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The Riley Society Inaugural Summit

Chapter & Alumni News

The Riley Society

In August the Riley Society held their first annual summit in Atlanta, Ga. During the weekend of activities, attendees worked to formulate a strategic plan for the Riley Society, were hosted to a dinner by Regent-Elect John Hearn (Georgia) and his wife, and attended a Braves game. It was a milestone achievement for an alumni group that is still young but comes after a year of several major events including hosted conference calls with prominent alumni such as Ken Kendrick (West Virginia) and Trent Lott (Mississippi).

We sat down with the current leadership, Joe Gammie (Georgia Tech), Tyler Elvin (West Virginia), and Tom Bymark (Minnesota), to talk about how this project started, how the weekend went, and what the future holds for the Riley Society.

Tyler Elvin (West Virginia), Joe Gammie (Georgia Tech), and Tom Bymark (Minnesota).

The Delta: What has the past year been like for the Riley Society? What have been some milestones?

Joe Gammie: Over the past year, we have a seen substantial growth in our membership and have rolled out the beginning of our membership programming. We spent a very concerted amount of time and effort to make sure our structure and initiatives align with the strategic plan of both the Fraternity and Foundation and that we are built for longevity. It has been great to see that vision and planning become tangible and to begin reaping the membership benefits we have aimed to deliver.

Tyler Elvin: We've made tremendous progress, specifically our first two quarterly conference calls and recently our Annual Summit in Atlanta. Those two objectives were our top goals of the year, both of which were extremely successful.

Tom Bymark: Our biggest milestone in my opinion was our recent annual summit in Atlanta. We had around 20 brothers with us that helped lay the groundwork for future calls and explain why they believe forming the Riley Society is a successful venture.

The Delta: When this project first started, what was the reasoning for it? Where did this idea come from?

Tyler Elvin: Tom, Joe and myself were all Collegiate Grand Councilmen at a High Council meeting in Naples, Fla. And we realized there was a significant disconnect between recent graduates and the General Fraternity. After our time was complete on the High Council, nothing was established to keep us engaged with each other and the Fraternity on a regular basis, so those individuals were not staying involved with each other or in the initiatives the Fraternity was pushing for. Specifically, when trying to find qualified members to fulfill spots on the High Council, it felt as though we were targeting those who were highly qualified but may have not been involved with Sigma Nu for some time. This felt like the perfect opportunity to establish a "farm system.”

The Riley Society's Inaugural Summit included laying out the strategic plan for the future.

Tom Bymark: The Riley Society started because of 2 things: relationships and continuing to give back to our Fraternity.

Joe Gammie: The idea came from the question I think most undergraduate fraternity men ask upon graduation and that is, "Now what?" Up until this point, there was not a structured group or clear transition from collegiate to alumni participation in Sigma Nu. We aim to give our brothers a clear avenue to stay engaged and continue to grow and develop through the Sigma Nu experience, as they did in college. We aim to make each other more well balanced and skilled professionals as well as growing our network of top Sigma Nu leaders across the U.S. - everybody wins when we are connected to, learning from, and supporting each other.

The Delta: What was the annual summit weekend like? What events did you guys do and what did you accomplish?

Tom Bymark: The annual summit was a pivotal moment in my fraternal experience. It showed me that our fraternal bonds were reignited as soon as we were all spending time together. In terms of the strategic planning work, we broke out into groups a few times and analyzed how we could make the Riley Society experience better for everyone.

Tyler Elvin: I felt like our first annual summit was extremely successful. We started off with a casual dinner on Friday to welcome everyone to Atlanta -- I might add that the alligator Po'Boy was excellent. Saturday started off early with a strategic planning session, which was the core of our intended Summit and our number one priority. Director of Leadership Development Scott Smith (Central Arkansas) did an excellent job facilitating the session and helped provide us with some actionable items and feedback from our membership. We were impressed with the ideas and perspective of those involved, especially given that much of the work to this point did not include more than Joe, Tom and my own personal thoughts and perspective. It was refreshing and very successful.

Tom Bymark: We looked at the Riley Society and our objectives from multiple angles, and had some truthful conversations that brought out the What, How, and Why of our group.

Tyler Elvin: Following the strategic planning session, Regent-Elect John Hearn (Georgia) hosted the group at this house for a BBQ. John and his family showed some great southern hospitality and we are very appreciative as it was the perfect way to tie the weekend together. Sunday was scheduled to be a golf outing, but quickly changed to an off-the-cuff Braves game at the new stadium, which they unfortunately lost.

Joe Gammie: We left the weekend feeling energized and the differing perspectives in the room really helped us hone in on what we need to focus on in order to take the organization to the next level as we begin to heavily recruit new members.

Alumni present for the inaugural summit brainstorm future plans and objectives for The Riley Society.

The Delta: Where does the Riley Society go from here? What does the next year or two years look like?

Joe Gammie: We have been in conversations with Headquarters staff and Sigma Nu leaders to finalize our strategic plan for the Riley Society as well as our one-year and two-year goals and objectives. We will be finalizing that plan and continuing with programming in the near term. We are going to be continuing our national alumni speaker series. Those mentorship talks are an hour long each and are filled with years of valuable wisdom and advice. They are archived for new Riley Society members to listen to whenever they please. We hope that the mentorship series will be a huge asset to our members who want to be successful professionals after graduating and look forward to building a database of insight and wisdom for our members to leverage.

Tom Bymark: In the experience area, we will work to engage more with all the members and encourage them to engage with each other. This will help foster a greater sense of brotherhood and promote the values within the Riley Society.

The Delta: How important is it for the Fraternity to have a group that cultivates young alumni leadership? How does the Riley Society benefit the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation?

Tom Bymark: I believe it is vital for the Fraternity to have a group like the Riley Society. We are keeping alumni engaged with not only the Fraternity but with each other. Given the outward view of fraternities and sororities it is imperative that we promote and live by our values so that others can see the positive effects of our experiences.

Regent-Elect John Hearn (Georgia) and his wife host The Riley Society for a BBQ during the summit weekend.

Tyler Elvin: Given the tumultuous state of our society and the negative connotation that fraternities receive, we believe it to be more imperative to develop young alumni leadership now more than ever. Having young, involved leadership at an early stage only helps the General Fraternity to make seamless transitions when the time is right for those leaders to fulfill higher leadership positions down the road. We also believe, as young leaders, we can help steer our own individual collegiate chapters in the right direction. It is also important we support the mission of the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation which is why we require an annual donation to become a member of The Riley Society. We hope that this annual requirement will show result in increased donations to help further the efforts of the Educational Foundation down the road.

Joe Gammie: We have seen time and time again that we lose touch with a lot of very talented Sigma Nus after graduation who want to stay involved and give back, but are unsure of what that looks like or how you stay involved. We look to fill that gap as well as helping our membership be more successful in their careers because of their Riley Society connections. This also comes from mentorship from Sigma Nu leaders in every industry, not just business. There is so much that can be learned from our alumni brothers whether they are CEOs or recent graduates.

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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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