By J. David Almacy, Widener ’92
All Phis know that Phi Delta Theta is more than just a college fraternity; it is a lifelong commitment to becoming the greatest version of ourselves – individually and collectively. Our founders had a vision for our Fraternity as outlined in The Bond, challenging us to live a life guided by Friendship, Sound Learning, and Rectitude.
As we contemplate the Cardinal Principles 175 years since our founding, it’s clear that the Immortal Six believed that fraternity men guided by these ideals would live a life of virtue and make a positive impact on the world.
Friendship is likely the easiest to comprehend; we are all our brother’s keepers.
Sound Learning represents our pursuit of education, where Phi Delta Theta was introduced to so many of us – on our college campus – and stays with us daily as we develop as friends, brothers, parents, spouses, and professionals in our various vocations.
However, in my opinion, the third principle is often minimized or, in some cases, overlooked entirely, perhaps because it’s last. Or maybe because it’s too personal, or some may feel uncomfortable discussing their feelings about morality in a group setting.
In my eyes, Rectitude is the principle that ties all three together. It should guide every aspect of our behavior, including our ethical values as leaders, our proficiency in practicing our ritual, our commitment to keeping our members and communities safe, and our dedication to promoting service and philanthropy.
Through decades as a volunteer for Phi Delt, I’ve continually been inspired, moved, and encouraged by the countless stories of impact. We’ve initiated almost 290,000 members over the last 175 years, and each one of those members made the decision to allow Phi Delta Theta to be a part of their story, which brings us to the question: What have you done to strengthen Phi Delta Theta’s story through Rectitude?
Rectitude can be defined in many ways, and you do not necessarily have to be a person of faith to exemplify the qualities often associated with it, such as honesty, integrity, character, kindness, and compassion.
Allow me to share with you a prime example of Phi Delta Theta’s unwavering dedication to upholding the highest standards of Rectitude.
In February 2023, we were devastated to learn about the tragic loss of Michigan Beta chapter president Brian Fraser, along with two others, on the campus of Michigan State University. His Phi Delta Theta brothers were overwhelmed with an outpouring of support from many in the Michigan State and Greek community as they grieved his loss. Our Fraternity was also quick to respond and offer support to Brian’s family and the chapter during this very trying time.
Brother Michael Schulte, the Fraternity Chaplain, counseled and comforted our men and many volunteers and alumni were present at Brian’s memorial service. Brothers from all over the world showed support with #SpartanStrong messages on social media and through donations to a presidential memorial scholarship fund, which was set up in partnership with the Fraser family to honor Brian’s memory. Initially, the intention was to raise money to help offset the education of future Phi Delt Michigan State presidents. However, the support was so overwhelming that additional scholarships were created. In addition to Phi Delt donations, the fund reached over $153K, with significant donations coming from outside the Phi Delta Theta family. Though this was an unthinkable and horrific tragedy, our Fraternity showed up for one of our own, and Brian’s legacy will live on through the scholarships in his name.
Another way that Phi Delts can exemplify Rectitude and make a positive impact in other people’s lives is through Live Like Lou. There are countless opportunities to serve ALS warriors and their families or raise money to support Iron Horse Scholarships and fund research toward finding a cure.
As men of strong moral character, we are called to exemplify the principles upon which we were founded and that we, as Phi Delts, swear to uphold. Though all our principles are considered equal, Rectitude is what guides us into becoming the greatest versions of ourselves. This is especially the case when it comes to looking after one another and those within our campus communities.
Unfortunately, upon the return to campus each semester, some students will place an over emphasis on the social aspects of college life. Each year, nearly 2,000 college students die from alcohol-related accidents. As you prepare for your return to campus, please give careful consideration that binge drinking is the major contributing factor to student injuries, deaths, sexual assaults, vehicle accidents, and hazing incidents.
Phi Delta Theta continually strives to educate our members on ways to conduct chapter activities in a safe and responsible manner. Please review Phi Delta Theta’s risk management policies, which include the alcohol-free housing policy. As a member of Phi Delta Theta, you have a special responsibility to uphold the values of our brotherhood. One of the most noble duties of membership is to look out for your fellow brothers. If you see certain members of your chapter engage in activities that are illegal or violate Fraternity policies, it is your responsibility to intervene and prevent them from occurring. Fraternities have been in the news lately due to hazing incidents that not only resulted in the tragic deaths of students but also brought universal condemnation and disgrace to their organizations. Those students involved in these illegal acts have been arrested and face prosecution and possible time in prison. Hazing has not only been prohibited for more than thirty years by every national fraternity and college campus, but it is also a crime in most states, and prosecutors are rightfully prosecuting students who engage in such activities.
Studies have shown that students who stand up against hazing, binge drinking, sexual misconduct, and other illegal acts within their chapters positively influence their fellow brothers. It takes courage to step in to prevent a brother from drinking too much alcohol or to intervene to prevent their chapter from making bad decisions that violate campus and fraternity risk-management policies.
As Phi Delta Theta celebrates our 175 anniversary this year, let’s renew our commitment to uphold the principles as outlined in The Bond and live up to the ideals that our Founders envisioned. We begin this biennium with optimism and hope for what’s to come. The needs of our members will continue to be paramount. As it always does, the General Council will prioritize ways to provide the best experience for our members in all of our decisions.
In the same way, I challenge you, as you return to school, to contemplate your legacy through your decisions and actions. What will you and your chapter do to embody Phi Delta Theta’s values this academic year? Being a Phi is a commitment to leadership, service, and making a difference in the lives of others. Embrace these commitments wholeheartedly and strive for excellence in all aspects of your life.