In recognition of America’s great Presidents, most people have off from work today. And though today is a day to remember the great lives of men like Abraham Lincoln, George Washington, Ronald Reagan, and Franklin Roosevelt, I thought I would take today to talk about all of the times that I was President of an organization. I figure the shoe fits, somewhat…
Once upon a time I was the Vice-President of the eighth grade class back in Mount Arlington Public School. At the same time I was President of the school’s band. I really can’t remember much about either position, so I don’t have anything to comment on here. Sorry.
When I got to Roxbury High School, I ran for Vice-President of the Freshman class and won that election. I don’t recall much about what we did Freshman year other than maybe a fundraiser or two. I wasn’t overly pleased with the position of being “Vice-President” so as Sophomore year came closer I ran against the sitting President for her position and won. As I recall, being President of the Sophomore class was very much like the being Vice-President of the Freshman class – we didn’t do much. You know, sometimes these high school kids run for office on platforms of being able to change the food in the cafeteria or being able to get better parking situations for the students. The reality is that all of that stuff is off limits to the students and handled by teachers and unions.
Anyway, I ran for President of the Junior class (won that one, too) and at least in this position I was able to plan our Junior Prom. That was a lot of fun because we had a certain budget to work within (I don’t remember how much it was now, but it was thousands of dollars) and we managed to come in under budget. That was a good accomplishment and something that I don’t think normally happened when planning these things.
As my Junior year came to a close I had to choose between running for President of the Senior class or running for the President of the Student Council. There were two things that swayed my decision. The first was that the President of the Senior class is the President of the class for life. In other words, you have to horde all of the memorabilia for the class, you have to plan the reunions, you have to try to stay in touch with everyone…not for me. The second thing that swayed my decision was that the President of the Student Council was a more prestigious position.
So I ran for Student Council President and won (there’s a pattern here, guys). One of my good friends from grade school was running for the President of the Senior class so I endorsed her candidacy and she wound up winning, too.
I liked being Student Council President because it gave me direct access to the Principal and allowed me to plan some of the school-wide events like spirit days and some of our community-based events. For example, Roxbury High School holds a dance every year at the high school for the local senior citizen center. I helped to plan that event and it was really a lot of fun. Also, Roxbury has a winter dance for all students every year and that was a lot of fun to plan, too. And since my buddy was the President of the Senior class, I helped her plan our Senior Prom.
Being President of the Junior class and Student Council President was great training on how to work within a budget, how to manipulate a budget, how to advertise and publicize events where people need to purchase tickets to attend, etc. I really enjoyed those positions. Oh, and on my way out of Roxbury High School I was in charge of the school-wide elections so I convinced a bunch of the younger football players and wrestlers who I had been mentoring to run for positions and I think almost all of them won. I thought that was a good way to leave a lasting impression on the school.
Monmouth University – Sigma Pi Fraternity
When I arrived at college I could have kept climbing the ladder and eventually become President of the Student Government, but I really had no interest. In fact, I had no interest in being “involved” other than doing my school work and making new friends. And that’s what I did for my first semester – met new people, scored a 3.9 GPA, had a whole lot of fun – typical college stuff. But sometimes you can’t hold down the urge inside…
When my second semester began, I decided to pledge Sigma Pi Fraternity (there’s another story behind that, which I might get to at some point). I think there were 9 or 10 guys in my pledge class – I don’t remember any more. However, I do remember that they made me the President of the pledge class and I remember that because they elected me as the President due to my high grades, but the position of President meant that I was quizzed and questioned before the rest of the guys. No big deal, I learned the fraternity history pretty quickly so I didn’t mind.
After I was initiated (almost ten years ago), I didn’t really come around to any of the meetings or events until the week before the semester ended (and at that, I only really remember going to a party and eventually passing out on a couch that was broken and busted). When I began my first full semester as a member of the chapter it had been quite some time since I was in a position of real power (over a year since I was Student Council President). So the urge to do something substantial was bearing down on me and at the end of the semester I opted to run against the sitting President of the fraternity (who was a very well-respected Senior).
That guy dropped out of the race before the guys cast their ballots and I won by default. That was December 2000. I kept running for re-election and remained the President of the chapter until January 2003 (which was actually one month too long, but we did the transfer ceremony to the next President late).
There are a bunch of reasons why I remained President for so long. At its core, I think the reason is because I needed the challenge that the Presidency gave to me and the chapter needed the professionalism that I demanded of myself and the organization. It was a good, symbiotic relationship that was helped by this thing in my head that demands that I become the best at what I do, period. So while I was President, we ended a lot of the bad traditions in the chapter and started (or brought back) some better ones. More than anything else, I remember that being chapter President was more like running a small town than a small business. I say that because when you run a small business you have your actions and maybe the actions of two or three other people to worry about in addition to your finances, advertising, planning for the future, etc. Running a fraternity chapter, though, encompasses all of those things but to a much higher degree. Plus, you had to work within regional and national structures as well as with local officials. Also, at one point we had over 50 guys (which is a substantial number for Monmouth University’s campus – about 2.5% of all men on the campus were members of our fraternity) and all of the guys were out there doing their own thing.
One of the reasons that I was an effective leader, I think, was because I delegated responsibility and didn’t get bogged down in the nitty gritty bullshit that takes place in fraternity chapters. When the guys wanted to have a party, I had people that took care of the parties. When the guys wanted to have a rush event, I had a committee that took care of the rush event. When we had to teach the new classes about the fraternity, we had guys to do that, too. I saw my job as managing the fraternity’s relationship with the external communities and training/guiding the rest of my leadership team on how to manage the chapter.
It was pretty damn successful, too. We dug ourselves out of a $9,000 debt, more than tripled the size of the chapter, and skyrocketed up the national rankings (the chapter was eventually ranked #1 in the nation while I was the Chapter Director a.k.a. local advisor). Plus, our image on campus was heightened by all of the great things we were doing to the point where I won my final election to become President of the InterFraternity Council…and I wasn’t even present at the election!
Being IFC President was fun because when the university told us that we couldn’t do certain things that are fundamental parts of self-governing, I dissolved the IFC. That spark was part of what eventually lead to a somewhat reform of Greek Life at Monmouth University, but that’s an entry for another time.
So there you have it, folks. Those are all of the times (that I can remember) where I was President of an organization. Happy President’s Day!