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National News

It Could Have Been Any of Us

By | Alumni News, National News, Philanthropy/Community Service | No Comments

Originally published in the fall 2018 edition of The Chi Phi Chakett, Brother Felt’s story was recently recognized by the Fraternity Communications Association (FCA) with the 2nd Place Award for News Feature. FCA member include 71 social and honorary Greek organizations and governing bodies, including the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC).

Photos courtesy of the US Department of the Interior

Looking out across the landscape filled with lush grass, wildflowers, and trees, one would never suspect the tragedy that occurred there just seventeen years ago. The only visible reminder of that day sits at the edge of a grove of hemlocks, the trees themselves now recovered from the damage they sustained. Now that the scars on the land have healed, there is only a boulder left to mark the impact site of United Airlines Flight 93 – the Sacred Ground. Though the physical reminders of the crash are gone, the wounds of loss are still fresh in the hearts of the friends and families of the heroes of Flight 93. For seventeen years, Gordie Felt, Alpha-Chi 1985, has sought to help heal those wounds through the establishment of the Flight 93 National Memorial. He knows well the feelings of loss; his brother Ed was one of the forty crewmembers and passengers who lost their lives when Flight 93 crashed.

It Could Have Been Any of Us

“Ed and the 39 other passengers and crewmembers that were on Flight 93 were all in many ways very unique individuals from all over the world. But also, in many ways, they were just like the rest of us; they were parents, they were brothers, they were spouses. I think that part of the story of September 11, particularly Flight 93, is that it could have been any of us on that flight,” Brother Felt reflected.

It was the normalcy of the flight and of the people on it – college students, retirees, teachers, and Ed, who worked as a system engineer for a software company – which makes the heroic fight that the passengers made in their final moments all the more remarkable.

Among the many calls and recordings from Flight 93 on that day – including the Cockpit Voice Recorder which captured the final words of the passengers who breached the cockpit and attempted to retake the plane – is the final cell phone call from Flight 93, and the only one to reach a 911 operator, made by Ed. His last-minute call to ground personnel allowed the operator to contact emergency services in the next county over and inform them that a large, hijacked commercial flight had been taken down – a fact that had not yet even reached the military. Had anyone survived the crash, Ed’s final call to alert first responders to the scene would have been lifesaving.

Memory

Within hours of first responders arriving from all over Somerset County, local citizens were the first to establish a memorial for the forty heroes. And they have been there with the Families of Flight 93 ever since.

“It’s been unbelievable,” according to Brother Felt. “That whole community has really become an extension of our greater Families of Flight 93. They have opened their arms to us as family members and accepted this Memorial with a certain degree of pride; they were the first ones who were there.”

The Families of Flight 93 has worked hand-in-hand with the local community, National Park Service, the National Park Foundation, and the Friends of Flight 93 (a similar organization to their own) to create the Flight 93 National Memorial. This September, seventeen years since the day that changed the United States, the final piece of the Memorial was put in place.

Uncertainty

Though today the Flight 93 National Memorial is now complete, just a few short years ago it was nearly a vision unfulfilled. As the tenth anniversary of 9/11 approached, the government and civic organizations had hit a brick wall while fundraising for the Memorial. Unlike the other two sites that met with tragedy that day, Shanksville had neither the same federal funding as the Pentagon nor were corporations moving to back the Memorial like those which had lost employees at the World Trade Center. Simply put: They were out of money.

“We really were starting with nothing,” Brother Felt said while recalling the fundraising efforts they undertook. Though a small portion of the site was donated, the task of raising more than $40 million for portions of the Memorial itself fell on the Families of Flight 93, the National Park Foundation, and other organizations.

Creation

The Memorial is now an established site within a vast tract of parkland, but the area surrounding it is, in many ways, still as rural and difficult to access as it was in 2001. Approaching the site through the many winding roads of western Pennsylvania, visitors are welcomed by signs along the way directing them to the various historic covered bridges, the occasional tavern, and stone homes dating back to past centuries. Entering the gates of the Memorial requires that visitors still drive for several minutes before reaching the museum and visitors center, and the Sacred Ground itself still further.

The Tower of Voices was designed as imposing; the 93-foot tall structure is the first piece of the Memorial that visitors see when entering the site. Its stark, industrial appearance contrasts with the flowery, green environment that now surrounds it. Its height is no coincidence; architect Paul Murdoch built numbers into how the Tower memorializes the forty heroes of Flight 93. Forty chimes adorn the Tower, each measuring between five and ten feet long and weighing up to 150 pounds. Each chime creates its own unique sound as the wind passes through – each one with its own voice.

Dedication

As the final piece of the Flight 93 National Memorial, the Tower of Voices provided a sort of closure, not only for the project itself, but for families, friends, and the community. Despite the chilly weather and steady rainfall during the dedication on September 9, a devoted showing of onlookers was present for the ceremony.

Brother Felt sensed the effect that this final ceremony had while watching with other spectators; families and friends of those on Flight 93, local residents, first responders, and complete strangers who came to show their support.

Speaking on behalf of the Families of Flight 93 that day was Calvin Wilson, brother-in-law of First Officer LeRoy Homer Jr. In the midst of describing the partnerships and friendships formed, the land purchased, and the money raised, Mr. Wilson reflected, “and then there’s the families. The Families of Flight 93. That wasn’t just a title for us; we are truly a family. We bickered, we hugged, we yelled, we screamed, but we had one goal in mind; and that was to make sure that our loved ones were remembered not only by name, but for their actions.”

“There is one individual,” he continued as he fought back emotion, “who has been like the father figure, the referee, our representative, across the nation, in the families, and in the executive group. He has represented us strong for fifteen years. This man has led us not from the front, not from the back, but at our sides. We can’t tell him enough how much we appreciate it and how much we love him, but we tried.” Mr. Wilson invited Brother Felt to the stage, where he was presented with a plaque as a thank you from the families for his efforts as President of the Families of Flight 93 for fifteen years.

Brother Felt and others were then led to the base of the Tower. There, family members and dignitaries officially dedicated the final piece of the Memorial and opened the chimes. As an ever-silent audience looked on, the winds sweeping through the field hit the Tower, which began its song for the first time.

Future

With the Flight 93 National Memorial complete, Brother Felt’s work would seem finished; but this is far from true. As life moves forward and the Families of Flight 93 continues to work toward preserving the memories of the forty heroes, he intends to continue working at their sides to support the Memorial and the community which has formed around it. The memory of the selfless actions of Ed and the other thirty-nine heroes of Flight 93 will continue to inspire awe, humility, and reverence for generations to come.

“The thing I want you to take away today, is that I want you to understand that we need to continue with the spirit of the forty heroes. We can’t lay down, we must come together as a diversified, unbiased group, understand what the problem is, come up with the solution, and then act upon it.”

– Calvin Wilson

Left: Brother Felt accepts a plaque as a gift from the Families of Flight 93, represented by Calvin Wilson. At left is Tom Ridge, the former Governor of Pennsylvania and first Secretary of Homeland Security. Photo courtesy of the Tribune-Review.

Article by Dan Coutcher, Alpha-Chi 2016, and Liz Carter




  • Join us at the 9th Annual Watts Gunn Memorial Golf Tournament

    By | National News | No Comments

    It’s okay to jump the Gunn and reserve your spot!

    Now in its 9th year, the Tournament honors Watts Gunn, Omega 1928, known as “The Southern Hurricane,” who made golf history at the 1925 U.S. Amateur by setting the record for international championship golf by winning 15 straight holes. Brother Gunn faced off with his friend and rival, the famed Bobby Jones, and later teamed up with Jones during their successful 1926 and 1928 Walker Cup tournament appearances.

    Brother Gunn has been recognized in the Georgia Tech Athletic Hall of Fame, Georgia Sports Hall of Fame, Georgia Golf Hall of Fame, and Southern Golf Association Hall of Fame.

    Join Brothers from across the country on Thursday, June 20 (right before Congress!) at The Fort Golf Course in Indianapolis. Since 1998, The Fort has been considered one of the finest public golf courses in the state after its redesign by Pete Dye and Tim Liddy. 1,700 acres of the 2,500 acre property is now a Fort Harrison State Park, making it a pristine site for Chi Phi’s only official golf outing.

    Proceeds from the Tournament benefit the Educational Trust’s efforts to provide scholarships and leadership development programs to our Brothers.

    Player spots are available on a first come, first served basis. Undergraduate Brothers, Alumni, Friends of Chi Phi, and our sponsors are encouraged to register early to ensure availability. Email EducationalTrust@chiphi.org today!




  • What truly makes us Chi Phi? Announcing 2019 RRR!

    By | National News | No Comments

    “I feel more connected to Chi Phi than I ever have been. I am convinced that I am/will be a better man.”
    – 2017 RRR Participant

    Learn More
    Register Now

    RRR is focused on our Ritual, Heritage, and the secret meaning of our Brotherhood. This is a unique opportunity to learn about what truly makes us Chi Phi and what has bound us together for nearly 200 years. RRR is provided at no cost and is open to all Brothers.

    We are thrilled to be hosting three RRRs this year across the country:

    University of California, Berkeley – Berkeley, CA
    June 7-9, 2019 – Register by May 31

    Oglethorpe University – Atlanta, GA
    June 14-16, 2019 – Register by June 7

    Lehigh University – Bethlehem, PA
    July 12-14, 2019 – Register by July 5

    Registration is now open on Chi Phi Connect. Learn more about the program: chiphi.org/rrr




  • Chi Phi Launches Loyalty Campaign

    By | National News | No Comments

    Preserve the fraternity experience for the next generation

    Learn More about the Loyalty Campaign

    In just five years, Chi Phi will be the first Greek lettered social fraternity in America to be celebrating its bicentennial. We take enormous pride and comfort in the knowledge that, despite the numerous challenges we have weathered and those facing Greek Life today, Chi Phi continues to subscribe to the same code of integrity that has been our legacy for two centuries. We remain steadfastly committed to doing fraternity the right way through the unwavering congruence between our words and our actions.

    However, we now face challenges that are vastly different from even a decade ago. The meteoric rise in college tuition and the cost of fraternity liability insurance premiums are now placing serious financial burdens on Greek Life. These burdens, along with Ritual, membership growth, and fraternity expansion, are just some of the programs not eligible for funding through a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization like the Chi Phi Educational Trust.

    Grants awarded from the Educational Trust provide for the bulk of the Fraternity’s educational expenses, amounting to about 25% of Chi Phi’s annual operating revenue. Much of the revenue to fund the remaining 75% of the Fraternity’s programs and services comes via undergraduate dues. This revenue model is no longer sustainable and, given the financial challenges facing our Chapters, this system has become a burden on our members. It is essential to our future health and that of our Chapters that we identify and develop additional sources of funding.

    To that end, the Fraternity will reinstate the Loyalty Campaign. As in years past, it will be a once a year campaign, to be conducted during the first six months of each calendar year. Please visit chiphi.org/loyalty to learn more about the campaign and how your support will preserve the fraternity experience.

    Your support is the lifeblood of our fraternal mission. It is an investment in our future and provides the necessary resources to ensure that our young Brothers are immersed in the values that we hold dear: Truth, Honor, and Personal Integrity. In a time when character and accountability are in great demand, I cannot imagine a better investment.

    Donate to the Loyalty Campaign

    You can make your donation online now through PayPal by clicking the button above (you don’t even need to sign up for an account!), or visit our website for other giving options.

    On behalf of the many young men whose lives have been and will be impacted by Chi Phi through your generosity, thank you.

    What our Brothers say about the programs the Loyalty Campaign will support:

     
     
     
     
     



  • Chi Phi Unites with the Max Gruver Foundation for the first #FlyHighMax 5k

    By | Chapter News, National News, Philanthropy/Community Service | No Comments

    At the annual Alphas and Thetas Academy this January, Chi Phi was honored to host Stephen and Rae Ann Gruver as keynote speakers. The Gruvers shared the story of their son Max, who passed away in 2017 after a hazing incident at Louisiana State University.

    Remembering Max and the impact that hazing has had on their family left such an impression on our members that the Fraternity and Educational Trust came together to serve as Lead Sponsors of the first Stop the Hazing #FlyHighMax 5k on February 2.

    National Staff, Friends of Chi Phi, and members of the Rho Delta Chapter at Oglethorpe University came together with more than 600 other runners to support the Max Gruver Foundation’s mission to ensure that hazing is eliminated on college campuses.

    The event was a great success for all parties, especially for the Foundation. John Fisher, Delta Pi 2013, even took home a medal for coming in 3rd for his age group. Perhaps one of the most meaningful moments of the 5k was when Rho Delta Brothers ran their final lap twice in order to stick with and support other Brothers still in the race. A real moment that shows true fraternity is about Brotherhood and community.

    Chi Phi’s partnership with the Max Gruver Foundation and the Gruver Family continues with Stephen and Rae Ann scheduled to speak at the Psi Delta Colony at UNC Charlotte on March 24. If you are interested in bringing the Gruvers to speak with your Chapter or campus, contact Assistant Executive Director Danny Zayas to learn more about how to make it happen.

    The event in images

    (click to enlarge)

    Chi Phi’s runners for the event included undergraduate members of the Rho Delta Chapter Arman Niknafs, Tyrell Snagg, Steve Myers, Chandler Robinson, and Luis Pereira-Hernandez. Alumnus John Fisher of the Delta Pi Chapter and his wife Danielle also ran the 5k.




  • Happy Thanksgiving from Chi Phi!

    By | National News | No Comments

    Dear Brothers,

    Happy Thanksgiving! We hope that your day is filled with family, friends, and plenty of food and drink to go around.

    With the Holiday Season upon us, many of us find ourselves reflecting upon the people and places which have made us feel at home throughout the years. The Brotherhood we have found in Chi Phi and the moments we shared with Brothers on campus and after graduation are at the forefront of what we are thankful for year after year.

    It is because of these memories with men like you that we have continued our involvement with the Fraternity and the Educational Trust to Build Better Men who, decades after graduation, will find themselves as grateful for this shared bond as we are.

    In the spirit of Thanksgiving and the Holiday season, the Educational Trust has announced the 2018 Founder’s Day Campaign. With a goal of raising $20,000 to continue providing scholarships, innovative educational programming, and support for our Chapters and Colonies across the country, the Founder’s Day Campaign is just one part of our commitment to creating a better future for our Brothers.

    Thank you for your continued spirit of support for the mission of the Fraternity and Educational Trust. We hope to see you at a Chi Phi event in the future, including the upcoming Chairman’s Dinner during Alphas and Thetas Academy in Atlanta.

    Fraternally,

    Bob Walker & Dave Skelton
    Grand Alpha & Educational Trust Chairman

    Want to support the 2018
    Founder’s Day Campaign?

    Contributions of any amount are deeply appreciated, but those giving $100 or more to the Campaign will receive a pair of our limited edition, never-before-seen Chi Phi dress socks. Hurry, our supply is limited!

    Brothers Walker and Skelton have already claimed theirs! You can join them by making your donation today.




  • UC San Diego Colony Votes to Cease Operations

    By | Chapter News, Media Statements, National News | No Comments

    The UCSD Colony at University of California San Diego has informed the National Office and Grand Council of a motion proposed during a meeting on Tuesday, October 2, which resulted in a vote without opposition to suspend Colony operations indefinitely. The vote was held as a result of low membership in the Colony.

    As of today, October 3, Chi Phi no longer has an active presence on the campus of UCSD. All Initiate members of the Colony have been moved to Alumni status and are entitled to all the rights and privileges accorded to all members.




  • Chi Phi Kicks Off Alumni Directory Project

    By | Alumni News, Media Statements, National News | 2 Comments

    The Fraternity is pleased to be revising our Alumni Directory – last published in 2013 – which is a critical part of our national operation. Maintaining accurate contact information for more than 40,000 members is no small task, and we ask that you take a few minutes to respond to inquiries about your current information.

    We have contracted with Publishing Concepts (PCI), a Dallas-based company who we have worked with for more than a decade. You will be contacted by PCI, using Chi Phi’s name and trademark, via email and postcard in the coming weeks (if not already). Please know that these messages are not spam and have been approved by the Fraternity.

    You will be offered the opportunity to purchase a completed Directory; however, you are under no obligation to do so. Should you choose to make a purchase through PCI, a portion of it will directly benefit the Fraternity.

    Should you have any questions or concerns about this project, please feel free to reach out to Dan Coutcher, Director of Member Engagement, at coutcher@chiphi.org or by calling 404-231-1824.




  • Best wishes to our departing staff members!

    By | National News | No Comments

    Chi Phi is saying farewell to two members of our National Staff; Erin Wilensky, Delta Zeta Sorority, and Michael Davis, Alpha-Pi 2016.

    Erin served in several capacities in her four years with Chi Phi, including her most recent role as Director of Member Education. Even after her departure, her work with Chi Phi will continue with some of our undergraduate members as she takes on the position of Assistant Director of Fraternity and Sorority Life at Lehigh University, the location of our Psi Chapter.

    Michael served as Director of Undergraduate Services for nearly two years, leading our Chapter Services and Expansion teams and overseeing the Accreditation program in his time on staff. He accepted a position at GUIDE, Inc., a local non-profit in Atlanta, and plans to continue working with our returning Colonies at Georgia State and Emory.

    Please join us in wishing them the best in their new endeavors!




  • Three Brothers Achieve Goliard Status

    By | Alumni News, Chapter News, National News | No Comments

    The Regional Ritual Retreats of 2018 provided nearly 100 members with an opportunity to invest themselves in our heritage and Ritual and walk away as a resource for our Brothers across the country. The Goliard Program has significant ties to RRR, as many of the Alumni facilitators are themselves Goliards and certified experts in our Ritual. The Goliard status, coveted among many, was conferred upon three Brothers at RRR this year.

    Eric Weiss, Kappa Delta 2019, gained recognition as a Goliard during the Northeast RRR at Lehigh University, where he completed a proficiency exam and performed essential Ritual duties without written aid. Brother Weiss, the Chapter’s Delta and former Epsilon, has been deeply affected by learning more about Chi Phi’s heritage and Ritual and reflected on the experience after RRR:

    Brothers Weiss, Scheller, and Davis.

    “Last year, I attended RLA where Grand Epsilon Matt Scheller, Psi 2007, gave a talk on Ritual. I was shocked to discover that our Fraternity has many of the classic secrets that my Chapter had never taught: Passwords, Unwritten Law, and even a secret handshake. My Pledge of secrecy and the entire New Member process suddenly made more sense as I finally got a glimpse of the secrets that I am bound to protect. I learned the full challenge that year at Congress after getting denied entry twice. Shortly before RRR, my fellow Congressional Delegate and I decided to join the Goliard Program. We believed that this would be an excellent opportunity to learn about all of the Ritual and history of our nearly 200 year old fraternity, and that it was crucial to incorporate Fraternity traditions into our struggling Chapter.

    Now having gone through the program, I have a strong foundation in Chi Phi ritual and history, and am excited to bring what I have learned to chapters wishing to learn more. That said, I still have much to learn, and am looking forward to working with fraternity leadership as well as other goliards to continue my studies and to strengthen ritual on a national level.

    Chapters of the Chi Phi Fraternity, I strongly encourage sending a couple of Brothers to RRR, especially those who might be interested in the Goliard Program. Our Ritual is what binds us together and teaches us the Values we hold so dear. RRR not only teaches Ritual, but explains its continual relevance and importance, and leaves Brothers enthusiastic about our history and traditions. If we live by our Values and live our Ritual, we can show universities, the media, and the broader community that our Fraternity is a positive force built on Truth, Honor, and Personal Integrity.

    Two Alumni Brothers also attained Goliard status this summer; Grand Epsilon Matt Scheller, Psi 2007, and Michael Davis, Alpha-Pi 2016, have worked diligently on preserving Chi Phi’s heritage through the archives and Greek Life Museum while also forming the Regional Ritual Retreats into one of the Fraternity’s premier and most loved educational programs.

    The Fraternity is privileged to have so many men like Brothers Weiss, Scheller, and Davis who have helped Build Better Men at every opportunity. Congratulations to them on a well-earned distinction!

    The Goliard Program is an educational program designed to encourage in-depth learning into the Heritage and History of our Fraternity. Those wishing to enter the program will advance through several stages, known as Chambers, with an eventual certification upon completion. These certified “Goliards” will be the experts on the History, Ceremonies, and Traditions of Chi Phi, and will be called upon to assist other Brothers and Chapters throughout the country when help, advice, or guidance is needed.

    The program is designed to train those who could assist the Fraternity in educating other Brothers on a Chapter by Chapter basis or at potential future Ritual Educational Programs. Therefore, it is important to note that those looking to complete the Goliard Program should have at least a very basic understanding of the Chi Phi Fraternity’s Ritual and History.

    You can download the full Goliard Program and application packet on Chi Phi Connect. Email Heritage & Traditions Counselor Clark Kjorlaug at kjorlaug@chiphi.org with any questions about the program.