Opinion: College fraternities stay with us for a lifetime
Reposted opinion piece by Sam Wyche, published by Cincinnati.com
I write today as many students are heading off to college to start the next phase in their lives. Little did I know more than 50 years ago, that friendships and support gained from my fraternity experience would make a difference and endure. The studies that exist today to confirm these things weren’t around at that time. They are now.
Two years ago, a long-term heart disease brought me to within inches of losing my life. At the final hour, a donor heart became available and here I am. In less than a month, I was back on a bike, barely believing I had a second lease on life. Isn’t it funny to what lengths life goes to make you reflect? It helped me realize how blessed my life has been.
Many people know me from my days playing college and professional football, then moving on to a coaching career that spanned more than two decades. I am fortunate to have won both an NFC and AFC championship, and to achieve a Super Bowl victory. Since retirement, I’ve been an on-air football commentator, I volunteered by coaching high school football, and have spoken to thousands of young people all over the country about leadership.
I can point to several important factors for my humble success. However, from my highest of highs, to my darkest hour, only a few have been constant. My wife, Jane, my family, my friends, my faith…and, my fraternity, Kappa Alpha Order.
KA and its members have had an inspirational impact on my life. My fraternity brothers from Furman University have been by my side on the field, at my wedding, and at my near-deathbed. I have had the distinct pleasure to meet my fraternity brothers across the country as a keynote speaker at a dozen conferences. I have seen firsthand how fraternity leadership programs are an essential adjunct to the classroom.
KA values are timeless and our purpose of being a modern gentleman is aspirational. Fraternities on the whole are focused on personal development and have the strongest accountability program of any college-age group.
In a world filled with way too much negativity, what better way to ensure our future than to put our young people on a positive team like a fraternity chapter (or sorority chapter, for that matter). A like-minded group, with diversity of all kinds, that can support each other from the start in college is the way to go.
Research proves that joining a fraternity early helps mediate the first-year stress of college, providing for an immediate sense of belonging. Membership helps with persistence to graduation and is vital to achieving a high state of well-being.
My wife, Jane, was the “KA sweetheart, or rose,” from college. Even today my fraternity brothers are some of my best friends and have seen me through one of life’s toughest plays. Truly, Kappa Alpha Order is one of the reasons why I’m here, and how I’m here, today.
As KA focuses on organ, eye and tissue donation as a national initiative, they and others might just be the reason why many more of us are here tomorrow. My fraternity – it’s not just a social group; it is a lifetime, or a second life, of support.
Former Cincinnati Bengals player and head coach Sam Wyche is a proud member of Kappa Alpha Order national fraternity and a 1966 graduate of Furman University. He resides in Pickens, South Carolina, with his wife, Jane. Presently he is a leadership and motivational speaker and a national spokesperson/champion for Donate Life America, an organ, eye, and tissue donation organization (donatelife.net).