From June 15–18, 2023, Phis from across North America will gather at the Westin Kierland Resort & Spa in Scottsdale, Arizona, for the Fraternity’s 84th Biennial Convention. Together, those in attendance will celebrate our brotherhood and a very special milestone in the Fraternity’s history; its upcoming 175th anniversary on December 26, 2023. This will be the fourth time that Phi Delta Theta has hosted the General Convention in the Scottsdale/Paradise Valley area, the other times being in 1994, 2000, and 2008.
As we prepare for this summer, we wanted to share the Convention customs and traditions that link us to the past, what you can expect if you join us in Scottsdale, and highlight other area attractions that can complement your trip!
The First Convention
The first Convention was held just three short years after the founding of Phi Delta Theta when seven Phis met on December 30, 1851, at the Woodruff House in Cincinnati. At the time there were only four chapters in the Fraternity. While that first Convention was very different in size and scope from the one we will soon experience, its purpose was the same; to discuss the state of our brotherhood and chart its future.
While every Phi Delta Theta General Convention has its own unique characteristics, and while no two Conventions are the same, there are customs and traditions that have developed through the years that create common experiences for Phis in attendance.
Customs and Traditions Which Link Us to the Past
Many decades ago, members who attended the General Convention started the practice of wearing small silver bars to designate the number of Conventions they had attended. These bars, when linked together, resemble ladders. As Phis attend more Conventions, the ladders lengthen and provide striking evidence of a Phi’s devotion to the Fraternity. Each bar indicates the city and year in which the Convention took place.
Opening Business Session Roll Call
Think of this as a chapter meeting roll call—but larger and more impressive. During the first business session on Friday morning, the meeting will begin with the traditional roll call of chapters, alumni clubs, and General Officers of the Fraternity. The roll call is conducted by Executive Vice President Sean Wagner, Widener ’02, and it is always impressive to hear how widespread the Fraternity is across North America.
It is especially moving for many when Brother Wagner introduces a new Phi Delta Theta chapter to the Convention with the introduction; “Please welcome to their first Biennial Convention (name of chapter),” or a reinstalled chapter with the introduction; “Please welcome back to the fold (name of chapter).” These introductions are always special for those undergraduates and alumni who worked hard during the biennium to assist with chartering a new chapter—and are acknowledged with enthusiastic applause.
Committee Reports and Convention Voting
Since 1880, the General Convention has held all supreme and legislative powers of the Fraternity. The Convention has three main responsibilities and powers. They include:
- Electing the General Council
- Consideration of judicial matters
- Enacting laws for the regulation of the Fraternity, since only the General Convention may amend the Ritual, Constitution, and General Statutes of the Fraternity.
There will be approximately three hundred voting delegates in attendance. Imagine a big chapter room with three hundred voting members. Phi Delta Theta is a democratic fraternity, and to efficiently conduct the business of the Fraternity, a number of committees are appointed by the General Council to consider issues being presented to the Convention. These committees are composed of both undergraduate and alumni voting delegates and discuss issues for the Convention in committee meetings prior to bringing them to the floor for discussion and voting. Committees include: Code Committee; Chaplain’s Committee; Credentials Committee; Procedure Committee; Nominating Committee; Appeals Committee; Resolutions Committee; and Wardens Committee. Once a committee has reviewed an item under its jurisdiction, then it can be brought to the Convention floor—where it will be discussed and, if necessary, voted upon—just like in a chapter meeting.
Meet the Candidates
One of the most important responsibilities of the General Convention is to elect the five men who will lead the Fraternity for the next two years as members of the General Council. The men elected to the General Council are charged to “be the legal representative of the Fraternity and custodian of the property of the Fraternity. The General Council shall interpret and administer all laws of the Fraternity and make such policies and appointments as may be necessary to promote the general welfare of the Fraternity.” Living within the regulations of the Constitution and General Statutes of the Fraternity, the men elected to the General Council chart the course, priorities, initiatives, and direction of Phi Delta Theta for the biennium and beyond.
During the Convention, delegates have the chance to meet with each of the candidates for the General Council in the Meet the Candidates forum. In this format, each candidate rotates through small groups of voting delegates to discuss their ideas and thoughts for the future of the Fraternity and answer questions from Convention delegates. Elections matter, and the Meet the Candidates sessions allow delegates to have questions answered, learn about the ideas and priorities of the individual candidates who are running for election, and determine whom to vote for in this secret-ballot election. The decisions and actions of the General Council affect many areas of the Fraternity, and this is the time when delegates help determine the future of Phi Delta Theta.
Imagine being initiated in a large room, in front of hundreds of Phis serving as the chapter, with the initiation being conducted by the Fraternity’s General Council. For a few men, this is precisely what will happen to them in Scottsdale. During every Convention, a model initiation is conducted, and several new brothers are admitted into the Fraternity. What an honor and privilege for these soon-to-be brothers to share their initiation experience with Phis from across North America.
One of the most solemn events, which takes place during the General Convention, is the conducting of the Fraternity’s ritualistic Memorial Ceremony. The ceremony, which is open to non-Phis and attended by many family members and surviving spouses, acknowledges those Phis who have entered the Chapter Grand since the last Convention and pays special notice to those alumni who have previously served the General Fraternity in a position.
Changing of the Guard
During every General Convention, there is a changing of the guard from one General Council to the next. As the General Council is charged with overseeing the Fraternity between Conventions, this biennial change represents an important orderly transfer of leadership and authority. The formal transition will take place during the Convention’s final business session on Saturday afternoon. Once the newly elected General Council is sworn into office by the Convention warden, as Phi Delta Theta’s 68th president, Moe Stephens II will have the honor, of pinning the General Council president’s pin on Phi Delta Theta’s 69th president. However, the leadership transition doesn’t end with the pinning. At this point, since Moe Stephens will be a Past President of the General Council (PPGC), the other PPGCs, sitting on the Convention’s front row, will help escort him to his new ‘retirement’ seat with the other past presidents.
Recognition of Outstanding Chapters
The best and the brightest are acknowledged in many ways during Convention. Awards are presented recognizing many aspects of chapter life, with the awarding of the most prestigious awards reserved for the Grand Banquet on the final night. The outstanding work and traits of our chapters is on full display during the several different award ceremonies.
Phi Delt Sports Hall of Fame
One of the newer traditions of the General Convention is the Phi Delt Sports Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, recognizing the athletic achievements of Phis who have made great impact in their respective sport. The induction ceremony takes place on Thursday evening during the Opening Ceremony, and it is a great opportunity to interact with athletes who you may have watched or supported during their careers.
Phi Delta Theta Foundation Luncheon
Much of Phi Delta Theta’s success can be attributed to its donors, those Phis who have graciously supported the Fraternity through their generous giving. Friday’s luncheon is hosted by the Phi Delta Theta Foundation and uses the opportunity to recognize many donors who have shaped the Fraternity through their giving. The program will also include information about the Foundation’s progress toward its Campaign 2030 goals.
Memorabilia from the Fraternity Archives
The Fraternity has quite an important collection of Fraternity and alumni memorabilia on display at General Headquarters in Oxford, Ohio. Unfortunately, it’s difficult for many to see these items unless they travel to GHQ. However, during Convention, the Fraternity brings some of the items and displays them for attendees.
Phi Delta Theta Convention is a celebration for the entire family, and many spouses and children accompany their favorite Phi Delt. Wondering what your family might do while you’re wrapped up in Convention business sessions? We have you covered with our family program, a collection of activities that your family members can participate in during Convention. Phi Delta Theta works to host a collection of activities that accentuate the host city.
Unique Convention Opportunities for 2023
An Evening with the Live Like Lou Foundation and the Arizona Diamondbacks
Phi Delta Theta, the Live Like Lou Foundation, and the Permobil Foundation will gather for a group outing at Chase Field on Friday, June 16, for the Arizona Diamondbacks game against the Cleveland Guardians. Prior to the game, Phi Delta Theta will join the Live Like Lou Foundation and the Permobil Foundation for a special presentation to an ALS family on the field. The Coors Light Strike Zone and adjoining seats have been reserved for the outing. This event is open to the public, so please invite your friends and family!
Phi Delta Theta undergraduate Convention voting delegates and Fraternity General Officers will each receive a free ticket upon registering at Convention.
Iron Phi Golf Scramble
In lieu of the normal Iron Phi 5k at Convention, and to avoid running in Scottsdale’s 100-degree temperatures, Iron Phi supporters will gather at the Westin Kierland Golf Club for an Iron Phi Scramble on Thursday morning. Foursomes will take to the course to see who can come out on top in this best-ball competition. All are welcome to participate, including non-Convention attendees.
General Officers Reception and Dinner at State Farm Stadium
Phi Delta Theta’s General Officers and staff will travel to State Farm Stadium, the home of the Arizona Cardinals, on Wednesday evening for a General Officers reception and dinner. Along with exploring the stadium, those in attendance will learn more about the organization, led by Mike Bidwill, St. Louis ’87, principal owner, chairman, and president of the team.
These represent just a few of the many customs, traditions, and new moments attendees will experience at Phi Delta Theta’s General Convention. We look forward to seeing many of you in Scottsdale as we celebrate the Fraternity’s 175th anniversary and all of the great things taking place in Phi Delta Theta.
What Else Is There to Do Near Scottsdale?
Do you plan to extend your time in the area outside of Phi Delta Theta Convention? If so, there are plenty of amazing things to do in the Scottsdale/Phoenix area that will further enhance your trip! Here are a few of our recommendations:
Hike Camelback Mountain, Pinnacle Peak, or the McDowell Sonoran Preserve
Visit Taliesin West— Famous Phi Frank Lloyd Wright’s summer home!
Explore and Shop Old Town Scottsdale
Visit Papago Park and its top attractions: Desert Botanical Garden and the Phoenix Zoo
Other Arizona attractions worth a visit!
- Grand Canyon National Park
- Saguaro National Park (Tucson)
- Horseshoe Bend and Antelope Canyon (Page)
- The Red Rocks of Sedona
- Monument Valley
- Hoover Dam
- Lake Powell/Glen Canyon National Recreation Area
- Watson Lake (Prescott)
- Historic Route 66 (Flagstaff)
- Petrified Forest National Park