The beginning of 2005 marked the beginning of some trying times for the Fraternity both financially and amongst its volunteer staff.
In 2005, necessitated by pressures within the fraternal world, the Fraternity obtained a General Liability Insurance Policy to cover its undergraduates, pledges, and alumni volunteers. In order to pay for this significant new expense, Brother Featheringham resigned from his position as Executive Director at the beginning of 2005. The Fraternity reverted to operating with a totally volunteer staff, including the reintroduction of the Office of the Executive Secretary which was filled by Alpha Alumnus Levon H. Barsoumian. The General Convention decided that it was unwilling to pass a dues increase or a separate Liability Insurance fee onto the undergraduate membership to pay for their coverage under the new Insurance policy. In years to come, a large part of the Insurance Policy would be subsidized by the Fraternity through the annual Alumni Fundraising Appeal.
The maintenance of the Fraternity’s jewelry inventory, as well as other items, was outsourced to a third party vendor. Partly due to the financial stress of taking on the new insurance policy, the Fraternity embarked on another new first with its first “virtual” Convention. The Thirty-Sixth General Convention was held via phone conference call with pre-distributed presentations. Select Supreme Council members travelled to specific chapters and led local sessions. Unfortunately, technology had not caught up with the ability to host a “virtual” Convention. Meetings were marred by poor phone connections and the to-be expected logistical challenges of a dozen people wanting to speak at the same time. The human element was also missed as chapters commented on their desire for the camaraderie and fellowship that usually accompany the General Convention. These comments were duly noted and would shape the General Conventions, Joint Province Conventions, and Province Retreats in years to come.
On December 3, 2005, the Beta-Delta Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta was founded at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (better known as Virginia Tech) through the efforts of Grand Vice-President Alixandre R. Minden, Communications Director Steven Weiss, and several Kappa brothers. Counted amongst the Charter Members were Leif Alleman, Joseph Ash, Keith Eyerman, Tom Fox, Scott Frash, Jayton Gill, Joe Kauffman, Brian King, Jordan Milford, Nick Miller, Steve Mogensen, Jimmy Naemi, Travis Ruby, Aaren Salido, Brian Skipper, Adam Skrobialowski, Cameron Sorlie, and Josh Weinberger. The founding of Beta-Delta would continue a trend that started with the founding of Psi at the University of Delaware and continue through the next decade, of increased expansion in the eastern United States. This happy moment at the end of 2005 was a bright spot leading up to the tumultuous handful of months.
Elected Grand President during the Thirty-Sixth General Convention was another Alpha alumnus Adam C. Lynch. Unfortunately, Grand President Lynch’s tenure was short lived, as work responsibilities necessitated his resignation in mid- 2006. One key initiative he spearheaded during his six month term was the entrance of Sigma Phi Delta into the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC), a trade organization who serves as an advocate for its membership fraternities.
During its annual meeting attended by Grand President Lynch, he presented to the NIC the redesigned Fraternity Flag designed by Brother Ian Santarinala. The changes included outlining the black greek letters with white for readability, adding the stylized castle from the Coat of Arms, and adding the word ENGINEERS across the bottom in order to call out our chosen profession, setting us apart from the other NIC fraternities. Grand President Lynch was also responsible for the planning of a joint convention with our sister sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon and instilling a desire for the Fraternity to be more strategic in our vision.
Around the time of Grand President Lynch’s resignation the Offices of the Executive Secretary and Treasurer (which were held by the same person) became vacant. As would be expected, these vacancies, coupled with the recent loss of the Executive Director position, and the usual turnover that occurs with Supreme Council positions, had an adverse effect on the Fraternity. Record keeping and bookkeeping suffered and the level of service afforded to our chapters by the International Office was admittedly less than ideal. A problem that affects Exec Boards at the local chapter level was now affecting the Supreme Council—many of the Officers were young, a lack of knowledge transfer had occurred with previous officers, and poor contingency planning.
However, our Fraternity has always been resilient and after being staggered by a few punches, we quickly got back up and continued to move forward.
Alixandre R. Minden was first elected to office as the Communications Director in 2002. Active with the Fraternity since his days at Kappa Chapter, first as an intern, then as Communications Director, Alix as the newly elected Grand Vice-President was looking to build on the momentum of recent Chapter charterings. Little did he know that life had other plans for him. With the resignation of Grand President Lynch, a chain reaction began that would have far reaching implications on the Fraternity for the next decade.
Grand President Lynch’s last act before resigning was to nominate his replacement. Thus Grand Vice-President Minden became Grand President Minden, the 15th man to serve as the Fraternity’s Chief Executive and the first from Kappa Chapter.
- Communications Director Steven Weiss, Omega Chapter’s senior most Charter Member, became the new Grand Vice-President. After short searches the remaining Supreme Council vacancies were filled.
- Alpha Alumnus James A. DeBolt was slated to become the new Executive Secretary.
- Delta Alumnus Ian Santarinala filled the recently vacated Communications Director spot.
- Phi Alumnus Jon Wiegand was appointed the new Treasurer. Along with Phi Alumnus Chad Meirose as Central Province Councilor, this team would form the nucleus of the Supreme Council for the next handful of years, adding some much needed stability while continuing to advance the Object of the Fraternity.
As mentioned earler, the Sixth Joint Province Convention and Tutorial was held in the Chicagoland area in July jointly with our sister sorority Alpha Omega Epsilon. The event proved to be a success and the bonds between both our organizations were renewed and strengthened. Many of the sessions were shared and having the women’s perspective led to many lively discussions. In the next few years, A.O.E. would support SPD’s expansion efforts and provide several leads on schools where they had chapters but a counterpart male engineering fraternity was lacking. Several changes were made to the Constitution and Statutory Code, the most notable being that all business of the General Convention would now be conducted via email ballot as opposed to via the U.S. Mail system. During the event former Executive Director Bob Featheringham and Executive Secretary Ed Hurst were recognized for their contributions to the Fraternity. Executive Director Featheringham’s master fundraising efforts had led to more donations being collected, from more Brothers, than in any point in the Fraternity’s history. In the coming years, with the onset of the Great Recession, donations would be harder to come by. In August it was learned that the Beta-Alpha Bangladesh chapter had gone inactive.
2007 began with two Executive Orders clarifying the ban preventing members from belonging to other engineering or social fraternities, as well as clarification on the ability for members or pledges to wear the Sigma Phi Delta letters. In March, the International Office received word that Phi Chapter’s house had been destroyed in a large fire. Luckily all seven members living in the house escaped unharmed. The Greek Community in Brookings, South Dakota rallied in support of the homeless Brothers, and in short order the house was repaired and Phi Chapter was able to reoccupy it.
The Thirty-Seventh General Convention was held in the New York area with Omega Chapter as host. The Convention Chair was Eastern Province Councilor Michael Piemontesi. A presentation on the Sigma Phi Delta LinkedIn group, which was created this year, was given. The Convention was an overall success with many topics covered and a walking tour of the Brooklyn Bridge given to the delegates.
The theme of 2008 was money woes. Due to chapters being delinquent in paying dues several normal activities the Fraternity typically engages in had to be cancelled. The Supreme Council had no Annual Face-to-Face meeting this year. The Fraternity narrowly avoided being late in their insurance payment. The CASTLE was scaled back.
Grand President Minden once again met with Theta Tau to discuss a possible merger after they made overtures to us. The terms were not agreeable and we decided to continue being the Premier International Fraternity of Engineers. Luckily the financial situation would improve in 2009 partly due to the founding of Beta-Epsilon Chapter at the University of British Columbia at Okanagan.
The satellite Okanagan campus of UBC was created in 2005 and by 2008 the administration was looking to add greek life to their campus. Sigma Phi Delta was the first North American Interfraternity Conference fraternity chartered on that campus. Originally seeded from a Theta member who had transferred to Okanagan (Addison Twitchell), the fledging group made quick progress in meeting the requirements for chartering. The charter members of the Beta-Epsilon Chapter were Eric Baikie, JD Fraser, Austin Dennis, Michael Wiltshire, Skylar Knight, Matt Matier, Seth Attrill, Derek Zellmann, Ben Kernan, Willem Kuiken, Ben Staden, Aidan Docherty, Gordon Ross, Scott Forsyth, Gary Hanscomb, Danny Grant, Chad Lecompte, Montana Reid, Barry Woodward, Christopher Cooke, and Mitchell Grant.
This would be Grand Vice President Weiss first successful colonization during his tenure but certainly not his last. During the course of his tenure, the entire colony to charter process was codified and the activities that occurred during Formal Pledging to Chartering weekend were formalized. These Colonization and Chartering weekends were categorized by many chapters traveling to support the expansion efforts, sharing a little bit of the Brotherhood with these fledging groups, giving them a glimpse at the goal they were working towards. Newly chartered chapters would attend the pledging ceremonies of Interest Groups lending insight into the process and giving words of encouragement. In this way the snowball of expansion would continue to grow in the next few years.
During the 2009 Face-to-Face Meeting held at Grand President Minden’s home in Mansfield, Texas the Supreme Council enacted changes to the various Endowment Fund accounts maintained by the Fraternity to simplify the tracking and accounting of money allocated to those funds. For decades, some percentage of membership dues and initiation dues were allocated to the General Endowment Fund and CASTLE Endowment Fund, both funds managed by the Board of Trustees. The purpose of these Endowment Funds was originally to extend loans to local Chapter housing corporations, the building of an International Headquarters and Museum, and in the case of the CASTLE Endowment Fund the printing of the CASTLE. In practice however costs for printing the CASTLE had been coming out of the International Office’s yearly operating expenses (the General Fund). During this meeting the CASTLE Endowment Fund was eliminated. All monies from that point onward would be split between The General Endowment Fund and the General Fund (at the time, the split was 5% to the General Endowment Fund versus 95% towards the Fraternity’s operations in the General Fund). Coupled with the elimination of individual Province budgets, from earlier in the decade, the Fraternity’s books were simplified greatly.
Beta-Epsilon’s chartering in March allowed them to attend the Thirty-Eighth General Convention down the road in Vancouver with Theta Chapter as host. Future Western Province Councilor Bob Orlando of Theta was Convention Chair. The charter fee was raised from $100 to $200 to cover some of the costs of printing the Charter document and obtaining its frame. Membership dues were raised to $130.
During 2009, the fifth printing of the Ritual was undertaken by Communications Director Ian Santarinala. The ritual was digitized, made larger, and new binders were found. This new printing was done in anticipation of future expansion. All older chapters would eventually receive a new copy of the Ritual and the older copies were ceremonially burned. Additionally, after the stock of the last blank membership certificates and cards were consumed, Communications Director Santarinala worked with the printers of the CASTLE to digitally typeset a new version of the membership certificate and cards. Members’ names, chapters, years and dates would be spaced correctly moving forward. The Grand President and Executive Secretary’s signatures would be digitally added to these documents relieving these officers from having to hand sign hundreds of certificates and cards. Up to this point, the Seal of the Fraternity was created by loading a gold foil seal into a seal embosser and pressing down until an imprint stamp was left. After years of use, the seal embosser plate had lost some of its sharp edges leading to some sad looking castles on the Seal of the Fraternity. Again working with the printers, Communications Director Santarinala had premade Seal of the Fraternity embossed stickers made. The embosser, as well as the type-block plates used to originally create the membership certificates were mercifully retired.
On the social media front, the Sigma Phi Delta official Facebook group was created this year. Previously, informal Facebook groups had been created by various chapters and groups, but the official group was created under the ownership of the International Fraternity. Since then pictures of events and status updates on Supreme Council activities have been posted. Likewise in 2009 Sigma Phi Delta’s Twitter handle @sigmaphidelta was created. Both these channels were created to appeal to the generations of millennials who the Fraternity was now targeting.
Post-convention, via a pre-arranged agreement, Executive Secretary Jim DeBolt and Communications Director Ian Santarinala swapped positions. For the next 5+ years, Executive Secretary Santarinala would do much to try and make the Fraternity’s operations more modern and more in line with how any small enterprise would run.
The beginning of 2005 marked the beginning of some trying times for the Fraternity both financially and amongst its volunteer staff.