Thanks to Bro. Patrick Murphrey (Lt. District Governor, VA/DC) for this comprehensive account.
Carlson Leadership Academy
February 9th-11th, Herndon, VA
This past weekend's Carlson Leadership Academy was a unique event in many respects. In many ways it seemed like a "mini-Conclave" due to the attendance of such a wide range of chapters represented and SigEp dignitaries present. The Academy hosted chapters from Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New Jersey, Washington D.C., and North Carolina. After enjoying the CLA in Destin so much, our Clemson chapter sent 9 more undergraduates to the Academy in Herndon. However, the longest distance was probably traveled by brothers from the Florida Theta Chapter at Jacksonville University. The host chapter of this Academy was our University of Maryland-College Park brothers at Maryland Beta. Conspicuously absent were (at least I did not see or interact with) our brothers from nearby George Mason University or Virginia Mu.
The Academy was attended by 2 members of the National Board of Directors, Steve Shanklin (OGH) and Bert Harris, Brother Harris is also the President of the National Housing Corporation. Also, in attendance were District Governors Judge Mitch Crane (OGH), Joe Langella, and Billy Maddalon. The National Member Development Committee was represented by Gene Schurg (OGH), Zar Toolan, and Steve Shanklin, while the National Leadership Committee was represented by Bud Robeson. Headquarters staff was represented by Chris Minnis, Director of Fraternity Operations, Craig Templeton, Executive Director, Susan Williams, Finance Director, Gay-Lynn Carpenter, Journal editor, Matt Ontell, Director of Balanced Man Inititatives , John Weir, Managing Director of the National Housing Corporation and Gary Huff, Director of Volunteers. Regional Directors in attendance were Bryan Kaminski and Ryan Denny. Representing the Educational Foundation were Doug Scheibe, Executive Director, Scott Thompson, Director of Development-Chapter Campaigns, Laurie Ursiny, Development Administrator and Mindi Siedel-Adler, Development Administrator. The officer training sessions were facilitated by Joe DePaola (Presidents), Rachel Rollo (VPs of Programming), Joe Capodanno (VPs of Finance), Anthony Balestrieri (VPs of Member Development), Joe Langella (VPs of Recruitment), Patrick Murphrey (Chaplains), and Ryan Denny (VPs of Communications).
Friday night kicked off with an excellent recruitment focused session conducted by District Governor Billy Maddalon. Now, I have seen a lot of these sessions throughout my experience as a SigEp and I must say Brother Billy's presentation was one of the best I have participated in. He really articulated the message in a unique and fun way that the undergraduates seemed to respond well too. However, I must say this session contained one of the few "Frat Boy" moments of the weekend. When questioned about why recruitment is important the fraternity, one of our Virginia Eta (UVA) brothers responded "To help keep the house clean". Now whether he was figuratively referring to keeping the chapter "clean" by having respectable new members, or literally having those new members "clean" their chapter house, I do not know. All I know is that after that remark, the whole room fell silent with dropped jaws. In the spirit of brotherly love I will give them the benefit of the doubt.
Since I was busy most of the day Saturday, facilitating the Chaplain's officer session, I am unable to report on how the bulk of rest of the undergraduate/volunteer sessions went. However, after speaking with brothers throughout the day the general attitude I perceived was refreshment in seeing the positive evolution of the Academy from their previous experiences. They seemed newly motivated and charged with new ideas and best practices to take back to their chapters. I definitely took that away from my sessions, and was happy to hear similar reports from our undergraduates, volunteers, and facilitators.
Two of the major highlights of Saturday included the Foundation's Alumni Reception and the Renaissance of Brotherhood ceremony. The alumni reception that occurred in Herndon and Woodland Hills CLA served as "test balloons" for future alumni events at CLA. The Herndon reception was very well attended by area alumni representing the whole spectrum of chapter location and age. The alumni were treated to refreshment a presentation of what the fraternity has been up to and where we are going. Following the reception, the alumni were invited to attend the Ritual and the Awards Dinner. I also forgot to mention all of these events occurred FREE of charge. My kudos to the Educational Foundation and SigEp for a great program. The Renaissance of Brotherhood was conducted beautifully by the Maryland Beta chapter for a Fairfax police officer, whose father and brothers were already members of the fraternity. After the ceremony, which was only briefly interrupted by the usual confused hotel staff person going through the wrong door *cough*, the father embraced his son and new brother and pinned our Founder's Badge upon him.
Breakfast was emceed by Joe DePaoula, and lunch by District Governor Judge Mitch Crane (OGH). The Awards Dinner featured a beef meal and was emceed by District Governor Langella. The keynote speaker of the evening was given by National Director Steve Shanklin who challenged the audience to remember the risks taken by the Founders; in particular, those Carter Ashton Jenkens took to develop a fraternity that would be different from its competition. I will take this time now to say that throughout the meals on Saturday, awards were presented to our top performing undergraduates, chapters, and volunteers. To prevent accidentally leaving out a deserving brother or chapter I will not list them here. However, I do offer a heartfelt "well done" and congratulations to our honored brothers.
I must say the biggest disappointment of this CLA, as with almost any SigEp event, was the constant digression into the "Pledge vs. Balanced Man" debate. It's unfortunate that we can cannot seem to get past differences in development programs in order to move forward together into the 21 st century. I'm afraid it's going to take a total domination of either development model in order to end that recurring discussion and focus our attention to becoming a great fraternity. However, despite this debate, I was proud to see "quantity of quality" that SigEp is continually welcoming into its halls. The undergraduates, alumni, volunteers, and staff are the best in the fraternity world and I can't wait to see what the future will bring.
-Patrick C. Murphrey
Lt. District Governor (VA/DC)