August 15, 2012: Nashville, Tenn.—The Epsilon Sigma chapter brothers were anxious at Phi Kappa Tau’s 60th National Convention, and rightfully so. The men made the trip from Orange, Calif., to Nashville, Tenn., to represent their brotherhood and present for the Maxwell Trophy, awarded to the most outstanding chapter in the nation.
“We had a huge part of us that thought we could [win the Maxwell Trophy] and then an equally huge part of us that was looking at the other chapters and all the great things they have accomplished, so we were scared to get our hopes up,” said Chapter President Adam Monson, Chapman ’09.
With the Maxwell presentations complete and only mere minutes from the announcement at the Brotherhood Banquet, that anxious feeling intensified.
“When there were only four things left in the program before the Maxwell Trophy, we started looking around at each other and we got more and more anxious,” Monson said.
The feeling that had accompanied them throughout the trip would soon be gone.
“We freaked out when we heard our chapter called,” Monson said. “We ran up on stage and we were just trembling with excitement. For the rest of the ceremony we all were switching from looking at the person on stage and staring at this trophy in the middle of our table to make sure it was actually there.”
The chapter had just received one of the Fraternity’s highest honors.
“The thing we felt going into it and coming out of it is that we are so grateful and honored to be named the No. 1 chapter, because there are tons of chapters that are doing things on incredible levels that [make us aspire to be better],” Monson said.
The men decided not to tell their brothers, friends or family the good news until after the banquet, but even plans from the most outstanding chapters don’t always work out.
“When we went to tell everyone, they already found out online and were already freaking out,” Monson said. “On our Facebook page, there were so many exclamation points it was unreal.”
Amid the numerous “congratulations” spread across every imaginable communication platform, there were also reminders.
“So there was a flood of excitement, but there was a good amount of people bringing us back down and reminding us that this didn’t just happen because we are a fun-loving group of goofy guys, but that we worked our tails off and we have to keep doing that,” Monson said.
What resulted in the Chapman representatives being called up to the Schermerhorn Symphony Center stage had started years earlier. Facing an uncertain future, the chapter turned to recruitment as the necessary answer to its problems.
“I think a huge part of it is that when my class came in—fall of 2009—we were essentially the new breath of the chapter,” Monson said. “When we got in, we were half the house. We had a huge influx of leaders.”
Those new leaders helped change the chapter’s culture.
“The influx of new members brought a completely new dynamic to the chapter, with brothers getting involved in leadership positions early on and becoming invested in the chapter, leading them to take on greater roles later,” said Past Chapter President Trevor Sullivan, Chapman ’09. “This new attitude that the new leadership brought was all about analyzing our chapter, in the sense that we wanted to keep what was working, and improve what was holding back our potential.
The recruitment focus didn’t stop in 2009. Though instead of survival, it was for progress.
“We kept recruiting better and better guys, high-quality leaders and really outstanding gentlemen,” Monson said. “That helped us with recognition on campus and people knowing who Phi Taus were, which helped us get better social standing, more participation in our philanthropy events and enabled us to participate in other philanthropy events because we had the man power to do so. There was a real unified vision that we had a lot more potential that than what we were fulfilling. So we really pushed to see that potential the last three years.”
It was a total group effort from the chapter that allowed it to grow.
“Our members were ambitious, excited and completely supportive of our goal to reach Maxwell level status, and that constant encouragement and desire to contribute to that accomplishment helped our chapter to succeed,” Sullivan said. “We all wanted to volunteer more, raise more money, and better ourselves not because we wanted to check off boxes on the Borradaile Challenge, but because as a chapter, we believed that the things we were doing really were for the betterment of the chapter, the community, and ourselves.”
Though the chapter is not only Maxwell level now, but the Maxwell Trophy winner, it has the same main focus as in it did in 2009: improving.