Written by Chapter Support Specialist Keith Stubblebine, as featured in the Summer 2023 issue of the Cross & Crescent
On April 30, 2023, the San Diego Regional Associate Chapter (SDRAC) received its Charter as Omicron- Epsilon Zeta of Lambda Chi Alpha. Founding Fathers were recognized, representing 108 Members from the University of San Diego, San Diego State University, and Mesa College. The chartering banquet was held at the Hilton Mission Valley in San Diego, California with 140 people, including undergraduates and Alumni from multiple Chapters in attendance.
SDRAC was formed in July of 2021 as the first of its kind in Lambda Chi Alpha history. It uniquely allowed a Chapter to be formed without being housed at a specific collegiate institution, requiring an amendment to the Lambda Chi Alpha Constitution. This was all based on a shared vision by Lambda Chi Alpha and San Diego Alumni Association that a Chapter could be successful without an affiliation with a specific college campus or Interfraternity Council (IFC). It took entrepreneurial spirit and ability to adapt to constant change and obstacles.
Beginning three years ago, following weekly strategy calls between Office of Administration and San Diego regional Alumni, a business plan was developed and then submitted to the Grand High Zeta for evaluation. This resulted in the “San Diego Resolution,” adopted unanimously on April 20th, 2020, by the Grand High Zeta. A series of threats to the success of the budding project emerged, primarily one that could never have been foreseen. The COVID-19 pandemic struck, and thus all California in-classroom education came to a halt.
In November 2020 a revision to the “San Diego Resolution” was adopted by the Grand High Zeta, creating an entirely new Regional Chapter mission and structure. The new Associate Chapter would initially recruit Members from San Diego State University, University of San Diego, and even nearby community colleges from a new foundation versus an existing or dormant Chapter. In late May of 2021, the San Diego team caught a break. Alumni engaged with a group of students at the University of San Diego who already established a local Brotherhood. They were unaffiliated with the campus and figured out how to recruit and operate effectively without campus support.
After many meetings with Alumni and Lambda Chi leadership, it was clear these men shared our core values and would be perfect to anchor what became known as the SDRAC. 26 men from the University of San Diego became SDRAC Associate Members, went through fraternity education, and were initiated by the Brothers of Pi-Beta at University of California-San Diego in the early fall of 2021. Over the next 18 months, through growth and innovation, the group grew into a vibrant, living Brotherhood.
“This regional Chapter model is one that can easily be duplicated anywhere in the country where there are a group of Alumni living by a university, that doesn’t have an active Lambda Chi Alpha Chapter,” said Mike Powell, San Diego State University advisor. “The University of San Diego and San Diego State together have combined over 2,000 initiated Alumni Members, which gives us a strong foothold in San Diego.
“Since the regional Chapter is unencumbered by local university guidelines, we can reach out to other community colleges and universities in San Diego to grow our Membership.”
As a celebration of how far the Brotherhood has come, the chartering banquet began with a spirited slideshow that profiled the historical accomplishments, achievements, and activities since the inception of SDRAC. This was followed by recognition for all who helped to make this Chapter possible, from the Brothers of Pi-Beta at UC San Diego and San Diego Alumni to the Office of Administration and Grand High Zeta Leadership.
Dylan Benvenuto, High Alpha, and Brenden Dougherty, President of the SDSU group, and other Chapter officers, presented the achievements since the formation of the regional Chapter. While not envisioned at the start of the process, these officers addressed the innovations and best practices that are applicable to all Lambda Chi Alpha Chapters.
These include the unique recruitment methods employed outside of IFC rush, authoring, and delivering a mobile, multimedia Kappa Education Program (class) for consistent onboarding of new Members, and the creation of an electronic, LED Ritual Badge that can now be purchased by any Chapter.
Other innovations include the tight coupling of Alumni in all Chapter operating activities and the development and operation of website and portal technology for connecting Undergraduates and Alumni.
The Chapter presentations were followed by Justin Fisher, Chief Operating Officer of Lambda Chi Alpha, who also talked about achievements, but more importantly what was learned strategically to help with future Lambda Chi Alpha expansions. Grand High Delta, Lenny Bendo, then took the stage to present the Charter to officers of the new Chapter.
Brother Bendo spoke to the strategic nature of the regional operating model, proven by Omicron- Epsilon, and then challenged the Brotherhood to keep pushing hard to expand Membership beyond the three current institutions in San Diego.
Nick Bratvold, Vice President of the Lambda Chi Alpha Educational Foundation, has been actively supporting SDRAC since inception, so it was only fitting that he would address the group and did so with a heartfelt message about how we are all Lambda Chi Alpha Members for life.
Jeff Stuerman, Former Grand High Alpha, capped off the evening with an inspirational talk that only he could deliver. It was under Brother Stuerman’s leadership that the regional pilot was authorized by the Grand High Zeta. Having given the keynote address back in the fall of 2021 to kick off this grand experiment, San Diego Alumni, Chapter officers, and the entire regional Brotherhood were honored by his presence and kind words. In his address to the banquet’s attendees, former Grand High Alpha Jeff Stuerman noted the unique nature of SDRAC’s journey to being installed as Omicron-Epsilon Zeta.
In an eloquent synopsis, Stuerman emphasized the important lesson, “what is beautiful is difficult to attain.” There is no doubt that the regional model, which grew into a thriving Brotherhood, had a difficult journey, but the fruits of labor are undisputedly sweet.
Finally, High Alpha Dylan Benvenuto notes the incredible experience the Founding Fathers of SDRAC and the value they found in the journey together.
“The regional Chapter has been a great experience for myself and other Members,” said Benvenuto.
“It has given us the opportunity to connect with Brothers from different universities just down the road who we otherwise would have never met. Working with so many people from different backgrounds really helps expand our skill sets and networks.”
The lessons learned from Lambda Chi Alpha’s new generation of Members in San Diego will be a defining moment of the future of fraternity. From humble roots as a first of a kind model, to the reinvigoration of the highest ideals of fraternity, the men of San Diego have made history.
While the Brotherhood faced obstacles, history would be only delayed – not denied. The beauty of innovation and effort shown by these men are incredible.