fraternity’s luncheon during Parent’s Weekend. Looking back, we are very proud that we supported our sons’ decisions to join a fraternity, and we are very thankful for the experiences that Phi Delta Theta has provided them.

Paul’s Mom – I have a Phikeia???

SD Paul and IBy Brandie Clark

The bedroom down the hall is empty, the television hasn’t been turned on in weeks, I change the sheets more out of habit than need, the clothes hanging in the closet go unworn, my son has moved out into the dorms. College life loomed ahead of him. The journey began with chemistry, biology, math, history, the trip to Ecaudor, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, and Honor’s classes. Paul is the first in our family to attend a 4-year university right out of high school.  As if that weren’t enough, a fraternity too?

This is my first blog, my first attempt at recording my experience beyond a diary I kept in Jr. High. It is with great pride that I take this mission on.  As a new fraternity Mom, as a college Mom (now with 2 boys in college), as an excited Mom, a sounding board, an observer, a woman, a single Mom, as a colleague, as a friend, as a confidant… I hope to tell you our story. I have faith that I will be sharing stories that will excite you, stories that will alleviate the fears, stories that will inspire, stories that will make you laugh, stories that may make you shed a tear, stories that will bond us PARENTS of the ones chosen to be Phi Delts.  This, I know, is going to be a journey, not only for Paul but also for myself.

Before I tell you how it began, let me tell you what I knew about Fraternities before my son decided to pledge.  My first memories of “Frats” include scenes from Van Wilder, Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds.  There is no way I would want my kid involved in that!  Visions of crazy Toga parties, beds being thrown out of the frat house windows, beer chugging contests & bra’s hanging from chandeliers. I actually pledged as a “little sister” to one of those “Frats” in my last year of high school. I will keep the name out of this blog as things may be very different now.  So, believe me, I have/had those same fears, anxieties & maybe a few giggles that you might be having.  Phi Delta Theta isn’t one of those, and perhaps they don’t exist anymore.  The few men I have met on campus that are Phi Delts are respectable, well-mannered gentlemen.  I haven’t heard any rumors, nor seen any evidence that this behavior exists within the Phi Delts and that makes me a happy Mom.

How it all started.  I am awakened to a text from Paul, it reads “I got a bid”. Huh? A what? How does that happen? What do I need to do?  Can I see it?  Can I touch it?  Oh wait… can you tell me?  Two days before my son’s 19th birthday he received his bid.  What a great birthday present! What is a bid you might ask, just as I did.  Well… from what I understand, it meant the brothers of the Phi Delta Theta Cal Rho chapter at the University of La Verne in La Verne, California found my son to be what they were looking for to join their group? Family? Organization? Fraternity?  This is all so new to me!  I can’t wait to have all the right terminology, be able to say all the right things, but for now (day 3) I am still “winging” it, and learning just as my son is learning his part.  The next night was the actual pinning ceremony, where he received this diamond shaped light blue pin with the word “Phikeia”.  He is actually a Phikeia of the Alpha Xi class.  He has been elected the Phikeia Class Chair, how exciting, right?  I have been told it is a 6-week process from Phikeia to Phi Delta Theta, and that some don’t make it.  So many things to do, so much to learn, and then (IF he makes it—which I have faith he will) the initiation into Brotherhood.  He was so full of pride, as was I!  I was so sad to find out that this is a ceremony and therefore I couldn’t attend. (One more way us parents must let go.  Sigh! )  We are becoming a Phi Delta Theta family!

February 25, 2013 was his 19th birthday. Across the table from me sat an emerging man… a pledge for Phi Delta Theta AKA Phikeia. His pin perfectly place above his heart, just as it should be. Proudly he showed us his Phikeia book, and recited the Greek Alphabet for me.  His little sister & I listened as he told us about his excitement, looking forward to the bonding exercises, the rock painting, meetings, rituals (which he explains he can’t talk about), the philanthropic activities to come, and the pledging process. As we left his birthday dinner, he quickened his pace to make sure he opened the door for us.  Such a gentleman in the making… Thank you Phi Delts!

It was comforting to hear that hazing won’t be a part of his experience transitioning from a Phikeia to a Phi Delta Theta.  When he told me the beginning of his freshman year that he wanted to join a fraternity, I will admit, I had some trepidation but also some excitement.  I had such pride that my son wanted to display a Greek symbol, take part in a “family” bigger than our own, share secrets, pride, and love of this organization.  As I read more about Phi Delta Theta, read the list of accomplished Phi Delts included men such as Neil Armstrong, Frank Lloyd Wright, Tim Conway, Phil Walden and so many more!  I knew my son was going to be in good and honorable company.

Our family embraces this experience! We can’t wait for the next step! Watching our Son, Grandson, Brother, Nephew grow to a man as a Phi Delta Theta.

Brandie (Paul’s Mom)

Parent Relations

Are Will Smith and DJ Jazzy Jeff right? Do parents just not understand?

How do you get parents to understand that Phi Delta Theta is more than just a house? How do you help them understand the value of your fraternal experience without them attending ritual?

The average parent would probably say they are confused enough by LMAO and Tweeting. What about the parent that did not attend college and does not recognize the funny looking letters on your house and shirts…or phrases like coke date, swap and mixers.

As the first-generation college student population increases the number of first-time fraternity parents does as well. Most of these students start off at a two-year institution and then transfer often times with a break immediately after high school for work and/or military service.

What does this mean for you as a Phi Delt?

As you’re probably discovering the way your chapter is recruiting is changing. The potential new members might be a little older, might be coming to school from the military and have parents that are not familiar with what fraternities have become today. Fraternities are no longer “frats.” They no longer have membership restricted by race and the phrase “values-based recruiting” is a part of the everyday conversation.

Recruiting potential new members and keeping members also includes recruiting and retaining their parents.

As chapter leaders, it is important that parents be included in the undergraduate membership experience. No, I’m not talking about inviting them to social events and chapter meetings. But consider how parents could be included in the other aspects the fraternal experience.

It could be as simple as a parent newsletter. Don’t just send them a copy of the alumni newsletter. Make a specific one for them. Make it parent specific. Include pictures with members doing “stuff,” not just pictures of members dressed up in costumes for social events. Show them what day-to-day living is like in the fraternity house and/or on campus. They want to know about intramurals and the service project the chapter just completed and even the member who got his first A on a test.

Consider starting a Parent or Mom or Dad Club. They can be a virtual “club” since not all parents are (a) parents in the traditional sense especially with the growth of step-parents and (b) not all parents live nearby. Take advantage of Facebook and have a Fan page for parents only. Create a Parent Chairman position to communicate with parents. He can post reminders about upcoming fees, events and updates on the chapter’s activities. Some parent clubs work with Housing Corporations on projects and/or fundraising. Below is an example of a fundraising letter sent to active members’ parents by the chapter president’s mother.

Use the same communication strategies that you use with members. No, not the chapter listserv that generates 100+ emails a day. Use the chapter’s AIM or Twitter account with the reminders and daily updates. Invite parents to follow and/or subscribe to it. Keep in mind that means that these messages should always be parent friendly.

Keep in mind that parent relations should not be hard or expensive. Parents want to be involved and want to know what is happening with their kid at college. Creating relationships with parents is very similar to recruiting potential new members: meet them, make them your friend, introduce them to your friends and then introduce them to Phi Delta Theta.

PARENT LETTER EXAMPLE

Up on the housetop, reindeer pause.
Out jumps good old Santa Claus.
The roof gives way at the Pike house, alas
Santa lands in the foyer, right on his —.
Ho, ho, ho! Where did he go? Ho, ho, ho! Where did he go?

As the holiday season approaches, ideas for the perfect gift begin to overtake my thoughts. I have a 20-year old son who is a member of the XYZ Fraternity at the ANYWHERE College. Since he turned twelve and gave up paint ball, it has been my greatest challenge to give him a Christmas gift that is meaningful and appreciated.

So if you are a XYZ, a recently graduated XYZ, a parent, or spouse, here is a chance to give an interesting gift and offer a helping hand to the entire brotherhood. The fraternity house is in need of a new roof and estimates for replacement costs are in the range of $15,000. Consider making a roof repair donation in honor of your XYZ.

A $25 donation will provide one bundle of shingles and two bundles are $50. It will take approximately 600 bundles to cover the roof. Mail checks to:

ANYWHERE College
Memphis, TN 38112

Please include XYZ fundraiser on the MEMO line of the check. Within a few days, you will receive a certificate that can be presented to your XYZ honoree on Christmas morning or a similar occasion.

I truly believe that your XYZ will appreciate the thoughtfulness of this gift. These young men who are current brothers have every intention of raising this money and having the job done properly and they will certainly appreciate the financial help. This house full of friendship and fun will be made secure for posterity. Please help Santa stay safe on the housetop.

For further information on this project, contact CHAPTER PRESIDENT, Theta Chapter president, EMAIL@ANYWHERE.edu.

Donations are not tax-deductible.

Sincerely,


Parent of XYZ Chapter President

M.L. Gough is the Event Coordinator for the University Center and Rose Theatre at The University of Memphis. She is a Delta Zeta from Arkansas State University and received her Masters of Education from The University of Arkansas. She has served as the Greek Advisor at several institutions and now enjoys volunteering with fraternities and sororities.