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The Relevance of Sigma Nu, Bound by Honor

By Justin Wenger (William Jewell)

We live in a world lacking in effective, ethical leadership. A world where the word honor is paid lip service, but the virtue has become an enigma. It’s a provocative statement, to be sure, and I’m not saying there are no ethical leaders or that honor no longer exists. Turn on the news each night for a week, though, and I think you’ll find that true, genuine, ethical leadership and honor are missing virtues of modern American society.

James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley established the Legion of Honor in a time when a man’s character and honor mattered more than any material possessions or wealth he might attain. I would suggest to you that as the generations have passed, society has chipped away at the importance of a man’s honor. Excuses and finger-pointing have replaced responsibility and accountability. Adolescent bickering and manipulation have replaced statesmanship and worthy compromise. It is enough to discourage the most hopeful of men, and, despite it all, we can be hopeful for the future. We can be hopeful because of what our Fraternity is doing for our society.

As an organization founded with honor as a guiding principle, the impact our Fraternity aspires to have on society is made clear in the first two levels of Sigma Nu’s strategic plan – the Mission and Vision and the Envisioned Futures.

Ethical. Character. Honor. Principles. Community. The greater good. These are just some of the words and phrases that stand out in our strategic plan, and you don’t have to look too deep to see how the Fraternity turns these words into action.

  1. Development of ethical thinking and leadership skills through the LEAD Program.
  2. Chapter leaders taking on the trust and responsibility to implement internal procedures for accountability.
  3. Building character and consideration of others through community outreach, service, and philanthropy.
  4. New leaders learning how to envision a future and setting a plan to attain it at the College of Chapters.
  5. Learning from the examples set by alumni, our collegiate brothers seek out and accept the responsibility of leadership roles across their respective campuses.
  6. Being open-minded and understanding that learning never stops.
  7. Publicly acknowledging our affiliation and accepting the awesome responsibility of exemplifying our central values of Love, Honor, and Truth daily.

 

And when our collegiate brothers leave their student experience, they take these lessons, skills, and ideals into the world. They begin making an impact, in their own way, that reinforces the importance of honor. Of course, challenges arise, and, unfortunately, arguments and attacks about the relevance of Greek-letter organizations come from all directions. Such is the reality facing fraternity men. There is evidence, though, of the value to be gleaned from membership in Greek-letter organizations.

Research shows that fraternity/sorority membership has a generally positive impact on the development of Greek members. Results of research compiled by the North American Interfraternity Conference indicate that:

  1. Nearly half of fraternity members serve in other campus leadership roles.
  2. Fraternity members spend significantly more time volunteering, mentoring, and doing other types of service work, and they like they belong in their communities.
  3. Despite being less diverse than students in general, fraternity members reported higher levels of interaction with people different from themselves than did other students.
  4. Fraternity members are more likely to be thriving in every aspect of wellbeing – career, community, financial, physical, and social wellbeing.
  5. 83% of members indicate stronger leadership confidence due to their fraternity membership.

 

A December 2012 article (updated in September 2021), entitled “How and Why to Revive Manly Honor in the Twenty-First Century,” from The Art of Manliness, offers a perspective of how the concept of honor has changed in our modern society.

“As society has become more complex and anonymous, and the bonds of honor have dissolved, we’ve had to rely more and more on obedience – rules and regulations – to govern people’s behavior. Because we no longer trust people to do things because they swore an oath to do so, and because concern for their honorable reputation compels them, we’ve created ever more elaborate rules and regulations to enforce ethics. Instead of feeling safe in the knowledge that a man has internalized an honor code to the extent that he may be trusted to do the right thing, even when no one is watching, now he must be constantly checked up on and videotaped.”

Hopkins, Quarles, and Riley never wrote down the honor code of Sigma Nu because they believed that the virtue of honor did not require a definition to be an expectation. As brothers, though, we have given our oaths to live by that code. As a brotherhood, our daily aspiration is to “Excel with Honor,” and the preamble of our creed defines what it means to “walk in the way of honor.”

“To be steadfast in the performance of every trust, and, spurning the gaudy gifts of greed and power, to be content to live by our knightly vow that our honor is dearer to us than our lives.”

Yes, we live in a world where honor has become an enigma. What could make Sigma Nu more relevant, more needed, than that?

© 2015-2021 Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
9 North Lewis Street, P.O. Box 1869, Lexington, Virginia 24450
Phone: (540) 463-1869 | Fax: (540) 463-1669 | Email: headquarters@sigmanu.org

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