By Bill Frezza
Beta Chapter 1976
Let’s face it; fraternities are on the wrong side of history. At best, we are viewed as an exclusionary bastion of social privilege. At worst, as incubators of alcoholism, hazing, and date rape. Across the media, the bad behavior of the few is magnified to besmirch the reputation of the many, part of a coordinated campaign to put an end to the Greek System.
And yet the caricatures of fraternities and sororities regularly trotted out by the press bear little resemblance to the positive values of leadership, supportiveness, and the forging of lifelong bonds of brotherhood that characterize our own personal experience. So, what is a responsible fraternity to do?
We must celebrate our values. We must honor the accomplishments of the best among us. And we must support our young scholars as they continue their education and prepare to move into leadership roles across business, government, and society.
That is the true mission of the Chi Phi Educational Trust. We can only overcome negative media stereotypes that undermine a tradition we hold dear by identifying, rewarding, and supporting exemplary performance, instilling pride in those who live our values, and tirelessly letting the world know that fraternity life is a renewable source of positive experiences that build good citizens.
As you read these words ask yourself, what can I do to help preserve a system that helped make me the man that I am? Yes, we can write checks to support the Educational Trust. Yes, we can maintain the bonds of friendship that keep us close to our Chi Phi Brothers. Yes, we can stay involved in our chapter house corporations and alumni boards. But these inwardly-focused activities are not enough. We must also make our voices heard in our communities, across social media, and in our state houses, to explain, protect, and defend the positive values of fraternity life. Which brings us to our scholarship winners.
This year we are blessed with an outstanding group of scholarship recipients. Each met the highest standards of academic performance, chapter leadership and involvement, community service, and higher education or professional aspirations. This year’s undergraduate scholarship winners averaged a GPA in excess of 3.7 (on a scale of 4.0). Brothers majoring in the sciences, pre-med, engineering, economics, finance, and business were heavily represented. Nearly half were double majors and nearly all served as house officers, including seven Alphas. Our graduate winners will use their scholarships to pursue law degrees, MBAs, medical degrees, and Ph.D.s in a variety of fields, expanding the ranks of our successful Alumni.
We should be proud of all our winners, but let me call out a few.
Jeffery Chidester is a graduate of the University of Virginia, a member of Chi Phi’s Alpha Chapter. After completion of a double major in biology and religious studies, he has chosen to pursue a medical degree at UVA. While an undergraduate Chidester served as both Chapter Beta as well as chair of a program designed to liaise with parents. By focusing on demonstrating the positive values of fraternity life in general and Chi Phi in particular, Chidester helped ensure that this important but sometimes skeptical constituency emerged from their experience as Chi Phi parents as ambassadors and advocates for fraternity life.
No stranger to volunteer work, our future doctor used the leadership skills he learned at Chi Phi to serve as Program Director for UVA’s Madison House, a community service organization that directs the efforts of student volunteers at the local hospital emergency room. With his acceptance into UVA’s medical school we can expect this relationship to endure, nurturing the next generation of prospective physicians and healthcare industry leaders. Despite his demanding studies, Chidester has remained active in his chapter, helping coach his undergraduate Brothers through their own pre-med studies and medical school application process.
Robbie Cusmano, a former Alpha from the University of Florida Theta Delta Chapter, exemplifies Chi Phi’s tradition of leadership both on campus and on a national level. As one of our graduate scholarship winners, he is pursuing a joint JD/MBA at UF that will help prepare him to enter the top ranks of corporate law. As Alumni Chapter Advisor and secretary of his house corporation board, he is already giving back to an institution whose history goes back nearly 200 years. Holding down two part time jobs to help pay for his graduate education leaves no doubt that Cusmano can perform under pressure.
Finally, we honor Kris Yingling hailing from the University of Texas Nu Chapter, now a second year law student at the University of Pennsylvania Law School. A summa cum laude graduate of UT, Yingling not only held multiple leadership positions in his Chapter but served on the Inter-Fraternity Council and student government. His passion for justice has already led him to do pro bono work expunging the criminal records of exonerated individuals, helping asylum seekers obtain legal status, and assuring that black lung victims’ widows receive the support they are due.
To Yingling’s leadership skills we can add ambition, spending this summer doing not one but two internships one at the US Federal District Court in Houston and the other at the Texas Supreme Court in Austin. Watch this space as we follow Yingling’s career, and that of our other hard working alums.
Congratulations to all of this year?s scholarship winners. Make us proud!