“Only if someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not”. These were the fabled words uttered by the Once-ler in the Lorax written by Dr. Seuss, a brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon, who graduated from Dartmouth College. As Dr. Seuss penned his classic story in 1971, the beginnings to another great story were being written. In the Spring of 1971, despite being denied recognition as a Fraternity by Virginia Tech, the Virginia Kappa Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon received their national Charter and began to build a brotherhood on the principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love that was to be cherished and coveted for generations to come. For over 25 years, the men of Virginia Kappa went to work, scorning difficulties and hardships and reveling in victories including winning three Buchanan Cups, the highest distinction for SigEp Chapters nationwide, symbolizing a rise to prominence and excellence in all areas of Chapter operations. When speaking with the men of Virginia Kappa about these times, there is an evident gleam of longing in their eyes, a testament to the power of the bond between a man and those whom he calls his brothers. In 1997, with the flame of the Chapter burning strong, the men of Virginia Kappa won a fourth Buchanan Cup, the last one for many years. The following decade and a half marked a period of slow and steady decline that quickly turned into a nosedive, culminating in a myriad of student conduct sanctions and eventually a Chapter closure in 2013. The mighty had fallen and the Virginia Kappa Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon was no more.
Our story begins again in the Fall of 2015 when a handful of men who cared an awful lot decided to take the bold step in bringing the Chapter back to Virginia Tech. The men responsible for rekindling the flame of the Chapter were the same who grew it to its blazing peak in years past, and even though they knew how difficult the road forward would be, they never once wavered in their commitments, a true testament to the lifetime responsibilities expected of a Brother of Sigma Phi Epsilon. With the blessings and support of both Virginia Tech and the SigEp Headquarters staff, the Chapter returned to campus as a colony and began the rebuilding process. The journey towards re-chartering was not a smooth climb, instead one of many tumbles, falls and blunders. The Chapter was built quickly from its inception yet experienced a split early on due to ideological differences. Despite the loss of membership, the Chapter quickly regrouped and built itself up, seemingly closing in on the metrics needed to officially re-charter. To the discerning eye however, all was not well. A rift had formed within the ranks between boys who wanted the traditional Fraternity experience of yesterday and the men who wanted the transformative and impactful fraternity experience of tomorrow. An internal struggle over the future direction of the Chapter ensued, each side winning battles, neither winning the war. In Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, he says “A tree falls the way it leans. Be careful which way you lean.” In the Fall of 2017, after a handful of members leaned too far by not holding themselves to the values of the Fraternity, the tree finally fell and down with it went the old Chapter.
But alas, the story doesn’t end here, in fact it is only the beginning. From the ashes of the fall arose a small group of men who still fought for what they believed in; a group of men committed to doing fraternity right. Given one last shot, the men quickly worked together to reignite the dwindling flame of the Chapter and build Virginia Kappa from the ground up. Over the next year and a half, dozens of men diligently worked to make the Chapter worthy of their love, one which could one day provide the same meaningful experience for their children. On April 13th, 2019 at the annual joint Undergraduate-AVC Spring game meeting, it was revealed to the Chapter that their petition for Chartering was approved and they would officially become Virginia Kappa Once again.
Fast forward to the morning of November 16th, 2019, the day of the Virginia Kappa Chartering Banquet. The men spent the morning in a large classroom space analyzing where they were as a Chapter, what they planned to accomplish in the future, and how they planned to get there. After the mornings retreat, the men went home, got dressed in their finest formal-wear and made their way to the Inn at Virginia Tech for their Chartering Celebration, better known as the Gala. The evening began with remarks from Virginia Tech’s Interim Vice President for Student Affairs, which led directly into a delicious dinner provided by the venue. Following further remarks from a few other individuals, including the keynote speaker for the evening, Grand Chapter Secretary, Billy Maddalon, the Chapter went through SigEp’s traditional Chartering activities including being granted their official flag and seal, the installation of Executive Officers, the President’s pinning ceremony, and finally the grand reveal of the Charter. With many crying tears of joy, the Chapter concluded the evening by thanking everyone who helped them reach this point, by singing a moving and slightly off pitch rendition of the SigEp Anthem and finally an electrifying “highty” chant. The evening was truly one for the ages and men of Virginia Kappa past, present and future stuck around after in the Holtzman Alumni Center to bask in the beauty that is brotherhood in Sigma Phi Epsilon.
In the Lorax, Dr. Seuss said, “It’s not about what it is, it’s about what it can become.” Moving forward, the men of Virginia Kappa are faced each and every day with the dilemma of deciding what is to become of the future of the Chapter. Will we achieve greatness? Will we crumble again? Only time will tell. We have much to be proud of, but so much more to strive for. This Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon will achieve great things and be around for many years to come, but only if the men who safeguard it care a whole awful lot.