By Executive Director Ronald Ransom Butler ’00
The year was 2007. I was 27 years old and three years deep in my Phi Psi career. An annual professional development conference landed me in the balmy heat of central Florida with other members of the Phi Psi staff. Coworkers informed me before the conference that I’d share a room with none other than the bolo-tie-wearing Executive Director Emeritus, Mr. Phi Psi, Dud Daniel Arizona ’47. Rooming with Dud was an experience. I learned of Dud’s hotel soap collection … after jumping into the shower, only to find no soap. I spied it in his bag the next day. I also learned that Dud was the only person I knew who made the bed in a hotel room. I can still hear the echoes of his gentle, regal voice telling me, “We don’t want the maids to think we are slobs.”
Little did I know, this was just the beginning of my adventure with Dud. The conference ended, and the rest of the staff returned home. Dud and I remained with a free day before our departure. We spent the day exploring, eating lunch, and walking through stores. I learned of Dud’s love for chocolate after he exited the Ghirardelli chocolate store, hoping that reentry would score him another free sample. As we walked along the brick sidewalks of Celebration, Florida, Dud told me stories about his life and adventures he had along the way. After long conversation, we retired to our hotel room.
The next morning, waiting in the lobby for his shuttle to the airport, he said something to me I’ll never forget.
“Thank you for listening.”
I looked at him with a blank stare. He explained how most of the friends he could reminisce with had passed on, and he was left to reflect on many of his experiences alone. He chose to share memories with me during that trip, and I got to listen.
I relive this moment often and started reflecting on it differently today. I considered Dud’s relationships and interactions throughout his life and how much they meant to him—his childhood, his time in the U.S. Army, and his Phi Psi experience on the University of Arizona campus. Dud found connectedness and belonging in those spaces with the people who occupied them. I could hear it in the stories he shared.
Among Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs is connection (love) and belonging. We seek connectedness throughout our lives from the time we are born until the day we die. We find it through family, friends, coworkers, parishioners, teammates and fraternity brothers. Its experiences we reveal through the conversations we have, the journeys we share, and the trust we place in others.
Not everyone gets to satisfy this fundamental need. Finding a sense of connectedness can be difficult for those who are reserved or suffer from social anxiety. While social media and virtual communication emerged as a supplement, it has presented significant limitations in building community. And as I learned in 2007, those who outlive their peers face challenges filling the void where loved ones once stood.
A 2019 Cigna survey of over 10,000 people in the workplace showed that 79 percent of Gen Z, or adults in the 18 to 22 age group, and 71 percent of millennials say they’re lonely. According to the National Council on Aging, “loneliness impacts 20 million older adults and can go hand in hand with social isolation.”
In this issue of The Shield, we’ve highlighted experiences of connection and belonging — a trip with chapter brothers, advice and support to find new direction in life, and a Phi Psi ring identified with the remains of an unidentified army lieutenant. These stories remind us of the sense of connectedness and belonging that we find in Phi Kappa Psi.
Dud passed away early in 2011. I’d see him and speak with him on the phone several times over the next four years, but we never had the opportunity to talk like we did in 2007. While I’ll never get to reminisce with Dud like that balmy summer in Florida, I’m glad I had someone to share it with. I am certain that Dud’s issue of The Shield shows up right on time, addressed to the pearly gates. So, Dud, if you’re reading this, I just want to say, “Thank you for sharing.”
Et Ducti Vero,
Vivimus et Vigemus.
United By Friendship, Sustained By Honor, And Led By Truth,
We Live and Flourish