Jul 31, 2023

Phi Delta Theta Welcomes 800 Student Leaders to Oxford, Birthplace of the Fraternity

The Scroll News
Phi Delta Theta Welcomes 800 Student Leaders to Oxford, Birthplace of the Fraternity

Phi Delta Theta is thrilled to welcome over 800 Phis from across the United States and Canada to the Fraternity’s birthplace, Oxford, Ohio, for the 2023 Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute. To welcome our brotherhood back home, the city of Oxford has declared the week of July 24 to August 1 as Phi Delta Theta Week.

Almost every summer since 1990, hundreds of undergraduate and alumni Phis have gathered in Oxford, Ohio, for the Fraternity’s Leadership College. To date, nearly 18,000 Phi Delts have attended. Kleberg, named for benefactors Tio Kleberg, Texas Tech ’69, and Janell Kleberg, is a cornerstone of Phi Delta Theta’s membership development program, The Pursuit of Greatness.

“It means a lot representing our Fraternity here and to be with all the brothers in attendance that do good work every day for the Fraternity.” Nathan Sajjadi, Utah ’25, shared.

Inspiring Leaders

Designed for young members of the Fraternity who aspire to one day lead their chapter, Kleberg is an amazing opportunity for members to learn more about Phi Delta Theta beyond the borders of their campus, develop relations with brothers from across the organization, and build the skills necessary to become a better leader and Phi.

Over three days, attendees have the opportunity to listen to world-class speakers, attend educational sessions about important topics, and participate in small group discussions with other undergraduate brothers led by Phi Delt volunteers. The Kleberg experience builds on what one has learned during an undergraduate’s time in the Fraternity while preparing him for more prominent leadership roles within the chapter. For example, over 40 percent of Phis who attend Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute go on to become the president of their chapter.

The Klebergs

In 2012, the Leadership College was renamed the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute when Tio Kleberg, Texas Tech ’69, and Janelle Kleberg endowed the program with the Phi Delta Theta Foundation’s first-ever $1 million donation from a living donor.

Tio joined the Texas Epsilon Chapter of Phi Delta Theta at Texas Tech University where he met his wife Janell. They both served in the US Army before embarking on a career in business and civic affairs in Kingsville. A rancher by trade, Tio’s career has centered around the world-famous King Ranch of South Texas.

Tio has been supporting the Phi Delta Theta Foundation for over five decades. He made his first donation of $10 in 1969. He took a more active role in 2000 joining the Phi Delta Theta Foundation Board of Trustees, then in 2009, he was named chairman of the “Building on the Bond” Capital Campaign. This laser-focused effort aimed to increase the Foundation’s endowment from just above $5 million to more than $20 million by 2020. The Klebergs helped the campaign meet its goal two years ahead of schedule.

When Tio and Janell agreed to support the campaign, they made a pledge of $1 million—however, for the Foundation to receive the funds, $360,000 had to be raised to support five scholarships of $72,000 each. This creative pledge provided motivation to raise additional scholarship funds while securing the Klebergs’ historic and transformational gift.

Today, Tio and Janell attend the annual conference and not only address the students in a general session, but are active participants in smaller breakout sessions, chapter meetings, and one-on-one conversations.

Chaplain Track

In addition to the traditional emerging leaders’ track, the 2023 Kleberg will once again include a special track focused on the chaplain role. The General Council has identified the chaplain as the chapter officer responsible for promoting diversity and inclusion, and mental well-being within the chapter. This unique experience will expose chaplains to information, skills, and strategies to help them better execute their roles during the upcoming school year.

This year, the Chaplain Track was taught by Phi Delta Theta’s Chaplain Rev. Michael J. Schulte, Westminster ’14, and the Fraternity’s Diversity and Inclusion Commissioner Austin A. Deray, Mercer ’10.

“Being on the Chaplain Track, I am learning about self-compassion and mental health, which allows me to help my brothers. It’s reassuring to hear that it’s ok to focus on myself and how to be compassionate to my brothers by solving problems and providing help.” Nathan Sajjadi, Utah ’25, stated.

Celebrating 175 Years of Phi Delta Theta

On December 26, 2023, Phi Delta Theta celebrates 175 years of Friendship, Sound Learning, and Rectitude. Our Cardinal Principles have been the heart of the experience for all who share the letters of Phi Delta Theta. They bring us closer as brothers, teach us lessons, and pave the way for the future of the Fraternity. Along the way, the Fraternity and its people have realized many historical moments that have shaped its future.

Every summer at the Kleberg Emerging Leaders Institute, we honor the founding of Phi Delta Theta with our Founders processional. Outside the room where it all started, over 1,000 young Phis gather in celebration.

Creating Philanthropists

In 2010, Phi Delta Theta launched the Iron Phi. This program provides members with an opportunity to make a significant contribution to the battle against Lou Gehrig’s disease. To accomplish this, they must complete an athletic challenge and raise a minimum of $1,000 from their family and friends. Over 1,700 Phi Delts and their circle of friends have successfully achieved their Iron Phi goal, raising a total of $3.2 million. Every year at Kleberg, several Phis begin their Iron Phi journey by running a 5k to raise awareness for ALS.

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