To be held in high esteem means to live an admirable life through words and actions. One is not born with that kind of commendable character; it is cultivated through years of the influence from a trusted guide. Growing up, those guides can be parents, teachers or counselors who shape an individual into a functional adult. Graduating to high school and moving to college often takes each of those guides out of the picture during a time it is need it the most. The High Pi is meant to step into that role and offer direction for navigating adulthood.
Chapters go through periods of extreme growth and decline. During a massive decline, Randy Ritterman (Epsilon Zeta, ’89) came alongside his brothers to become a guide. He eliminated the negative and ensured that, going forward, Lambda Chi Alpha representatives on the University of North Dakota campus were upstanding individuals. It became one of the largest and highest functioning chapters of the organization within five years and continues to maintain that legacy.
How can joining a Fraternity change someone’s entire collegiate experience?
“I think that fraternities get a bad reputation in a lot of cases. Do they do dumb things? Yes. If you’ve met a 19 or 20-year-old, they do a lot of dumb things. I think that it is still a good foundation for a lot of guys who are leaving a lot of things behind. With the Fraternity, it allows you to become a big fish in a small pond again. You can join an officer role; you can do leadership and philanthropy. It really gives you that small town community feeling again. You are someone around that group of people and you can be exactly what you want to be.”
Describe the shift in Epsilon Zeta as you were taking on the role of High Pi?
“When I took over as the alumni coordinator in 2013, there were 25 guys. It had a reputation for not having the most upstanding young men. Within five years, we were awarded the High Alpha award and had the second highest GPA on campus. We had 90 guys and complete
d a 200,000 renovation of the chapter house. There’s been a rebirth and it’s really about getting in there and doing what is right. Rebuilding the relationship with the University of North Dakota, for example. The assistant dean spoke at our parents formal and the first thing she said was, “I was wrong.” Her goal, and she will admit this, was the close Lambda Chi Alpha. She saw no reason for keeping a Fraternity on campus that had no more than 10 or 15 guys with the worst GPA on campus. She now wants her son to join.”
What did you do to create that culture change?
“The first step you do [when you are an advisor] is get to know the people in the Fraternity house. I got to know the ones were in the house and made a list of the ones who were not going to be there after a very short time. Literally, what I did, was I cleaned house. I did that by holding people accountable to their behavior and holding them accountable for their grades. Your number one priority is school, that is what you are here for. Your number two is Lambda Chi Alpha because your brotherhood will be with you the rest of your life. Your third priority is your relationship with a girlfriend or boyfriend. Your education is the one thing nobody can take away from you. You’re brotherhood will be with you your entire life.”
What is the purpose of your role and how does it impact these members?
“I’ve made it clear to anyone who joins that house: here is my number, call me. There is nothing you’re going to say to me that is going to surprise me. After 25 years in corporate America and raising three kids of my own, there is nothing you’re going to do that is going to surprise me. I can handle it. What I don’t want them to do, is something stupid. I will get texts and calls at 3:00 in the morning. Guys will call and tell me, ‘I was messing around with a bunch of guys and I knocked out my front teeth and I can’t tell my parents.’ I am there as the sounding board when they don’t want to go to their parents. I am not replacing their parents and I am not telling them to not go to their parents. I am there to make sure they don’t do something stupid thinking that what they’ve done is going to change their world for the rest of their life.”
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