I want to dedicate this President’s Message to focusing on three things that I feel are at the heart of the Phi Psi experience — vulnerability, resilience and community-building. These three traits are essential elements in a successful life and career. They are qualities that you probably developed and refined through your life, but I am sure that your Phi Psi experience made these features stronger in you than they would have been otherwise.
So, what is vulnerability, why should it be considered a strength and how does Phi Psi develop it in its members?
To me, vulnerability is giving yourself permission to be human and to be a genuine, authentic person. People who reveal vulnerability are relatable. They are approachable. When people show vulnerability, it humanizes them in the eyes of their peers or teammates. It demonstrates authenticity and transparency, making it easier for others to relate to and trust them. People tend to connect more with others who acknowledge their own imperfections and challenges.
Phi Psi is certainly an organization that helps us develop vulnerability. No matter our accomplishments as students, campus leaders or athletes, few of us escape our college years without being brought down a peg or two by our chapter brothers – especially when we need it … when we get a little too full of ourselves. That vulnerability continues as alumni, no matter what success or accomplishments we experience after college. We are still known by the simple loving term “Brother” to all who knew us in college and often still known by our old — and sometimes embarrassing — nicknames.
For example, I was recently on a virtual meeting of my original chapter’s house corporation where I was warmly greeted by my nickname, which was funny when I was 18, but it is not as cool to be called “Porkchop” 40 plus years later. I certainly felt vulnerable, but also welcomed and embraced.
I believe Phi Psi also helps its members develop resilience and supports them in overcoming challenges. How does it do that?
First, Phi Psi offers a supportive community based on brotherhood, which by definition is supposed to be greater than friendship. The basic idea here is that men who are truly trying to be as close as blood brothers will not let their fellow Phi Psis give up and succumb to challenges.
Our Ritual encourages and even compels us to expect more from our brothers than they are currently demonstrating or even imagining they are capable of achieving. In addition, being a Phi Psi should mean that we are the toughest critics of our brothers and say things that our we brothers may not always want to hear. These types of tough love messages are delivered with a good purpose in mind, and to build up and not tear down another Phi Psi.
When I was an undergraduate, I had the opportunity to confront a brother who when sober was a great guy and very popular, but who, on occasions when he would drink more than he should, become combative and aggressive. While I picked a terrible time to confront him (one night at a party when he was drunk, combative and aggressive), in the clarity and sobriety of the next day he told me that no one had ever identified his behavior as being an issue. He actually thanked me for saying something. I was relieved and satisfied that my chapter brother was willing to be resilient in the face of a challenging situation.
Did you have an experience as an undergraduate Phi Psi where either a brother challenged you to change some behavior or tendency that was holding you back or you had the opportunity to challenge a brother to make a change?
Reflecting on these situations is not only a good endorsement of the value of Phi Psi but also can help us remember that our duty to helping brothers is never discharged even after we leave the campus and our chapter.
The last aspect of the Phi Psi experience I want to focus on is community-building. Phi Psi can play a crucial role in helping its young brothers develop community-building skills by fostering a sense of belonging, encouraging positive relationships, and providing opportunities for leadership and collaboration.
As I reflect on my Phi Psi experience, I am absolutely convinced that I am the person I am today thanks to my Fraternity and the brothers who helped shape me from a boy into a man. I hope you will reflect on these benefits and drop me a message at firstname.lastname@example.org and share your thoughts with me.
It is a tremendous honor serving as our Fraternity’s National President. Thank you for entrusting me with this responsibility.
SWGP Bob Marchesani Butler ’94 (IUP ’79)