Although films like Animal House and Revenge of the Nerds may perpetuate negative stereotypes about Greek Life, a College of Idaho fraternity has proven to be more than a group of party animals. C of I’s Theta Psi chapter of Delta Tau Delta—whose members are known around campus as “Delts”—recently was ranked as one of the top-ten Delt chapters in the nation for its 2014 work. The award is based on the academic achievement of fraternity members as well as their campus and community involvement.
“I am constantly impressed by what the chapter has accomplished,” said chemistry professor Dr. Chris Saunders, a founding member of C of I’s Delt chapter in 1999 who now serves as its faculty advisor. “People who never join a Greek organization can never truly understand what it means to be Greek.”
While much of the press surrounding Greek organizations focuses on their social aspects, the reality is members of these organizations strive to make positive impacts both as undergraduate students and as members of their community. The members of C of I’s seven Greek organizations include some of the brightest students on campus, with an average GPA of 3.22 during spring 2014. Greeks contribute regularly as student leaders, including positions in the student Senate and Executive Council. In addition, they donate their time as volunteers and philanthropists to benefit the community, from serving as tutors to local elementary school students to regularly hosting popular charity events that raise money for disease research and other non-profit organizations.
“Greek organizations have rarely been in the spotlight for positive contributions to their campuses and their communities,” Saunders said. “We tend to paint all Greeks with the same broad brush, conveniently ignoring all of their philanthropic endeavors. [We shouldn’t] discount those chapters that embody the higher purpose and strong values most Greek organizations promote.”
It is for this reason that Delta Tau Delta stood out on C of I’s campus during 2014. The 28-man chapter’s GPA was ranked first among campus fraternities. And the group’s annual black tie fundraising event, the Michael Erickson Memorial Charity Ball, raised more than $1,000 in donations for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation and Toys for Tots in November—just in time for the holiday season.
The Delts’ hard work was recognized nationally at January’s Western Pacific Division Conference in Portland, Ore., where the chapter earned numerous accolades. In addition to being honored for its academic focus and membership growth, Theta Psi earned the Hugh Shields Award for Chapter Excellence, an honor only bestowed on the nation’s top ten chapters.
Individual members also were singled out for their contributions to the fraternity. C of I senior Derek Tropf earned Chapter President of the Year honors, while C of I alumnus and chapter advisor Mike Tankersley ’05 was elected Western Pacific Division President, making him one of the fraternity’s national leaders.
“Nobody even came close to the year we had,” said junior Andrew Christenson, who was elected as chapter president for 2015. “We secured ourselves a place on the map, and I think that’s reason to celebrate.”
Professor Saunders is hopeful that Delta Tau Delta’s banner year will help to bring more positive attention to the Greek system.
“We as members of our Greek organizations need to do a better job of exemplifying those qualities embedded within our rituals and traditions, and not feeding into the common tropes popularized by society,” he said. “Campuses need to embrace the organizations that are doing it right. We are much more than mere social bodies.”
Founded in 1891, The College of Idaho is the state’s oldest private liberal arts college. The C of I has a legacy of academic excellence, a winning athletics tradition and a history of producing successful graduates, including seven Rhodes Scholars and 14 Marshall, Truman and Goldwater Scholars. The College’s close-knit, residential campus is located in Caldwell. Its distinctive PEAK Curriculum challenges students to attain competency in the four knowledge peaks of the humanities, natural sciences, social sciences and a professional field—empowering them to earn a major and three minors in four years. For more information, visit www.collegeofidaho.edu.