I hope and trust you are doing well with your personal and professional lives and are able to find some time to stay connected to your Sigma Rho brothers. For me, I am fortunate enough to stay connected with a number of my brothers from the late 70’s/early 80’s era and even get down to Champaign once a year to play a little golf with many of them.
As President of Beta’s Sigma Rho Housing Corporation (SRHC) at the University of Illinois, I am extremely pleased with the progress we have been making as a chapter over the past 2+ years following our re-colonization and introduction back on campus. It is certainly great to see our house at 202 E. Daniel once again occupied with Betas. We are well on our way to regaining our chapter’s status on campus and, in fact, the current actives are working hard to have our chapter status back within the next year.
As far as the house itself goes, as you can imagine, with it being over 100 years old it is becoming more and more costly to maintain and less and less competitive on campus. If you haven’t been on campus lately, you will find a myriad of state-of-the-art apartment and dormitory complexes that are going up. These new facilities are becoming much more of interest to students (and their parents) versus old houses like ours. Needless to say, with the modernization on campus coupled with the fact there are major repairs facing us just to keep the house from falling down, something has to give. If you recall from a few years ago, we retained an independent fundraising consulting firm to assess the level of financial support we thought we could attract from our alumni given that we did not have much of an alumni program for such a very long period of time. The answer came back that we’d be lucky to raise $1 million.
From that experience, we learned two very important lessons necessary to sustain our chapter at Illinois. The first was that we needed to kickstart an alumni relations program in an attempt to engage our alums to help them rekindle those relationships of yesteryear. Mike Langan, Joe Vangsness and others have been trying to do just that.
The second lesson was that $1 million was not going to be near enough to bring the house into operating shape nor to sustain it on campus for years to come…so without additional significant financial support a different housing concept is going to be required. The SRHC Board is unanimous in believing that our Sigma Rho chapter is worth saving and the key to such is ensuring that we continue to have an on-campus presence. In addition, our goal is to save those critical historical elements of the house so we never lose sight of the past while building for the future.
As a result, we have been in preliminary discussions with Royal Properties and Henneman Engineering to work with us on a new concept for fraternity living. Some of you may know these firms as they are owned and operated by two of our very own Sigma Rho alums (Rick Schmidt and Mike Henneman both from class of ’75). We are still in the preliminary design phase of this project and will communicate with you in much greater detail as it unfolds but the gist is to have a brand new ~7,000 square foot facility with much the same look and feel of our current house for the guys to socialize in, eat meals, hold chapter and to welcome the alums back. This new Beta “house” would be attached to a general state-of-the-art apartment complex that will not only be revenue generating but will have a number of rooms earmarked specifically for Betas so that our undergraduate brothers can continue to live together at 202 E. Daniel. It would possibly be an investment opportunity for Sigma Rhos who are interested. More to come but you now have a “sneak peak” into the potential future of 202 E. Daniel. We will keep the current house open through at least the 2016/17 school year, at which time we will decide whether or not to move forward with the project.
I hope this gives you an update as to the status of the chapter and a peak at potential plans for the house. But the primary reason for writing to you all is to solicit additional Sigma Rho alumni support and commitment to join our existing Housing Corporation Board or help lead some critical committee work. Currently our Board is comprised of 10 people of which only 4 are Sigma Rho alums (myself, Mike Murphy ’79, Tony Johnston ’90 and Sully Dirilten ’97), 3 other Beta alums from different chapters, 2 representatives from Beta’s general fraternity, and the current Sigma Rho House President on campus. This mix of board members was instrumental in helping us re-colonize and bring the chapter back on campus. However, this means that if we cannot attract new Board members the future of Sigma Rho will be decided by a group that is only 40% represented by our U of I brothers! Whatever the future holds, the Sigma Rho chapter is going to need to stand on its own, which is why we need to start adding Sigma Rho alums to the overall management of our chapter. We have a lot of work to do in the next few years and, frankly, those of us on the board today are going to need help managing whatever construct we develop going forward.
So this is a sincere plea to our alums...we need your help on the board, the alumni action committee, and the housing project steering committee. The time requirement is not significant but we want guys that will commit to participate and help lead us into the future. To give you a sense of the time commitment, it actually fluctuates a little but the following is an average of what you could expect:
- Board or committee calls (2-3 hours each month on a set day each month)
- Email correspondence as needed
- No more than an additional 1-2 hours each month if assigned a specific task or project
- All day in-person board/committee meeting (typically on a weekend day with one meeting in Champaign and one meeting in Chicago—in/out same day for both)
- Optional participation in key Beta Theta Pi general fraternity affairs (e.g., Keystone, national conference, etc.)
Bottom line, we are at a very important junction for our chapter at University of Illinois. For us to sustain Betas for generations to come we will need to get ourselves well established now. Your help and leadership toward that end is, therefore, critical. I hope you’ll consider dedicating a small portion of your valuable time to remembering our past and solidifying our future.
Remember to go to our Sigma Rho website for updates and additional alumni information (www.illinoisbetas.org)
If you are interested in joining us, please reach out to Mike Langan ’82 (our alumni committee leader) or me as soon as possible. We look forward to hearing from you.
Mike Langan firstname.lastname@example.org (920) 980-1713
Dave McMurray email@example.com (312) 375-0361
Lastly, we have our next in-person board meeting scheduled for Sunday, April 17 from 11am to ~3pm at the fraternity house in Champaign, IL. All are welcome.
All the best,
Dave McMurray ’81 President – Sigma Rho Housing Corporation