To be candid, I had prepared myself for the possibility of not receiving a bid. I acknowledged that I didn’t fit the stereotype of fraternity. I never perceived myself as “cool,” and I was one of very few who had navigated an entire semester of college without consuming a drop of alcohol. Adding to that the color of my skin … yes, that was a concern. Was it justified? Probably not, but I didn’t explicitly ask, and no one explicitly told me that it wasn’t.
As I opened the yellow envelope and pulled out two bids, I felt a sense of relief. The choice was not difficult. My conversations with the men of Phi Kappa Psi were genuine, and I felt at home every minute that I spent with them. It never dawned on me that this decision would commence a lifelong journey. Furthermore, the thought of Fraternity extending well beyond the carefully manicured campus of Butler University also eluded me.
I can’t claim that my next three and a half years as an undergraduate member of Phi Kappa Psi were stellar. At 19 years old, although the Fraternity was important to me, I encountered other challenges that got in the way. Despite the scholarships, grants, and loans that covered my tuition, I juggled two and sometimes three jobs at a time to pay dues and have some spending money. I was also learning how to manage my time, between schoolwork, Fraternity obligations, and my family. Above all, I was still trying to figure out who I was.
Ultimately, the challenges in my life opened my eyes to what being part of Phi Kappa Psi really meant to me. You see, when considering membership and fearing the worst, it was easy for me to see what set me apart from the others in my chapter. However, over the next three and a half years, I came to realize how much more we shared in common than the differences I initially saw.
Just like the others, in Phi Kappa Psi I found a home away from home. A family that was there for me when my biological family was a few hundred miles away. Older brothers to challenge me and younger brothers to offer advice to. A road trip would often turn into an educational journey, while spirited debate often resulted in a newfound respect of those with differing opinions. Community service opportunities offered a window into the world outside of the bubble that I’d grown up in. Most of all, packed into a room every Sunday evening at 8 p.m. for chapter meetings, the leadership, teamwork and trust that we placed upon one another showed me what was possible when a group of well-intentioned college students came together to get stuff done.
Of course, there were some college shenanigans that came along the way, and yes, those experiences brought forth valuable lessons as well. With each encounter came a new life lesson, and with each lesson a deeper sense of loyalty grew. It’s been two decades since I graduated from Butler, but Phi Psi continues to be a source of support and growth for me.
Every fall a new group of students step onto a college campus, ready to embark on a newfound four-year journey. With the first taste of freedom comes numerous questions and challenges, an exploration to unpack the first 18 years of their lives. It’s not an easy road, and I can’t imagine it’s an easy journey to travel alone.
I wouldn’t be the man I am today without the love, care and guidance of my parents and my family at home. However, it is my brothers in Phi Kappa Psi who helped me understand who that man really is.
Ronald K. Ransom II Butler ’00