A Reflection on the Fraternity Experience and Marvin Millsap, Central Missouri told by Jeff Russo, Carnegie Mellon
According to the perpetual web-calendar on my PC, which hadn’t yet been invented back then, it was Saturday, January 10, 1987. I was representing the Delta Xi associate chapter from Carnegie Mellon as president of what was then known as a colony.
About thirty Sig Taus had driven to Warrensburg, Missouri for the Chapter President’s Boot Camp, later and to this day known as the Earl A. Webb Academy for Principled Leaders. I remember sharing the car ride with three others: Jeff Dittenhafer, Millersville, Donald Pruss, Edinboro, and Mark Vaccaro, SUNY Buffalo. (Fellas, if you’re out there, help me with this!)
Anyone who has carpooled to this event will enthusiastically contrast the ride to Warrensburg with the one returning from. Mine was no exception – the former, familiar but calm, punctuated by periods of country music radio, FM static, rest stops, and naps; the latter, electrified, driven by an energy spilling out from a car full of leadership program graduates, fortified with the optimism and excitement of forty-eight hours of president’s training, trading what they had learned and what they were going to do with it when they got home.
We sat shoulder to shoulder in the staff office area, notebooks on our knees, soaking up presentations made, wonderfully, before the age of PowerPoint, decades before technology gave us handheld distractions. If you were going to tune out, you had to work at it. Visuals were presented on an overhead projector with acetate slides.
I left that meeting with seven pages of notes – not only from the presentations but conversations with other presidents. I do believe it’s the only time in my college career I ever brought a notepad out with me at night.
I left with something else, though. After dinner on Saturday, January 10, 1987, in Warrensburg, Missouri, I left knowing with absolute certainty that I would never, ever, walk away from Sigma Tau Gamma Fraternity, but rather spend my adult life immersed in that give-and-take existence of volunteerism on its behalf. I owe that to one man. His name is Marvin Millsap, Central Missouri ’26.
He told us his story.
In a nutshell, brother Millsap grew up on farm in Missouri. In his pursuit of a better life, he pursued his education at Central Missouri State Teachers College (now known as University of Central Missouri) and joined Sigma Tau Gamma, with the support of his mother – she advised him it would inculcate in him a trait she referred to as “back-stay” – the foundation of a gentleman. Along with this quality, he found lifelong friendship and received bountiful gifts of character. And then, pointing his finger directly at us, he admonished, “So have you…and to those who have caught, there is an obligation to pitch. No man can do everything, but every man can do something; and that which he can do, he should do.”
I scribbled those words on my pad as fast as I could so I wouldn’t forget them. The true spirit of fraternalism had just been explained to me in plain, terse language that I could easily understand and use as a basis for all this – for doing fraternity.
I went to Warrensburg with that spirit in me; I just needed mentors to help me define, refine it, give me a place to put it and a way to express it. Marvin not only identified it, this eighty-year-old man identified with it. And that, simply, is why I chose to volunteer. It’s why I give, in as many ways as I can, to Sigma Tau Gamma.
This is just a part of Marvin’s Sig Tau story and the beginning of my own Sig Tau story. As we celebrate this day, Fellowship Day, committed to citizenship and brotherhood, I wonder, “What is your Sig Tau story?”
ABOUT SIGMA TAU GAMMA FRATERNITY
Founded at the University of Central Missouri on June 28, 1920, the organization will commemorate its 100th Anniversary in 2020. With a presence on 84 campuses in 31 states, our membership includes more than 3,300 undergraduate men and 61,000 living alumni. The Headquarters, which is home to the Fraternity, Foundation, and WPN Housing Company, is located in Indianapolis, Indiana, 12 miles from the center of downtown. Visit https://sigtau.org for additional information.