by Dr. Colleen Coffey-Melchiorre
Have you ever stopped to think about why you love fraternity and sorority life so much? Seriously, it is a profound question to consider. If you’re reading this blog right now, it is likely you’ve got a deep love for your chapter, community, and perhaps even the entire fraternity/sorority experience. Maybe it’s something you grew up knowing about, maybe you fell in love during college, or maybe it’s in your blood.
Right after college I became a traveling consultant for my sorority, Alpha Sigma Tau. I remember struggling as a consultant with the fact that I felt like I didn’t have a “real job” (see: hardest job I have ever had). My parents, while supportive, didn’t fully understand what I was doing. Questions about health care and employment longevity abounded. This was coupled with the fact that I have cousins on both sides who are literal rock stars. Think business owners, inventors, Olympic ski instructors, Wall Street investors, famous snow boarders, political influencers, and one who works for the Department of Education.
If one of my cousins was part of a fraternity or sorority, it certainly wasn’t their primary focus after college. We all have that one cousin who is kind of a dumpster fire, right? Not me. There’s not an underachiever among them. Without anyone in my family interested in this kind of passion, I felt a little lost when my chosen path of sorority ultimately turned into my career. Why in the world was I so passionate about this industry? Why am I still here almost 20 years later? As it turns out, it’s in my DNA.
On a cold Thanksgiving Eve in my first semester traveling for the sorority, my grandfather pulled me aside to talk. He was a man of few words and lost his wife when she was far too young. I never knew my father’s mother, but my Poppy shared that she, too, was a sorority woman and in 1941 was asked to live with another chapter of her organization to help get them established. She was one of the first “consultants” in the world of a sorority, and over 60 years later I would carry on her legacy. It gets better…
The chapter that she helped to start closed years later as so many chapters did between 1950-2000. This year, our company will proudly and boldly assist that very same chapter as they work to build a beautiful home for so many women.
In 1976, Hope Weeks Coffey joined the flame eternal far too soon and left a legacy of friendship forged by a flame that burned bright inside of her. That flame was so bright, in fact, that six decades after she joined a sorority I would join one and do the some of the very same things that she did.
I’m not super into history or philosophy, nor do I think we should use legacy as a means to rest on our laurels. Far too often, we let nepotism chart our course in our organizations. I will say though that I think my family legacy gives me some serious street cred, but most importantly it helps me understand and know where I came from.
We talk a good game about “what our founders” would do, have wanted, think about etc. The truth is, fraternity and sorority was invented for small(ish) groups of people with similar values to do life together. We don’t exist as drinking clubs that promote the chillest and most lit stories on insta. We are not comparison machines that make people feel like crap about themselves for not being “bigger”. We are not supposed to be places where social standing is everything and that can turn us into a whole lot of nothing.
Want to leave a legacy? Love each other like you have never loved anything before. Be the person who goes first, leans in, asks about real stuff, challenges the process, and gives love away like your founders intended. Do it so that it becomes so engrained in the story of you that it’s literally DNA you pass down.