In 1997, the Ralph F. Burns New Member program was started. Named in honor of our beloved former Executive Secretary who had passed on to the Omega Chapter in 1993, the program was created to give every undergraduate in every chapter across the country an opportunity to have a national experience and to gain the most from their membership in Alpha Sigma Phi. The vision was to provide the opportunity for every new brother in Alpha Sigma Phi to participate in the program. The program was renamed the Ralph F. Burns Leadership Institute in 2001.
In 1998 at the 45th Grand Chapter, undergraduate delegates realized the importance of revitalizing the expansion policy of the Fraternity. By the end of 1999, the Fraternity was at the largest it had been in 20 years, with 56 active chapters, six colonies, and many more groups waiting in the wings. The end of the century also saw the return of Alpha Sigma Phi to Yale. An expansion effort took place in the fall of 1999, and on December 6, a colonization ceremony took place in which 26 young men pledged themselves to the "Old Gal."
THE NEW MILLENNIUM BEGINS
For fraternities and sororities across the country, the new millennium has been one of challenge. A slow but steady series of stories of hazing tragedies around the country, a collective awareness on the part of parents and students of the "Animal House" image of fraternity life, and a demand for amenities in student housing that frequently outpaces the fraternities' ability to compete with publicly financed dormitories has led to decreased growth in some fraternities and net chapter loses in several others. In Alpha Sigma Phi, the general trend has not been followed. Between 2001 and 2009, chapter revivals and new charterings have exceeded chapter losses by a ratio of about two to one, and there was a modest, but generally consistent, increase in new member and initiation totals year-to-year.
In 2004, a strategic plan developed by two-term Grand Senior President Mark D. Still, Washington '75 and Fraternity CEOs Hinkley and Thawley was adopted and announced as the "To Better the Man Initiative." Under the plan, new leadership and organization were to refocus on the purpose of our existence: "To Better the Man through the creation and perpetuation of brotherhood founded upon the values of character: Silence, Charity, Purity, Honor, and Patriotism."
The initiative called for leaders of the Fraternity and Foundation to reacquaint themselves with our vision and purpose, to improve communications and alumni financial support to the chapters through Foundation chapter endowment funds, and a development of a national loan entity to finance chapter-based House Corporations. The initiative held out the expectation that each brother would know and understand the practical application in day-to-day life of the values of character: silence, charity, purity, honor, and patriotism. Implementation of many elements of the initiative took place between 2005 and 2009.
The 56th Grand Chapter is just around the corner. If you're joining us in New Orleans, please review the Pre-Event Guide to prepare for your travels. See you in NOLA!