The Emblem

I just read a blog post by my good friend and colleague Amanda about her week starting to welcome students at Rider University.  You see, Amanda is a proud member of Sigma Kappa. Over the past 13 months that I’ve gotten to know her, Amanda has shown me how membership in a fraternity or sorority can really impact your life.  She wholly exemplifies what it means to be a lifelong member, and I admire her ability to be “always wearing her letters”.  Jennifer Pierce too wrote a blog today regarding her sorority recruitment experience that made me reflect a lot on my own first experiences within the fraternity/sorority system at GVSU.  I wanted to share Amanda’s sentiments regarding a few fond memories I have from my days as an active member of Delta Sigma Phi and how impactful just a few words have been on the course my life has taken.

It’s January 2007 and I’ve just finished “Preference Dinner” at Snug Harbor in Grand Haven.  I had been pretty nervous and excited about this night.  It seemed like I had placed all my chips into the Delt Sig basket.  I had stopped attending recruitment events from competing fraternities, turned down a few other dinner invitations, and carefully selected a shirt and tie for my first of many formal occasions as a future fraternity man.  But I was still apprehensive… what if I did not get a bid?  What if the menu didn’t have food I liked (this is future blog post)?  What if I get asked about what sports I played in high school (none), what my major was (undecided), or if I had been considering other fraternities (yes)?

When I arrived at the dinner, I sat next to some guys I didn’t really now yet.  I ordered my food, settled down, and sort of became quiet as I listened to everyone around me laughing and sharing stories about the fraternity.  Eventually the topic turned to me, but I don’t remember the questions being overwhelming. In fact, they seemed to just make me feel welcome.  “Are you having a good time?”, “Can we get you anything?”, “Wow, so you ordered a Ranch Chicken wrap with no ranch, no tomatoes, and no cheese… what do you eat?” (they caught me).

Following dinner, a brother who I knew had been the former president of the group came up to me privately and fixed my collar.  My tie was showing from underneath and he wanted to make it right so no one else noticed.  He then offered me a cigar, as was the current tradition following dinner to celebrate a successful evening and new friendships formed.  Having suffered pretty terrible asthma when I was younger, I politely declined and my internal dialogue went crazy.

You didn’t smoke the cigar.  Way to go.

All the other new guys are smoking a cigar.

You should have taken one.

What’s the big deal?  Not everyone smokes.

So what if you have an ashtma attack?

They’re not going to pick you now.

Why are they even smoking cigars?

Should I just go—

Maybe noticing I had drifted off into the corner alone, a brother named Josh Lowe came over to me to see how the dinner went and fortunately interrupted this internal tailspin.  I told him that I had really enjoyed myself and met some nice guys who I hadn’t seen before.  He then too offered a cigar, but when I didn’t take one immediately changed the subject to my plans for the next day.  Josh asked if I would be coming to GVSU’s fraternity bid acceptance ceremony, if I still had any questions about Delt Sig, and what my plans were for the weekend ahead.  While I was answering his last question I heard a loud yell that would soon become very familiar…

OHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!

I looked to Josh and glanced around at the other new guys who were sort of standing there trying to figure out why everyone was starting to yell.  Josh motioned to “come on” and join in the circle forming in the middle of the snowy winter street.  There everyone was, 50 or so guys, jumping up and down in a big circle on top of the ice and sleet.  Without realizing it, there were arms wrapped around my shoulders as I was pulled into the circle, and I began to yell too.  Suddenly, the fraternity president jumped in the middle of the circle and made a motion that changed the chant to form the following words:

 A MAN MAY BE A VERY GOOD MAN,

A VERY GOOD MAN MAY BE, [SAY WHAT?]

BUT A BETTER MAN HE’S SURE TO BECOME WHEN HE JOINS A FRATERNITY!

HE MAY PASS THE TEST OF THE SECOND BEST

BUT THE MAN WHOSE BADGE SAYS   I    I    I

IS THE MAN WHO WEARS UPON HIS CHEST

THE EMBLEM OF THE DELTA SIGMA PHI 

[BOOM BOOM BOOM]

THE EMBLEM OF THE DELTA SIGMA PHI

[BOOM BOOM BOOM]

THE EMBLEM OF THE DELTA SIGMA PHI

[BOOM BOOM]

WHOOOOO!

The circle broke, the president announced instructions about where to go for bid acceptance the next day, and I stood there stunned.  What had just happened?! Josh must have felt my confusion as he looked at me and said: That, Branden, was your first emblem.  I pondered this statement over the next 20 or so hours leading up to IFC Bid Acceptance.

My very first emblem?  How many more would there be?  What were they even SAYING?  They’re badges don’t say “I I I”? Thank God no one slipped on that ice in the street!  (My risk management concerns were already bubbling and I had not yet accepted a bid).  But things had changed for me. Where I had been still a little skeptical coming into the preference ceremony of fraternities in general, I now felt a charged connection to the rest of the group.  My very first emblem may have sealed the deal.

I arrived on the scene on the following cold Friday afternoon to see if I had been chosen by my fraternity of choice.  Fortunately, I had.  And the rest is history.  As soon as the bid ceremony was over, the entire fraternity again rushed past everyone in the audience to claim the stage and perform what would be my second emblem.  I’m sure that over the course of the next few months I performed even more, starting to learn the words and yell them along with the rest of my new brothers.  I can’t find a video that isn’t private to share here, so you’ll have to settle for a picture from 2009 instead.

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Eventually, I would see other guys with the same quizzical yet excited looks on their faces leading up to and following their first emblem.  I would see their pride develop following bid acceptance ceremonies where Delta Sigma Phi, always somehow remaining the largest fraternity on campus, stormed the stage or arena with the loudest voices in the room starting out with the signature “OHHHHHHHHHHHHH!” before launching into the chant.

I remember knocking over tables and chairs (sorry, Kirkhof) following chapter meetings as we probably disturbed everyone else in the building with our brotherhood cries.  I was even fortunate enough to take on the role of the brother who executes the start of the lyrics as chapter president, one of the most fun and exciting memories I have of this role within my undergraduate fraternity experience.

After becoming a fraternity and sorority advisor last year, and moving into my role this year working with fraternity/sorority professionals and students across the country, I’m prouder than ever to be a part of this great fraternity.  While I know that a lot of other chapters of Delt(a) Sig across the country choose to sing the lyrics of the Emblem of Delta Sigma Phi, I can’t wait to be back at Homecoming this October and share in this great tradition with the brothers of Epsilon Tau by yelling my heart out.  In fact, I’m putting that on my to-do list right now.  Just after my annual picture with Louie the Laker. Image