This spring, Sigma Phi Epsilon closed the Mississippi Alpha chapter. Their fraternity house was without letters, though faint outlines of Sigma Phi Epsilon could be seen when students returned for the fall semester. Then, a new fraternity moved in.
Pi Kappa Phi men painted the door royal blue and added the golden Greek letters that shone in between columns holding up the oldest fraternity house on campus. The letters could be seen even from the intersection of Fraternity Row and Chucky Mullins Drive where the house stood.
But this fraternity isn’t new — this is their second coming.
Pi Kappa Phi was the first fraternity house established on campus in 1927. For 22 years the Alpha Lambda chapter gave the university leaders who bolstered organizations such as the Associated Student Body. Then the chapter came to a standstill in 1949: their men enlisted in the Korean War. This sacrifice and the subsequent casualties from the war dissolved the chapter in 1950. For 60 years it struggled to return to University of Mississippi until 2012. That year Pi Kappa Phi national staff reached out to a few interested students. A year later in spring three Pi Kappa Phi leadership consultants came to the campus to lead informational sessions and had a table outside the Union. That spring those three men welcomed 28 students to Alpha Lambda chapter.
Before the summer of 2013 began the first Executive Council formed and prepared for their first ever formal recruit in the fall. They recruited from a tent in the Grove and welcomed 18 men on Bid Day that year. They celebrated their first Founders Day on December 10th, the day of the original founding, with 67 fraternity men. Just last semester the fraternity hosted its first Rose Ball, an annual spring formal, and elected Gabriella Gonzaba, Phi Mu lady and president of Safe Ride, as its Rose Queen.
This month, just last week actually, the fraternity moved in the house and initiated 102 men in order to be wholly rechartered back at University of Mississippi.
Phillip Schmidt, a Texan and accounting major, is the president of Pi Kappa Phi. He said the fraternity’s chartering has been 19 months’ of work.
“Pi Kappa Phi has meant a lot to me since my older brother was a part of Southern Mississippi’s chapter so when the opportunity came to expand on to the Ole Miss campus, I was certain that’s what I wanted to do.” Schmidt said, “I accepted my bid on April 3, 2013 and was appointed president soon after so this Saturday truly has been a long time coming.”
During those 19 months they recruited, raised money and awareness for people with disabilities through their philanthropy and held its spot in the top three highest GPAs among fraternities. They had social events and made lifelong friendships with their brothers.
“As a chapter we have faced more stuff in that time than I would have ever thought we would have to, but the men consistently responded with class and confidence realizing that, for the most of issues, that’s what it takes to build a fraternity,” said Schmidt.
Jeremy Roy, an Oxonian and mechanical engineering major, was one of the first men to join, and is one of founders of Alpha Lambda chapter at its rechartering last weekend. He heard of Pi Kappa Phi in April 2013 from his friend, Kody Harrell.
“I always heard the common stereotypes of what fraternity life at Ole Miss was like, and it did not interest me in the least.” Roy said, “At first I was skeptical but after learning that Pi Kappa Phi was attempting to change the way fraternities were viewed, I was all in.”
Roy explained Pi Kappa Phi goes against the common stereotypes by not focusing as much on the social events but rather on academics and leadership. The fraternity’s viewpoint helped them rank second in GPA throughout all fraternities its first year. Now it has leadership roles on campus such as the Cardinal Club President, orientation leaders and Ole Miss Ambassadors. Several of their members also work in offices such as Office of Sustainability, Office of Dean of Students and the Office of the Chancellor. Pi Kappa Phi is also the only fraternity to own and operate its own nonprofit organization: The Ability Experience.
The Alpha Lambda chapter teamed up with North Mississippi Regional Center to participate in various events such as softball games as part of The Ability Experience. They also volunteer there every Thursday evening. Last spring semester Alpha Lambda chapter held a 24 hour bike-a-thon called Pedal for Push and raised $2,900 for people with physical and mental disabilities. Recently members from the chapter volunteered at St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, where they helped set up the church’s annual pumpkin patch. It is currently brainstorming for a philanthropic event this semester.
On a national level the fraternity has major events such as Build America where participants spend eight weeks of their summer going to various camps to build handicap accessible structures. The largest event it has is the Journey of Hope which is a two month, 4,000 mile bicycle ride from California to Washington D.C. to raise awareness and money for disabled.
“I will actually be the very first participant from the Pi Kappa Phi chapter at Ole Miss to ride in the Journey of Hope in summer 2015,” said Roy.
Roy said, “It has been proven on other college campuses that within 5 years of Pi Kappa Phi being on campus, we become the most respected fraternity by faculty and staff. To sum it all up Pi Kappa Phi builds exceptional leaders through uncommon opportunities.”
“I am extremely proud of what we have become and the way that we have already begun to do things differently but I know this is just the beginning of the legacy that we are leaving with Pi Kapp and on this campus.” Schmidt said, “I am so thankful to the Greek community and the university for being supportive and always willing to help. And of course to our advisors Michael Howland, Jenna Artz and John Campbell and to the rest of our volunteers and parents for their unwavering support.”
Michael Howland, coordinator of Veteran and Military services (a veteran himself) and staff at Center for Student Success and First Year Experience is the chapter’s faculty advisor. He was approached by the Dean of Students office last fall about the fraternity’s need for the advisor.
“Although I had not been Greek in college the opportunity to teach young men life lessons and how to lead was too good to pass up.” Howland said, “I had just retired from a 25 years Army career – filled with seven combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq – and had been recently hired as the coordinator of veteran and military services. Having spent most of my life leading and mentoring 18 to 25 year olds it seemed like a good fit.”
Howland was at first unsure what to expect due to his non-Greek background but after meeting the young men and seeing their focus on building a quality fraternity he knew he made a right decision. “My pride in their accomplishments was twofold,” Howland said, “because they thought highly enough of me to ask me to initiate with them as an alumni initiate. I believe in Pi Kappa Phi and these men enough that I was willing to become a member.”
His responsibilities as chapter advisor include partnering with officers and key committee chairmen, headquarters staff members and university staff members to help the chapter’s decisions stay within the boundaries established by state, federal and local laws as well as the fraternity’s code of conduct along with the university’s policies. They also challenge and support the men on making decisions that advance the chapter’s mission.
Howland said, “In essence it’s very like what I did leading troops in the infantry. The difference here is that our focus was working to change the dynamic regarding how IFCA is perceived. Our chartering picture shows how hard we’ve worked to find quality young men to advance what Pi Kappa Phi stands for.”
This past Saturday on Oct. 11th, two months shy of its 110th anniversary of its founding, Pi Kappa Phi initiated 102 men and held a banquet to celebrate the fraternity’s return as well as a new beginning in being a fraternity man at University of Mississippi.
Callie Daniels is the staff reporter at HottyToddy.com. For comments, criticism and/or corrections on this article email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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