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UT Arlington Fraternity and Sorority Life Kickoff

August 17, 2014

Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. How fitting that one of the first events being held on campus as we begin a new academic year involves the Greek community. It’s a pleasure and honor to speak to you to welcome you to the fall semester.

In today’s technology driven world, social media often appears to have overtaken the need for personal interaction and “being a friend” can merely mean following the news of someone you have never met and for all practical purposes may not ever meet. I’m pleased to see the Greek system, which emphasizes personal interaction and development of bonds of friendship, entering a new phase at The University of Texas at Arlington—a phase that promises growth, engagement, and success both in and outside the classroom. Just as UT Arlington continues its tremendous growth—with The Chronicle of Higher Education listing us as the seventh-fastest growing public research institution in the nation—I expect, and will strongly support, the growth of our Greek community. As The University of Texas at Arlington moves toward becoming the model 21st century urban research university, setting standards that other institutions will follow, I expect YOU to become the model to which other Greek organizations across the country aspire.

Fraternities and sororities have a long history and tradition of enabling the development of leadership skills and personal identity, enhancing the development of long-lasting bonds of mature interpersonal relationships, fostering teamwork and service to the community, promoting a strong set of personal and group ethics and values, and encouraging the discussion and interchange of ideas leading to mature thought and action. This is what draws the admiration and support of administrators such as myself—the tremendous fellowship, the support that you give to each other to ensure success, the amazing levels of social work and charity, the sacrifice to enable others less fortunate than yourselves to see their dreams come alive, your dedication to UTA and to building a vibrant student life while not sacrificing your academic progress. This empowers each of you to make bold and appropriate choices, to stand up for morals, high values and ethics, and to contribute in a positive way to the world around you.

As a member of UT Arlington’s Greek community, you have the opportunity to interact closely with students having similar and different backgrounds. Cherish these interactions and the chances to build a community based on mutual respect and love. The ideal of brotherhood and sisterhood is a cornerstone upon which the Greek system is built and from which you will receive the greatest benefit. The Greek system combines the concept of individualism within the framework of mutual cooperation and respect—an ideal that we all aim for.

Greek membership is not about conformity. No sorority or fraternity is made up of members who are exactly alike. By choosing to enter Greek life, you will meet those who will become your closest friends, those who will cheer you on when you're successful and support you when the going gets tough.

Everyone in the Greek family is a leader, whether you're an officer, on a committee, or a participant. You learn by doing. You learn how to manage a budget, run effective meetings, speak in public, motivate others—skills that will help you in college and throughout your life. These days it takes more than just a degree to get a good job. It takes leadership experience. It may be of use to know that:

Since 1825 all but three U.S. presidents have been members of a fraternity

85 percent of all Fortune 500 executives in 2012 had been Greeks

Over 40 percent of all United States Supreme Court justices have been Greeks

So, yes, being in a fraternity or sorority does increase your chances of success, and even more importantly, overall, college graduation rates are 20 percent higher among Greeks than non-Greeks. I expect nothing less from Greeks at UTA—in fact, I challenge you to set standards for GPA and graduation rates for the rest of campus. Let this be another mark of excellence for all of you.

When you graduate, and remember I said WHEN, not IF, because I expect all of you to graduate, you will, in fact, leave with the pride of three families: your own; the Greek family in which you have formed lifelong friendships and networks that will enable you to thrive personally and professionally; and the Maverick family that spans generations and continents and will hold you high wherever you are in the future.

The Greek community is known for its commitment to helping others in need. The campus and the local community are constantly reaping the benefits of your commitment to service. This can be seen in the enthusiasm you have in working with those less fortunate and in the many hours of service each chapter does on campus and outside. Programs such as Tri Delta’s partnership with St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital and Beta Theta Pi’s Heroes for Hope program set an example for all by your commitment, especially when you put others above yourselves.

Just as with society outside our campus, we too face challenges: increases in abuse of alcohol; sexual harassment; physical and mental abuse; confusion and ambivalence about ethics, values, and morals; drops in academic excellence; and the increasing tendency to take a shortcut or travel on a path that should not be traveled. I look to you, as members of the Greek community on campus, to join with me to combat these—to help all students travel the high road.

I know I speak not just for myself, but also for Interim Vice President for Student Affairs Lisa Nagy, and incoming Vice President for Student Affairs Tim Quinnan, when I say that we are committed to strengthening and growing Greek life on this campus. But to do this we are going to need your commitment as well—a commitment to hold to your ideals, the high standards that your organizations have, and to ensuring that you have a code of honor that far exceeds one that we could mandate.

I know that many of your alumni share that commitment, and many have already reached out to you with offers of assistance and mentorship. I have met with a number of groups of Greek alumni this past year and will continue doing that in the coming year. I’m sure you know that they are extremely proud of their Greek affiliations, and I hope that each of the chapters here today is fully engaged with your alumni brothers and sisters through your advisors. I’d like to challenge you to work through your advisors to invite them back to their alma mater for events through the year and for Homecoming this fall. Imagine the pride they will feel as they watch—or better still, participate in—the Homecoming parade. We want more of our alumni to reconnect with us, and with your encouragement, they will.

School pride and spirit have increased over the past year, and I want them to reach even higher levels this year. I’m looking to you to lead the way, to set the bar high, and to challenge other groups on campus to match you. You have the power to take us to a new level. In less than two weeks, we begin our second season in the Sun Belt Conference. Our athletes have already done very well. The men’s track and field team won the triple crown in its first season, and our level of play is increasing by leaps and bounds in all sports. To get to that next level, each of the teams needs that added push, the additional team member, the advantage of a home crowd. I challenge each of you to be there to cheer on our teams. Imagine what it would look like on Friday the 29th if each member of each Greek chapter was in College Park Center wearing Greek and UTA apparel. I‘d like to discuss how we might have a competition between the chapters to see which one had the maximum attendance at all games. Perhaps the winner receives a trophy and bragging rights for a year with recognition at a major campus event. It would make a strong statement to the student body and to the visiting team—we are here and we will support our teams—now and through the years to come. Lisa and I will be at each game that we can attend. We will be looking for you, and I hope you’ll be looking for us.

Please also remember that I do want to hear from you. Come talk to me, send me email, meet me around campus. It’s a two-way conversation, and I do want to hear from you.

I’d like to end by quoting John Quincy Adams, who was a Greek (Phi Beta Kappa), a diplomat at a crucial time in the formation of this nation, and America’s sixth president. When asked to define a leader, he said, “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” 

As members of the Greek community, you show tremendous commitment to a sense of public ethos and engagement with the community for the common good. You develop new ideas, better ways of enhancing life at this University and in this community. You build powerful, influential, and culturally inclusive networks. You are already building a better world.

Thank you for all you do, and for what we, together, are going to do from this point on. We will strengthen our ties, grow our membership, become true ambassadors and champions of UTA, be in the news for exemplary programs—setting high standards of behavior and for academic progress. I want to be able to say to all our students that our Greeks are leading the way and are doing this—why can’t you? Only you can make that possible.

Thank you for having Lisa and me here today. We are looking forward to a wonderful year.