Address by Bill Farkas (Butler ’88)

William T. Farkas (Butler ’88) is Chief Executive Officer of Lambda Chi Alpha International Fraternity. An Indianapolis native, Brother Farkas served Lambda Chi Alpha as an educational leadership consultant and as associate director Chapter Services before being named the fraternity's fifth chief executive in 2005.

I thought Ralph was standing to give me an ovation— which would have been the first time, since he used to be my boss. Good evening brothers and guests, and thank you so much for including me in the centennial celebration. I was fortunate enough to attend the Mug and Jug celebration, and I think every five years, if you feel comfortable to invite me back, for whatever celebration we are going to have moving forward. [cheers]

I think that I would like to report Travis the I have a victim of hazing and I would say that because Mike was kind enough to put me last — perhaps it's hazing for all of you— but I have to follow Doc Dirghalli and Dr. Murphy and brother Ashley and the awards and recognition that just take place, so that's bad enough, but now I'm the only thing standing between youI was gonna take place over at Edgemoor, [laughter] It just needs to be quick.

288,766: that's how many brothers who we’ve initiated into Lambda Chi Alpha since 1909. [cheers] Amen. And I'm here to tell you that without Omicron Zeta I don't know if that number would have reach 500. And there's a reason behind it, and that reason, which Doc alluded to earlier, was Ernst J Fisher, that's right, because of Omicron Zeta. Well, let's back up, let's talk about about our founding. As most of you know Lambda Chi Alpha was founded by a man named Warren Cole over at Boston University. And the founding of Lambda Chi Alpha at Boston University was very modest, but it was because Warren Cole didn't like what was available to him at Boston University. He didn't feel that was part of the elite, wasn't accepted into the elite, so he decided to form his own fraternity.

And he set out from the very beginning to start a fraternity that that was a national fraternity. He didn't want to just want to have a chapter just at Boston, he wanted to expand it and it to go national and international. And so Cole became an avid reader of newspapers looking for information about local fraternities, and he came upon an article talking about this local here at Cornell. And he reached out to them and lo and behold a few years later Omicron Zeta became the twelfth chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity.

But what EJ Fischer did was, being a little older and because he was involved with the local before, he brought a sense of maturity and a real business acumen to what was taking place in the fraternity. He was a businessman turning a club into the organization it would become. And without without him, like so many locals that were forming up and even Nationals that were forming up during this hot bed  of fraternities in 1909 and that era, he set the groundwork for us moving forward and without him I don't know if I Lambda Chi Alpha would be here today, so you have a very grateful fraternity thanking you for lending us your brother.

In the life of any organization reaching a hundred years is a big deal. We can all think of corporations that didn't come close to reaching a hundred years, yet here we are a little fraternity in upstate New York that has lasted and is celebrating a centennial. And that is truly an amazing feat. For over two-thirds of Cornell's history there's been chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha here and and again that's truly an amazing feat. So brothers you should have a special sense of pride in reaching this milestone.

One thing that's always struck me, and again it's been alluded to by some of the speakers, is I talk about the founding of Lambda Chi Alpha Fraternity, I talk about the founding of Omicron Zeta, look at our chapters today today and the thing is amazing is the youth that is the leadership of that organization. It wasn't founded by 30-year-olds,  it wasn't founded by forty-year-olds, it was founded by  20-year-olds. And a hundred years later and 280,000 alumni later we're still moving strong and that is what continues to you to excite us generate enthusiasm at the International Headquarters, because of that youth and that ability to create magic.

I've been asked to talk a little bit about Lambda Chi Alpha in general and how we're doing as an organization and I'm here's how you do it we're doing just fine. I mentioned that  288,000. that puts us as the third-largest fraternity in the Greek world, and that is— before you applaud— and that's with the two ahead of us having a fifty-year head start. [applause]

Currently we have 11,000 undergraduates who're experiencing Lambda Chi Alpha throughout North America and we are at 180 campuses with 15 new colonies, so that puts us at just under 300 membership, which puts us about fifth with the number chapters. And the other thing I'll share with you is we are committed to our growth, and we're committed to expansion and committed to going back to those chapters and those campuses where we've been previously and for one reason or another aren't there now. We've done three expansions this fall and we'll do three in the spring and will continue that growth and try to continue this program to spread Lambda Chi Alpha throughout higher education.

I want to talk about some of the things that the Grand High Zeta and the staff is working on. Our commitment to being cocurricular is one of the focal points of what we're trying to do and that's so important, and that's why I was so pleased to hear Dr. Murphy's comments. We are not extracurricular, we are co-curricular. We're part of the learning laboratory that takes place on this campus and all the campuses where we have chapters. And you think about—and I hear so many people say this, and the academicians in the room may need to put your earmuffs on— but so I've heard many brothers tell me that they learned more in the Lambda Chi Alpha chapter house than they did in the hallowed halls of alma mater.

And I would think that where we're committed to being co-curricular and providing that learning experience that can't take place in the classroom, and that is falling down that is making mistakes, and learning from those mistakes and being able to progress forward. So we are one and the same in the mission of all the institutions are all here this is where we're at and we're partners with them in meeting their students and our brothers the best that they can be. [applause]

For over twenty years LCA has had a national philanthropy, and that philanthropy has been the North American Food Drive. We have somewhere in the neighborhood of 120 chapters that participate in this. It's certainly not mandatory for them, but last year our chapters raised over 1.4 million pounds of food to be distributed to their local food banks. A tremendous feat and tremendous work by all of our chapters across North America. This past summer we joined in partnership with Feeding America. Feeding America is the largest provider of food across not only America but also North America and it's seen, first of all, we took a step back when we were discussing this partnership and said, “hmmm why didn't we do this a lot sooner?” Because it would make sense that we would partner with a national organization that has a much broader reach and is able to work with us in tandem as we can educate our bothers to do a better job so that they have programming and the social media and networking that feeding america has, will be able to get our message out as we go out into the communities to raise that food. It's just something we're very proud of.

And if you haven't seen us— I feel like a commercial— but go on the Twitter, go on Facebook, tag on Feeding America, and one of the first things that they did was, those of you that are familiar with Times Square and the bulletin board that runs about ten second shots, Feeding America put up an announcement about the partnership. I think it was July 14 or something like that. It's a good partnership for us to be in and we look forward to seeing what our chapters can do with that added resource.

Another commitment that we have made and is part of strategic planning is working with our alumni, and what I mean by that is we always do outreach and we want to do outreach to our alumni, keep in touch with our alumni, but it's recruiting training, educating, and working with all those alumni that are working with our undergraduates members. Today's undergraduates more than any generation not only needs adult mentoring, but craves adult mentoring. And so we have to bring alumni up to pace on what's taking place on their campus. Because as a former alumni director I can tell you that every alumnus believes that when they were on campus was when the university was at its peak at its best and that moment has stopped and everything has gone downhill ever since. Which may be true [laughter] but we need to train so that the alumni have the proper tools to work with today's undergraduates because it has changed. I think that I speak for a lot of us when we can recall the chapter house having one pay phone, and that when it would ring it would be ringing and ringing and ringing and when finally someone would answer you'd have to go and find the person, and believe it or not, that was how we communicated back then. 

And the final commitment I'll talk about tonight is the True Brother Initiative. which is really becoming the Lambda Chi Alpha way. And all the True Brother Initiative is is taking those core values that can be found in our ritual and Pi Phi's ritual and Teke's ritual and any ritual and giving the undergraduates a path, our undergraduate brothers, to use those core values from the time they're recruiting those men, leading them through their association period, up to preparing them for init, and the most valuable point is how to live those values post-initiation and for the rest of your lives. Because that brings me to the final words I want to share with you and that really talks about Lambda Chi Alpha and what it means for the individuals in this room: undergraduates, alumni, even friends. I could bring up each and every one and you could give a testimonial about how Lambda Chi Alpha changed your life. And the fact that you're sitting here in this room would lead me to believe that it has had a positive impact on your life and the overwhelming majority of brothers would tell you Lambda Chi Alpha made a tremendous impact in your life.

And if you think about it, and I'm certainly not as eloquent as Doc and I hope I don't do him a disservice by saying this, but one of the things that Doc shared with me a long time ago that I believe we carry forward is that the fraternity is nothing more than an idea, and it's that chapter—it's those brothers, it's those guys that you're sitting next to right now— that put that idea into motion.

That;s what the brotherhood is about, and because of that brotherhood, and because of those values that were instilled in our Initiation ritual they have let you become, now I'm speaking to the alumni brothers, better men, better husbands, better coworkers, and I daresay all of society, and we're better by having you as our brothers. [applause]

I'd like to wrap up and say while we're celebrating the role Omicron Zeta has played in Lambda Chi Alpha as a whole and applauded the success of the chapter, I'd like to conclude by commenting on the role that Lambda Chi Alpha has played on each and every one of you. I was supposed to say that earlier, but sometimes I get ahead of myself. With the history well-documented and the future appearing to be secure that brings us to the here and now.

Looking around his room and meeting with the brothers, it's evident that this chapter continues to thrive through the love that the brothers have for one another. You have created an atmosphere where brotherhood is the bedrock of the chapter. Those founding members should be commended for building this foundation, the alumni should be praised for maintaining this tradition, and the current brothers face the challenge of extending that legacy, to perpetuate this chapter for the future generations so that they may enjoy all all the gifts that have been given to us throuh Lambda Chi Alpha.

My congratulations, the Grand High Zeta's congratulations, and the entire brotherhood of Lambda Chi Alpha, to Omicron Zeta, and thank you for including me on this celebratory evening.