As we bid adieu to 2014, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life (FSL) celebrated the JMU Greek community’s accomplishments in the past year. Sunday, January 25th, FSL hosted the 26th Annual Excellence Awards at the Festival Grand Ballroom. Sisters, brothers, and alumni gathered to watch as they were commended for their achievements, both as individuals and as chapters, in bettering the JMU and surrounding Harrisonburg communities.
“It’s important to highlight, acknowledge, and celebrate all that these students have accomplished because their service is so worthwhile,” said Associate Director Adam Lindberg.
This year over 200 applications were sent in, all vying for a reduced number of awards from the previous year. Individuals and chapters can be nominated by a member of the Greek community via an online submission stating why the nominee is worthy of recognition. The honor of judging goes to a committee of individuals who are or were affiliated with the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life and FSL itself.
During the award ceremony, while chapter awards are presented by FSL and the FSL Advisory Board, the presentation of individual awards holds a more personal touch: the person who nominated the recipient is the one who presents the award to him or her.
FSL Graduate Assistant Matt Ferramosca believes the ceremony highlights what is arguably one of the most important aspects of Greek life: their philanthropies. “[The fraternities and sororities] put a lot of energy into their philanthropies and want to be recognized,” he said. “These awards validate their efforts and keep motivation high by recognizing all the good that they do.”
It is understandable then that the Outstanding Philanthropy Event/Program Award is one of the most coveted of all awards. The 26th Annual Excellence Awards recognized the sisterhood Zeta Tau Alpha and brotherhood Kappa Alpha Order for their efforts to spread awareness and raise money to support their chapters’ national philanthropies.
Zeta Tau Alpha’s philanthropy is Breast Cancer, and Chapter President Elizabeth Teune spoke of several events her chapter hosted to shine the spotlight on their philanthropy: “During the month of October we had an illumination ceremony, a home run derby, and a Breast Cancer 5K, and many other events. Many sisters know people who have been affected by Breast Cancer, and this has made us more passionate as a result.”
Though Zeta Tau Alpha raised thousands of dollars at functions like the 5K run, not all focused solely on fundraising. The sisters held an Illumination Ceremony on the Festival Lawn dedicated to spreading awareness and remembering all those who have been affected by Breast Cancer. Around 200 people came to the ceremony, where individuals were invited to come forward and share their stories. The meaningful accounts honored both those who lost their battle and those who survived.
“We are incredibly honored to receive this award, and it will only inspire us to double our efforts,” Teune promised.
For Kappa Alpha Order, their philanthropy, Muscular Dystrophy, also was a personal fight.
“Last year a brother’s cousin got diagnosed,” said chapter President Dan Cracovaner, “and unfortunately there is no cure, only expensive treatment to slow it down.”
The chapter made it their goal to pay for the cousin’s medical expenses. After their successful weeklong philanthropy project, entitled War of the Roses, they raised enough money to pay for treatment, physical therapy, and summer camp for the afflicted individual. The brothers presented the additional money raised beyond that to the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Each day of War of the Roses consisted of different events and games which sororities competed in to raise money and awareness for Muscular Dystrophy. All the while the brothers of Kappa Alpha Order took to Twitter to raise awareness, and each time a fact about the disease was retweeted, they donated a dollar to the Muscular Dystrophy Association.
“We are really proud to receive [the Outstanding Philanthropy Event/ Program Award]; we put in so much time and effort and feel great that our hard work was recognized,” Cracovaner said.
And in the fashion of saving the best for last, the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life announced the recipients for the final award of the night, one all chapters aspire to earn: Chapter of the Year. For the sororities, Kappa Alpha Theta took the title home this year. However, since several fraternities incurred risk management violations, no fraternity received the top honor this year.
This announcement was followed by a challenge that Associate Director Adam Lindberg issued to the fraternity men of JMU. He made it clear that more is expected out of all the fraternities and that the mantle of Fraternity of the Year is an honor only bestowed to those who have truly earned it and exceeded the highest of expectations.
“[Next year’s] winner will be the organization that decides, right now in 2015, that the status quo simply isn’t good enough,” he stated, as everyone in attendance listened in rapt silence. “That allowing the actions of a select few to determine the direction of the group overall will no longer be tolerated.” Lindberg acknowledged the media scrutiny fraternities are under, letting it be known that the community and the nation demand better of them as men, as brothers, and as chapters.
“I challenge every fraternity man in this room to use this year as fodder for deep conversations amongst their chapters,” he said. “As we have seen this evening, as individuals we have achieved much, and I am 100% confident that as organizations, we will achieve even more.”
And he’s right. Individual after individual received awards for staying true to the values of their chapters, for being leaders within their organization, for outstanding community service, and so much more. These organizations have so much to offer, and have already contributed thousands of hours and dollars in service to benefit JMU, Harrisonburg, and their philanthropies and will continue to do so.
But the question is, who will step up to the plate? FSL asks of every chapter: Is 2015 your year?
For results of the 2015 Annual Excellence Awards, check out the FSL website.