In June 1982, my life changed forever.
It was then that my dream of attending the University of Kansas – of becoming a Jayhawk – was snuffed out faster than you can say “Rock Chalk.”
I was a co-valedictorian at a medium-sized Kansas Class 5A high school. Not a big deal, but a 4.0 GPA for four years HAD to mean something, right?
Well, in the eyes of those at KU, evidently not. My ACT composite score, a 28, wasn’t going to turn any heads, but I thought the 4.0 was proof positive that I worked my ass off – despite being somewhat limited in certain areas academically.
I succeeded where others may not have.
Thank the Lord for Kansas State University.
K-State, it seemed, liked the idea of a young person overcoming deficiencies and succeeding at the highest level.
K-State, it seemed, rewarded young people who fit this description.
K-State, it seemed, was going to become my new home. All that crimson and blue was going to end up at Goodwill. I was trading it in for royal purple and white.
If I could find a place to live.
And it couldn’t be a dorm. I was lost enough socially as it is. I’d have drowned in a dorm.
Thank the Lord, again, for the miracle that was and is Delta Sigma Phi.
By the end of July 1982, I was a Delta Sig pledge. Yes, they called us “pledges” back then. We weren’t “new member candidates” or “new members.” We were pledges, plebes…or worse. And it was the most awesome thing on Earth.
Delta Sig gave this self-confessed social outcast (some things haven’t changed much in the 35 years since, come to think of it) a place I could call home. Delta Sig gave me an instant set of brothers – black, white, gay, straight, drunk, sober, intelligent, less so….
You get the picture.
And 35 years later, Delta Sig is still giving me gifts I can never hope to repay – though I’ll keep chasing that elusive ideal of paying back all that Delta Sig has given me until the day I die.
Early next month, I’ll attend my FIRST Delta Sigma Phi National Convention.
Those of you who are Delta Sigs are probably awfully confused right about now. Yes, it’s true: someone who LOVES his fraternity with all of his heart, all of his soul, and would do just about anything for a handful of men who have become MORE than brothers to me HAS NEVER attended the largest celebration his fraternity throws for itself.
And that’s another reason I love Delta Sig: the idea that I can simply “be me” without having to answer a ton of questions.
The first few conventions I missed (as I remember it, anyway) were because I simply had given too much of my life to coaching baseball. National conventions were during the summer months, and I was not doing ANYTHING that took me off of a baseball diamond.
Missing those conventions probably also had a little to do with being so socially awkward (or maybe A LOT to do with it), but it was a matter of priorities. My fraternity was always going to be there. It was a rock. It was a constant.
But now, that constancy is being threatened on campuses across the nation.
The very idea of fraternity is at risk, and in many places, fraternity men have no one but themselves to blame.
That’s why the drought is about to end for me.
No, I haven’t quit coaching baseball – I’ve been doing that for 36 straight years! But I have abandoned the idea that my fraternity will always be there, that it will always be my rock, my constant.
I’ve simply decided that Delta Sig means too much to me to remain on the sidelines while fraternity and sorority life is in peril on campuses across this great nation.
I can’t affect sweeping change. I’m not that powerful. I don’t give enough money to Delta Sig, Kansas State or any organization to swing a big stick.
But my voice can, and will, be heard.
There’s too much at stake for it not to be heard, too many men who have become too important to me to see those relationships forever altered – or snuffed out before they even get started.
I want to have the chance to be WHEELED into an Alpha Upsilon Alumni Reunion in the year 2052 at age 88 and share stories of a life that was made all the more remarkable by the concept of brotherhood.
Yes, my voice can, and will, be heard.
It will be heard for Dr. Pat Bosco, my first Delta Sig mentor. Dr. Bosco spent so much time with a homesick kid whose parents were just 60 miles away that he should have received a Congressional medal of honor 10 times over….and that was in just my first semester at K-State!
It will be heard for Randy Withrow, my long-time Delta Sig roommate, best friend, and the one person in my life who can complete my sentences for me…even if we’re apart for weeks, months or years at a time.
It will be heard for my biological brother, Brian, who I became closer to during my days at Delta Sig than I ever had been during nearly 16 years of sharing the same bedroom growing up. There’s something about our Delta Sig brotherhood that drew us together in ways that blood never could.
It will be heard for Cliff Veatch, whose life was taken far too soon by cancer. Cliff was by far the most-talented Delta Sig undergrad I was fortunate enough to share 1100 Fremont with – no offense to any of the other great men there with us. If Cliff were alive today, he’d have a prominent role in the National fraternity and a starring role in everything he was involved with.
It will be heard for Jack Taylor, the man with a laugh that could fill the halls of The Pyramid like no one before or since. Jack, too, was gone way too soon. But not before his love was shared with countless K-Staters and Delta Sigs. Besides Pat Bosco, Jack probably touched more lives on the K-State campus than anyone I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing.
It will be heard for Hunter Post, a young man who I’ve known for just 26 months, but someone who I can say without hesitation was the one who grabbed the match and tossed it on my simmering Delta Sig flame. That fire, it can be said, has now fully engulfed this 53-year-old.
It will be heard for Trayton Post, Hunter’s brother and a kid who hasn’t yet started his college career. I love Trayton, just like I do Hunter, like I would a son. And I want Trayton to experience all the wonder that Delta Sig has to offer. I want for him what I found in 1982 and found again in 2015.
And it will be heard for Dan Bartels, Brad Schultz, Dan Prohaska and hopefully others just like them – all men I spent time with at Delta Sig as an undergrad who now either have sons who are brothers (kinda neat how that happens) or sons who soon will be. DJ, Stephen, Braden and Luke should be allowed to experience the joy their fathers did – or will – when THEIR sons become their brothers.
Yes, my voice can, and will, be heard.
Delta Sigma Phi isn’t simply a social organization. Delta Sigma Phi isn’t just a beat up old hospital building across from City Park. Delta Sigma Phi isn’t only a place to hang out for a few years and leave in the rear view mirror.
No, my friends – no, my brothers – Delta Sigma Phi is a transformative organization like no other anywhere on this planet. Delta Sigma Phi is brotherhood defined. Delta Sigma Phi is, to paraphrase a line from Field of Dreams, “everything that is good about fraternity, and could be again.”
The Delta Sigma Phi whose convention I will attend in a little less than a month is far from perfect. And heck, I’ve got myself at least partially to blame for that. I’m the one who was “gone” for a period of years before returning those aforementioned 26 months ago.
But the Delta Sigma Phi whose convention I will attend in a little less than a month is loyalty, honor, respect, friendship and love in one great big gift that just keeps on giving.
Yes, my voice can, and will be heard. And it will be heard for men named Pat, Randy, Brian, Cliff, Jack, Hunter, Trayton, Dan, Brad, Dan, DJ, Stephen, Braden, Luke…and thousands of others whose lives have yet to connect with mine.
Thanks to the fine folks at the University of Kansas – and their snub of 35 summers ago – I received the gift of a lifetime.
I received the gift of Delta Sigma Phi. And it’s a gift I intend to fight to keep.
YITBOS, to those who know.