Parents News

Parent information on campus culture, fraternity life, Phi Kappa Tau, and the trends shaping your son’s generation.

A Worthwhile Experience

By: Susan Rutledge

RutledgeMy son, Kyle Rutledge, had an opportunity this past summer to serve as the communication intern for Phi Tau in Oxford, Ohio. Being the loving, supportive mother I am, I encouraged him to accept. I was also thinking one less kid to share the remote with.

Kyle finished his spring semester at Oklahoma State and was home for only 48 hours to prepare for his summer in Oxford. In a whirlwind of activity, we got the car ready for the 12-hour drive, bought out the clothing store for business casual wear, got him loaded up and on his way. He was so excited about the experience he was to have.

He arrived in Oxford and literally hit the ground running with the other two interns whom he was going to share this experience with. Every time I spoke or texted with him, I knew he was having the time of his life and learning what it meant to work in the real world. He gave up a summer of lazy days, staying up late, sleeping in and hanging out with his friends and family. To Kyle, it was so worth it.

From a mom’s perspective, I recognized this internship as a great opportunity. Not only could it enhance his resume, but it would be a time for personal growth and for him to reflect on what type of career he would want. I knew this was a time for him to learn and that no college classroom could duplicate what he would see and hear over the summer.

This internship provided a structured environment, learning opportunities, use of existing skills and abilities, and allowed him to both teach and lead during Leadership Academy. It allowed him the opportunity to travel the country, forge new friendships and learn about himself. It strengthened his commitment and loyalty to the Fraternity he cares deeply about.

When Kyle returned home in August and shared his experiences, I saw a son who had grown up a little bit more, a son who is that much more ready to take on the world, a son who will take all that he learned and apply those skills to other areas of his life, a son who will continue to cultivate and treasure the friendships he made, and a also son who will remain committed to Phi Tau and its principals.

I am so proud of that son and grateful he had this experience. Thank you Phi Tau for selecting my son as the 2014 communication intern.

Susan Rutledge is the mother of Kyle Rutledge, Oklahoma State ’12. Kyle has served Beta Kappa chapter as vice president of alumni relations and membership orientation officer. He spent the summer in Oxford as communication intern at the Executive Offices.

A Legacy of Learning, Leading and Serving

By: Tim Shaw, Purdue ’83

ShawIt was the summer before my son’s freshman year on campus at my alma mater, Purdue, when we first seriously discussed it. “So, are you planning to do fraternity rush?”

Several of the fraternities on campus had already been in contact, and prior to his campus visit to register for classes, we had casually discussed the greek system at Purdue. Austin was raised in a family where going greek in college was a normal choice, not necessarily expected or forced upon him or his siblings, but a choice that was expected because of the positive experiences of his parents, sisters and other relatives.

As my wife and I explained the greek system at Purdue, it was never an awkward or uncomfortable discussion for us to have. On the campus in West Lafayette, Ind., the greek system is one of the largest in the country and for the most part, the relationship between the greek system and the campus administration and student body has always been a positive and supportive system. As is the case on most campuses, members of greek organizations were highly represented in the leadership across the hundreds of student organizations.

One of the other influencing factors in Austin’s decision was that through my volunteering with Phi Kappa Tau, he already knew several Phi Taus, and more importantly he understood a little bit about our values of learning, leading and serving. He attended Braves games with the Phi Tau Atlanta Alumni Club, but it was never a case of “if you join a fraternity, it must be Phi Kappa Tau.”

The choice was always Austin’s to make.

As Austin started his freshman year, he and his new friends from his dorm, explored the fraternity system as fall recruitment ramped up. He attended recruitment events, and soon his friends started accepting bids while Austin had to seriously consider what he was going to do.

Fortunately for Phi Kappa Tau, Lambda chapter at Purdue had just re-chartered on August 25, 2012. I had attended that chartering weekend event along with Austin, so he was well aware that my fraternity was back on campus. Long story short, Austin eventually accepted a bid to join Lambda chapter.

Since joining Phi Kappa Tau, my son has had the opportunity to participate in several world-class, leadership-development programs sponsored by Phi Kappa Tau. A few months after his initiation, he attended the highly regarded Leadership Academy at Camp Rock Eagle. This experience lit a fire in Austin and he set a goal to become chapter president and a campus leader.

He was elected chapter president, which opened even more leadership-development doors, including Presidents Academy in Fort Worth, Texas, and a weekend retreat near Purdue for incoming greek leadership.

I’m extremely proud that Austin chose to be a Phi Tau and look forward to seeing him continue to grow and develop into a responsible citizen living the values of learning, leading and serving.

Tim Shaw, Purdue ’83, is the father of Austin Shaw, Purdue ’13. Tim is the Lambda chapter advisor and a loyal Foundation donor. Austin is Lambda chapter president.

What I Think

By Denise Vienot2012 Digital Photos - Student Life - Homecoming - King & Queen 9-29 - TMI 0965

I was asked to write an article about what it was like to have a son in Phi Kappa Tau. What came to my mind were all the memories and feelings I have of his five years in college. As a parent, you try to teach your children right from wrong and to make good choices. Then you pray real hard they take those lessons to heart.It was only a few weeks of Tyler being away from home that I got the call, “Hey mom, guess what I did? I joined a fraternity.” My very first thought was the movie “Animal House,” and then how much is this going to cost. We talked for a long time on the phone and he assured me that it was a fraternity of gentlemen and he was going to be fine.

After his first semester, his chapter was actually chartered by Phi Kappa Tau and that was the first time I meet most of his brothers. There was a nice ceremony at the college and a banquet at the local airport. I was impressed with how polite and well-mannered all of his brothers were. My husband and I left with the feeling that maybe he did make a good choice and everything was going to be fine as he kept assuring us.

Tyler’s involvement with the Fraternity kept him very busy. Even when he came home to visit he was on the phone planning and working on things they had going on. He also took advantage of the leadership training and all of the conferences that he could. They also did a lot of fun things. There is a video on YouTube of my son, who has no rhythm, doing a stomp dance with his brothers. I wish I could have seen that one in person.

Tyler was in his third year of college when his grandmother got really sick, and needed me and my family to give her 24-hour care. One Sunday, Tyler and a couple of his brothers stopped by and offered their services. They moved some heavy stuff around, cleaned out the gutters and just visited with my mother. She was so proud of him and talked about it for days afterward. At the funeral, as my mother lay in state at the church, a large group of well-dressed young men walked in. As the group filed in and sat down all eyes were on them. At the luncheon numerous friends and family came up to me and said that they were impressed and wanted to know who they were. I proudly told them that they were Tyler’s brothers.

As I sit and write this article more memories keep coming, like the time that they decided to cook dinner for all the parents. It was a grilling fiasco, which they quickly turned around by cooking the burgers on all the George Foreman grills that they could find.

So what do I think about having a son that is a member of Phi Kappa Tau Fraternity? His father and I could not be more proud. He made some great choices and that you cannot put a price on. He will forever have a great group of men to work with, hang with, cry with and laugh with. He will forever be a part of the brotherhood.

Denise Vienot is the mother of Jared Vienot, Saginaw Valley State ’11,and Tyler Vienot, Saginaw Valley State ’09. Tyler served as a chapter president and Undergraduate Advisory Board president while at Saginaw Valley State and is now Phi Kappa Tau resource consultant at the Executive Offices.

A Son in Phi Kappa Tau

By Sharon Koehler

546“Hey, it’s me.  I’ve been asked to become a brother in Phi Kappa Tau.  I’m going to say yes!”

What were your thoughts when your son shared those thoughts with you?  Excitement?  Panic?  Worry? Memories of fraternities when you were in college?

I admit that I had a little bit of all of those.  I have son in Phi Tau, but what does it mean for me as a parent?

Having a son in Phi Tau means I have the opportunity to learn about the Fraternity.

What is its history? Who were the founders? What were their ideas long ago about what a fraternity should be? How does learning.leading.serving. become real to the chapter members?  What is Serious Fun Children’s Network, the national philanthropy? Who is the chapter advisor?  What are the policies regarding risk management or hazing? The more I know, the better I can understand his experience.

Having a son in Phi Tau means I have the opportunity to meet some of the most wonderful young men around. What a joy it is to learn about them, to find out about their families, their interests, their hopes and dreams! It’s great fun to open our home to them and to welcome them into our family. It also means meeting and getting to know the fine men who serve as chapter advisors.

Having a son in Phi Tau means listening as he shares his joys and worries about college life.  “Mom, we came in first during Greek Week!”  “Mom, our chapter exceeded our fund-raising goal!”  “Mom, we have the highest GPA on campus- again!” “Mom, I’m really worried about … He’s not going to class, he seems so depressed, he’s been drinking…what should I do?”

Having a son in Phi Tau means trusting my son to be a leader. I trust him to be the one who inspires others, the one who can get them to rally around a cause, the one who is not afraid to step up and say, “No, this is not OK”.  Because if he won’t, who will?

Having a son in Phi Tau means being thankful for all the people he has met, thankful for the leadership opportunities he has experienced. Phi Tau offers academies, conferences, and UIFI training to name a few. Building relationships, making friendships with people from all across the United States–what could be better? All because of a strong brotherhood that is Phi Kappa Tau.

Having a son in Phi Tau means I have a chance to brag about the finest fraternity around! It’s fun to tell people about the great things that Phi Tau is doing.

Did you know that March is the Fraternity’s Founders Month of Service? Chapters take on the challenge of participating in service activities and events to honor the men who founded Phi Tau on March 17, 1906.

Most of all, having a son in Phi Tau means watching a young man who was struggling to find his way make a choice that changed his life.

C. Everett Koop said, “Life affords no greater responsibility, no greater privilege, than the raising of the next generation.”

I’m proud to say that my son is a fraternity man, that he is trying every day to live the values of learning.leading.serving.


Boomerang Children

It’s the beginning of another academic year and many students have already started classes. If you’ve sent your son off to college, perhaps for his final year, you may be thinking about his return to the nest.

There has been quite a bit of press about boomerang children—those that are graduated from college and have lived on their own for the most part, but then move back into the family home. There is mounting research that indicates that this may not necessarily be a negative situation.

While we are all familiar with the notion that young people need to learn to “grow up,” it appears that “growing up” is more complicated—physiologically and psychologically—than what may have been first considered. In this posting from the Wall Street Journal, we see that brain development, particularly in the prefrontal cortex, may not actually be completed until the mid- or late-20s, indicating that perhaps big-time life decisions may be best put off until later in life.

The rites of passage for adulthood continue to be blurred. Only a few short decades ago, the path was much clearer. In some form, the expectation was to graduate (from high school or college), get a job, get married, buy a house (after saving for the down payment, and have children. Today, all of these passageways are more complicated and much less linear.

In addition, each year Beloit College assembles their Mindset List for the incoming class of college first-year students. This listing will provide no great surprises for someone who spends time with teenagers, but in many ways, it provides a picture for context within which they see the world compared to their parents and other older role models.


Commencement Speeches … and More

Dear Phi Kappa Tau Parents:

The season for commencement speeches has mostly come and gone. It is a time for a (mostly) silver-haired success story to share at least some level of sagacity to a wide-eyed, chipper, and motivated group of newly-papered graduates, from doctors to middle schoolers. Much of this wisdom falls into obscurity, perhaps only reaching the mind, body and spirit of those present at the commencement. Other pieces are shared via social and mainstream media. Two of the more widely-shared pieces follow:

A high-school commencement speech recently received a great deal of attention for the theme of “You’re not Special.” Some feedback applauded the candor of the author, offering that we should not be coddling young people but pushing them into building self-esteem based on real achievement, which often includes trial and error, “failing forward,” and diligence. Other people thought that we ought not be imparting the cynicism of our adulthood on the otherwise anything-is-possible optimists of youth. Either way, it’s an intriguing approach to the commencement speech:

The second speech gained wide recognition because of its author, who died suddenly, soon after she made her delivery. It’s a message of hope and optimism, but also perhaps of a young person’s view of the world—more collaborative and connected than previous generations can understand:

In addition to the commencement speeches, there are the ubiquitous and obligatory responses to commencement speeches. One of these (general) responses was posted in the Wall Street Journal, and it had several points for new graduates to consider:


Two Takes on Greek Life

Dear Phi Kappa Tau Parents:

During the first few months of the academic year, we normally see several articles in major publications that discuss fraternity and sorority life on campus.

In many ways, students find a fraternity or a sorority to be a “home away from home” – a place for peer acceptance and important friendships, an opportunity to find a bit of smallness within the university expanse, and an avenue to get involved on campus. On this last point, there was recently an article written for the Huffington Post that outlines how schools often depend on fraternities and sororities when they want to involve students in events and activities. Because we don’t always see positive things written about fraternities in the media, we thought this was a refreshing case for greek life:

For a contrasting view, we would also like to offer an op-ed from the president at Cornell University. Cornell has experienced a series of incidents concerning fraternities and sororities that have, in some cases, been tragic. In this article, Dr. Skorton explains his rationale for abolishing “pledging:”

As a parent of a Phi Kappa Tau member, you might be interested to know that Phi Kappa Tau abolished pledging in the 1960s. Although the term “pledging” is often used to describe what we call “associate membership,” we have a specific program that chapters administer locally. Hazing is prohibited, as is the use of alcohol in any form.

Any additional questions or comments about our associate member program can be shared by e-mailing the CEO.


Why Teenagers Do what they Do

Dear Phi Kappa Tau Parents:

Have you ever sat quietly and anxiously, biting your lip, trying to hold back the urge to “guide” your young son in decision making? You say to your spouse, “I know that we want him to learn from his own mistakes, but just how bad of a mistake does it take to teach a lesson?”

Take heart, it’s not just your adult-style judgment that’s kicking in, but it may also be biology at work. According to Carl Zimmer, (, teenagers may be inclined to take larger risks in return for something desirable due to the timing of their brains’ development. As teenagers grow into adults, the portion of their brains that is more focused on cognition (executive thinking) becomes more developed and active. Perhaps making good decisions is not just the result of experience (read: being old) but is related to physiological changes that occur during one’s life.

Zimmer quotes Neuroscientist B.J. Casey: “From an evolutionary point of view, the daredevil impulses of adolescents can be beneficial. Once a young mammal becomes sexually mature, it needs to leave its parents and strike out on its own. It must find its own supply of food and establish its place in the world of adults. In some mammal species, adolescence is a time for individuals to leave one group and find a new one.”

Interestingly, if we flip to the “nurture” argument, this point is similar to a notion being discussed by social scientist Roy Baumeister in his new book “Is There Anything Good About Men?” In the book, Baumeister outlines the cultural circumstances that have promoted risk-taking, particularly for young men, as critical for the flourishing of the species.

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