By 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?