Mark Ertel (Mississippi State University, Ε Χ, ’77) has dedicated his life to two passions: teaching and Lambda Chi Alpha. When he joined the Fraternity in 1977, he had no idea that his dedication to spreading the values of Lambda Chi Alpha would turn into a career. Now, he shares the same values to his students each day.
During his time as a Chapter Consultant (now, Chapter Support Coach), he learned how naturally proficient he is in teaching. It wasn’t just about explaining the correct way to handle meetings or electing officers. It was about ensuring the men were exemplifying the values that Lambda Chi Alpha stands for. After his experience working around the country ended, Ertel’s passion for leading others continued.
“The neatest part of it is seeing students grow. My whole student development mentality is about affecting change in lives, not directing it. I play devil’s advocate a lot and let them play it out.”
Ertel returned to school for a degree in college personnel at Memphis State University. He served at MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) as the Greek life advisor and moved up the ranks to become Jacksonville University’s Assistant Dean of Students. Just as he was finishing his doctoral work, his 15-year long career in higher education was about to come to an end. The call for a new endeavor became so loud that it was becoming a burden not to take it: it was time to journey into K-12.
“The only people that knew my background there were the principal and the assistant principal. I didn’t want that shared with everybody else; all they knew was that I was a career changer” says Ertel.
He went from having his own office to sharing one with a group of more than 20 sixth graders. Naturally, connecting with students in their early teens posed a challenge compared to a self-sufficient adult. As Ertel began to navigate the ups and downs of life with teenagers, he realized that all the attributes he wanted them to possess were conveyed in his Brotherhood. He began teaching the students all the lessons he had learned from Lambda Chi Alpha when an opportunity with the Fraternity came out of thin air.
Just one significant life change at a time wasn’t enough. Ertel was also returning to his roots with Lambda Chi Alpha after being commissioned to join the Housing Corporation Board. By doing this project with his son, who had just initiated into Lambda Chi Alpha, the fire-like passion for his Fraternity rekindled. Although more responsibility and changes were happening in his life, he put his name in the running to become a High Pi at Flagler College.
Once Ertel received news that he had been chosen for the role, his professional and personal life began to meld. His lessons in the classroom became more real and timely to what the men at Flagler College were facing. Looking into his undergraduate men’s eyes, he had compassion, knowing that they were once the same, timid students that sit in his classroom.
Ertel explains, “Just about everything I do is based on the Lambda Chi Alpha principles. It is pretty easy for me to say I live the ritual, because I do. To share those values and principles is very important to me, that’s where my commitment to the Fraternity resides.”
Now, as a Principal, Ertel realizes how special it is to have both of his passions coincide so well. He gets to lead a group of students in pursuit of higher education while simultaneously mentoring a group of men who are working on getting through it. Though both positions have their challenges, the reward of knowing he is influencing his students’ character is worth it.
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