This summer, Connecticut Alpha participated in its most exciting, eventful and rewarding Conclave to date. Hosted at the Marriott Marquis in Houston, Texas, the 56th Grand Chapter Conclave of Sigma Phi Epsilon took place from July 24 through 28. Every two years, undergraduates, alumni, and volunteers from around the country gather at Conclave to pass national legislation, participate in professional-grade educational and leadership sessions, recognize the best chapters and alumni in our fraternity, and celebrate our common bonds as members of the largest fraternal organization in the country.
This Conclave, Connecticut Alpha was represented by twelve members of our undergraduate chapter, and roughly that many alumni and chapter volunteers. In addition to being one of the largest delegations in our UConn chapter’s history, the 2019 Conclave proved to be one that our chapter will not soon forget.
The action began Wednesday night, when Conclave attendees gathered for a special celebration of the fraternity’s Ritual. In line with a tradition started in 2007, each Conclave, attendees experience the contemporary Ritual performed side-by-side with the fraternity’s original 1907 Ritual. Connecticut Alpha was well-represented on the Conclave Ritual team, with brothers Bob Flynn, ‘82, Steve Chaneles, ’83, and Van Augur, ’20, all playing key roles in the 1907 Ritual performance.
Throughout the week, Connecticut Alpha continued to have a strong presence and involvement in Conclave programming. Each morning, Ryan Jarnutowski, ’19, volunteered as a part of the Conclave fitness team, coordinating Sound Body programming and workouts for Conclave attendees. Brother Bill Gunn, ’88, reprised his role as director of the Conclave Chorus and led the group, which included over a dozen Connecticut Alpha brothers, in four stellar performances over the weekend. On the topic of music, graduating senior and UConn brother Jayson Gilbert, ’19 had the honor of singing the National Anthem at the opening of the Balanced Man Celebration – an honor that he hit out of the park.
Later in the Balanced Man Celebration, the Connecticut Alpha delegation erupted with excitement when it was announced that our chapter received the prestigious Buchanan Cup, an award given by the National Board to recognize the highest performing chapters in the country. In granting Connecticut Alpha the award, the selection committee recognized the large strides our chapter has made since rechartering just over two years ago in 2017:
The Connecticut Alpha chapter at the University of Connecticut has a remarkable level of retention because it provides an engaging four-year fraternity experience and sets a bold example within a challenging campus environment. New members build relationships with alumni during their Sigma Challenge, and the Phi Challenge brings everyone together for a TED talk. Maintaining a 3.15 GPA minimum, these brothers show their commitment to their university’s academic mission by holding faculty receptions. Members make it a priority to get involved with other student organizations, and the chapter recently won campus Fraternity of the Year. After re-chartering less than three years ago, the chapter has hit the ground running and is working to become a SigEp Learning Community.
This marks the first time Connecticut Alpha has received a Buchanan Cup since 1989, and the brothers at UConn are excited to continue a tradition of excellence over the coming years.
On the legislative side of Conclave, Connecticut Alpha had a similarly-strong showing. Brothers Steve Chaneles, ’83, and Joe Langella, ’83, represented Florida and Pennsylvania, respectively, as District Governors, while Van Augur, ’20 and Tim Specht, ’20, represented Connecticut Alpha as voting members of the Grand Chapter. Van was also appointed to serve as the chairman of the Bylaws Red committee, in which role he helped reaffirm the Grand Chapter’s commitment to substance free housing. Among the legislation passed included resolutions creating a task force to study and make recommendations about mental health in fraternities.
The weekend wrapped up with two more celebration-worthy developments. On Saturday morning, undergraduate brother Van Augur, ’20, was elected to Sigma Phi Epsilon’s National Board of Directors. In this role, Van will represent the undergraduates in the strategic governance of the national organization over the next two years. Later that night, Connecticut Alpha closed out its Conclave with the most exciting news of the weekend when 1983 alumnus Joe Langella was inducted into the Order of the Golden Heart, SigEp’s highest honor. This announcement made history as the first time a brother of Connecticut Alpha has been given this award, which recognizes over three decades of service to the fraternity. Our chapter is unbelievably grateful for the work Joe has done for our chapter, his district, and the national fraternity, and could not have asked for a better way (or a more deserving individual) to close out an incredible weekend!
The 56th Grand Chapter Conclave was one for the books for Connecticut Alpha, and our brothers return to campus this fall with a deeper love and excitement for our fraternity. Our chapter would like to thank all of the Alumni donations, volunteer support, and Headquarters staff efforts that went into making Conclave such a life-changing experience.
A note to readers: Connecticut Alpha’s strong presence at such an impactful program would not have been possible without the financial support of alumni, volunteers, friends, & family. In an era of rising student debt, please consider supporting Connecticut Alpha’s Conclave Endowment, which will help our chapter send just as many brothers to the next Conclave in 2021.