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NYMAAC celebrated its 16th anniversary with a bit of brunch, a bit of service, and a bit of Leadership in Action. “Giving Constructive Feedback,” facilitated by National Council member Kate McConnell (Gamma Phi Chapter ’07), was NYMAAC’s first local LiA module. This continues a tradition (SOME TRADITIONS ARE GOOD) of firsts at NYMAAC Founders Day celebrations: last year at our 15th anniversary we inducted our first honorary member, and five years ago we awarded our first Chapter Service Key to chapter founder Alex Spirer (Beta Epsilon ’99).
After brunch at Mezze in Hell’s Kitchen, we convened at the apartment of National Council member Patrick Herron (Alpha Epsilon Chapter ’96) and Jonah Nigh (NYMAAC ’16). Over coffee and cookies, Kate led us through the module, encouraging us to share how we give feedback to our colleagues, and how we can improve using the techniques defined in the LiA materials. “Giving Constructive Feedback” was an excellent choice for NYMAAC’s first Leadership in Action experience, focusing on a skill that everyone could stand to fine tune, collegiate and alumni Brothers alike. One busy person among many in that room, I really appreciated the opportunity to sit down and work on myself. We talked about real issues we were having both at our jobs and in our community work, and we helped each other find solutions and grow.
After the module, we were all 6 Leadership in Action points richer, and we paid that forward by creating some HOBY Hugs. We decorated the backs of index cards with inspirational messages, the fronts of which will be inscribed with notes to HOBY participants. Get a glimpse of our handiwork in the photo collage below, along with shots from our Leadership in Action experience, and Patrick’s lunch (courtesy of Patrick).
As you may have read, 2015-2016 was a banner year for NYMAAC, culminating in being named the Most Outstanding Alumni Chapter at National Convention over the summer. What makes NYMAAC so outstanding is all of our members who come to events, support their collegiate chapters, give to the Foundation, continue living the Tripod, and make their voice heard by casting their vote in our annual NYMAAC Executive Board elections. Whether you voted or not, you may be interested to know about the crack team that will be endeavoring to Keep NYMAAC Awesome in the 2016-2017 term.
First, we’re thrilled to welcome our newest e-board member Chelsea Julius, 2015 graduate of the Alpha Theta Chapter (Rutgers University) who attended her first NYMAAC event this past September (BROwling)! Chelsea joins us as Secretary.
Next, we have a lot of shifting around going on, because our e-board members are so multi-talented:
- Andrew Berman (Beta Epsilon ’02) returns to the role of Communications Coordinator after four years doing recruitment.
- Replacing Andrew in the Recruitment Coordinator role is Michael Covin (Alpha Theta ’09), who just spent a year planning our social events.
- Former NYMAAC President Jonathan Chin-Shepard (Beta Pi ’00) returns to the e-board after a two-year break to serve as our Social Coordinator.
- Returning to the role of Service Coordinator is Courtney Pike (Beta Epsilon ’08).
- Taking on the position of Inter-Chapter Relations Coordinator is recent Secretary Hillary Nicoll (Alpha Theta ’10).
- Founding member and former President Alex Spirer (Beta Epsilon ’99) continues in her role as Historian.
Beta Epsilon = Syracuse University; Beta Pi = University of Connecticut.
Another exciting development is we have a new President! Gamma Pi Chapter (Towson University) 2014 alumna Sarah Viviani, whom you may remember being profiled in last year’s NYMAAC: The New Class blog post, has ascended the treacherous NYMAAC ladder to our highest office. Sarah came to her first NYMAAC event two years ago next month, and we couldn’t be more ecstatic to be ruled by her iron fist.
Lastly, we say heartfelt goodbyes and thank yous to our three e-board members who are leaving us. We blow a kiss to our outgoing Service Coordinator Marissa Gernett (Alpha Pi ’08). We scream tearful farewells to California, which is where former Inter-Chapter Relations Coordinator Sue Yousif moved to in May. Most of all, we fall over ourselves with gratitude to outgoing President Kate McConnell, Pursuer of Awesome, who began her term as Vice President of Alumni Development on Phi Sigma Pi’s National Council in July.
Come meet our e-board, and all our Brothers, at an event soon!
When you graduate and become an alumni member of Phi Sigma Pi, your access to the Ritual Induction Ceremony changes. In a collegiate chapter, you’re guaranteed to witness Induction twice a year, and though you may take it for granted as an undergrad (I certainly did), it serves as a reminder of everything we believe in and stand for as Brothers. As an alum, you likely need to make a special trip to attend an Induction. If you live far from your home chapter, you may choose to attend another chapter’s Induction, which is the same Ritual, but it’s bound to be slightly less meaningful if you don’t know the Brothers you’re inducting.
Alumni chapters, like NYMAAC, don’t typically have Inductions. Our members come to us not in semesterly (or quarterly) initiate classes, but in drips and drabs, as Brothers graduate, move to the city, and hear about us through word of mouth. Plus, they’re already Brothers, so they can be members of our chapter without going through the Ritual. Sometimes, though, an individual who is not a member of Phi Sigma Pi exhibits dedication to our ideals and service to our organization that is akin to that of a Brother. In this case, a chapter may induct such an individual as an honorary Brother. NYMAAC was lucky enough to be in this situation this past May.
Over the past several years, NYMAAC has come to know Jonah Nigh. He came into our circle via NYMAAC Brother Patrick Herron; the two married last July. Though it only recently became official, he has always very clearly been one of us and I would have enthusiastically voted in his favor as an undergrad on bid night. In fact, I did just that in an online poll, as did a quorum of NYMAAC members, unanimously. Once we had the approval of the chapter, NYMAAC president Kate McConnell reached out to Jonah to invite him to join, and he graciously accepted.
The planning process was fun. NYMAAC had never held an Induction before, and many of us on e-board hadn’t attended one in years. We chose to combine Induction with our 15th anniversary NYMAAC birthday dinner (calling it that is our way of avoiding the apostrophe problem in “Founders Day”). Perennial NYMAAC event hosts Jeremy & Jon Chin-Shepard reserved their building’s rooftop common room for the event, and we cobbled together a ceremony using implements we borrowed from various collegiate chapters around the area (thank you, Alpha Theta, Gamma Xi, and Delaware Valley Alumni Chapters!). Kate assumed the role of director and producer for the event, assigning speaking parts to various NYMAAC members. Without revealing anything from our secret text, I will simply say that a lot of plurals had to be changed to singulars (I used post-its).
The big day came, and I met Jonah outside the building and escorted him to the room. The ceremony went off without a hitch, and it felt very familiar and comfortable, like home. When it was done, Jonah was officially a Brother of Phi Sigma Pi. Nothing had changed about him—he was the same Jonah he was before the ceremony—but NYMAAC and Phi Sigma Pi were definitely changed. We are stronger, smarter, richer, warmer, and better having added a new member, this member, to our ranks.
The evening continued with some awards (among them a Chapter Service Key to Patrick Herron), food, drink, and some lively board gaming, before we relinquished the room to tenants patiently waiting to use the room for sport watching.
Phi Sigma Pi turned 100 years old, so what was the best location for the Fraternity’s centennial celebration? Kansas City, MO, of course! “Cowtown” is approximately sixty miles from Warrensburg, MO, the birthplace of Phi Sigma Pi, so returning “home” to the vicinity of Alpha Chapter was fitting for the occasion. Ten NYMAAC members joined hundreds of other Brothers from across the country at the Kansas City Marriott Downtown from July 26-31, and boy, did we have a great time! Here’s a recap of the awesome things we experienced throughout the 2016 Centennial National Convention:
As you likely can guess, some pretty important things happen at Grand Chapter each year. After all, it is the Fraternity’s single business meeting with all Collegiate Chapters, Alumni Chapters, and the NAA for the entire year! This year, NYMAAC was represented by, Delegate Sarah Viviani (oh hey, that’s me!) and Alternate Hillary Nicoll. We had a great time serving you as your official representation as we voted on various amendments to the National Constitution. One of the most controversial amendments we voted on called for the discontinuation of Regions and Regional Conferences. After much discussion, the Grand Chapter voted to pass this amendment and support the institution of Leadership Academies. We also made an important amendment to our Ritual and Ceremonies Book. Phi Sigma Pi now has a Funeral Rite that can be performed by Chapters who have lost beloved Brothers. This is a great way for us to celebrate the notion that Brotherhood is for Life.
The 2016 Grand Chapter Conference also presented us with a National Council election. Congratulations to two of NYMAAC’s own, Kate McConnell and Patrick Herron, who were elected to Vice President of Alumni Development and Vice President of Philanthropy Development, respectively. Wishing the best of luck to our friends as they begin their new terms on National Council!
A special shout-out goes to Andrew Berman and Kathryn Lieber for running Le Peanut Shoppe among the Peanuts of Grand Chapter. To their enthusiastic patrons, they sold tote bags, notebooks, bookmarks, and more- all featuring hand-drawn Phi Sigma Pi crests. Their fantastic PR for our “black market” helped raise funds for our Undergraduate Music Video Contest winners.
Trip to University of Central Missouri
National Convention attendees were given a very special experience this year. Due to the centennial celebration, a pilgrimage to University of Central Missouri in Warrensburg was the perfect addition to the schedule. Most NYMAAC members headed to UCM together on a bus filled with other alumni. Before reaching the campus, we made a stop at the cemetery that serves as the final resting place for Founders Eldo Hendricks and C.H. McClure as well as Rolla Wood. Brothers had the opportunity to pay their respects to those men who are so important to Phi Sigma Pi’s history. Our visit concluded with the inaugural use of the new Funeral Rite. This stop proved to be an emotional visit that we will always remember.
Once we reached the campus, we were provided with maps so that we could conduct a self-guided tour. After locating several buildings bearing names of Brothers, we headed to Hendricks Hall for refreshments and the afternoon’s official program. Brothers listened to various speakers and heard Phi Sigma Pi’s history timeline read aloud. The highlight for all was when Brother Gene Seevers shared touching and inspiring remarks that only are able to come from someone who has had membership in this organization for over sixty years. The program concluded with the Founders’ Ceremony and the singing of the fraternal songs. This event truly was a memorable experience for all who had the privilege to be present.
The annual awards banquet always is a highly-anticipated event. After all, who doesn’t like getting dressed up? Many collegiate chapters were deserving of awards this year, and it was evident that they put forth a great deal of hard work over the last academic year. Congratulations to all of the award winners!
NYMAAC received some recognition of our own. For the fourth time in its existence, we received the Most Outstanding Alumni Chapter Award! Much thanks to everyone who helped make us such a success over the last year! Additionally, HOBY, our National Philanthropic Partner, awarded us with a Certificate of Recognition for our efforts to engage with the youth at the NY Metro Leadership Seminar. The good news is that the Grand Chapter voted to continue our partnership with HOBY, so we can look forward to another year of supporting this “outstanding” organization.
Well, that sums up our experience at this year’s National Convention! Thanks for allowing me to serve as your Delegate! I had an amazing experience, and I can’t wait to spend another year with NYMAAC. Now we can look forward to more awesome things in our future and the 2017 National Convention!
Stephen Cristiano, Epsilon Alpha (Kutztown University) ’15, NYMAAC’s newest member moved back home to Essex County, NJ this past December. He is an Assistant Leader at the West Essex YMCA part time while finalizing his teacher certification to become a special education teacher. He attended his first event NYMAAC Sees Elf the Musical days after his graduation in December and has been to numerous events ever since. Stephen says, “Although I have grown up in the NYC area, NYMAAC has helped me fall in love with the New York City area all over again. Adjusting to the post graduation life has been tough however, the support I have gotten from everyone in NYMAAC has helped made the transition easier with the support from my Brothers!”
Stephen (pictured second from right) has been a great addition to NYMAAC!
Check out this recap of our Annual Brrr Crawl that took place on February 6, 2016 from our tour guide Jeff!
We began our tour near the heart of Chinatown, at the corner of a fairly unassuming playground. Many people do not know that we were very close to the intersection that gave the neighborhood it’s former, infamous identity: The Five Points. Although this neighborhood is familiar to some (mainly through the book and film “Gangs of New York,”) its true squalor and violence is hard to comprehend. As unpleasant as it was, a lot of what has made New York great was present in this area: immigrants, social outreach programs, entrepreneurship, politics of all shades, and some true rags-to-riches stories.
We walked through Chinatown. Although this neighborhood has become one of New York’s most well-known and influential cultural touchstones, it was not always so large. It was once a “bachelor society” of a few dozen Chinese immigrant workers.
As we approached the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought it was worth mentioning the story of the bridge. Although some might find it strange (being a bridge and all,) the construction was filled with drama, politics, scientific breakthroughs, and opened new doors for workers’ rights and women’s rights.
After our first watering hole (the historic Paris Cafe,) we walked through the low-key South Street Seaport area. What were once some of the busiest piers in the world are finding new identities as stores, restaurants, and interesting stores off the beaten path.
We came to Wall Street, which prompted one of my favorite stories: the 1929 race to build the world’s tallest building. The clear winner seemed to be 40 Wall Street (now The Trump Building,) but the surprise completion of the Chrysler Building’s stainless steel spire clinched a victory, and helped make Midtown the new center of skyscrapers.
After our second rest stop at The Full Shilling, we continued up Wall Street. We saw Federal Hall, a replica of a Greek-style colonial building, and took in the imposing facade of The New York Stock Exchange.
Just up the block is Trinity Church. It has been at the head of Wall Street since almost before there was a New York City. The current building (completed in 1846) is one of the few left in the Financial District from before the Civil War. Although the churchyard was closed for the evening, we did get a glimpse at the final resting place of Alexander Hamilton: first secretary of the treasury of the U.S., author of most of the Federalist Papers, face of the $10 bill, and immigrant role-model.
We made our way north along Broadway. As we noted the sidewalk plaques commemorating the many ticker-tape parades in the neighborhood’s history, we approached the area around City Hall, the Woolworth Building, St. Paul’s Chapel, and the World Trade Center. It was a great place to end our tour, as the brand new towers reach up to the sky, among buildings that have been in Manhattan for hundreds of years.
Happy New Year, Brothers! Now that the rush of the holidays has come to a close and we have turned over a new leaf to begin 2016, let’s take the time to recap all of the awesome things NYMAAC did to celebrate the holiday season. On December 8th, we held our holiday dinner at The Parlour on the Upper West Side. We celebrated each other’s company over dinner, drinks, and conversation. As per tradition, we held our annual White Elephant gift exchange. This year’s gifts included a Mensch on a Bench, a selfie stick, Baconopoly, and other fun items. Our exchange was friendly overall, but that doesn’t mean that we completely neglected the art of stealing this year.
In addition to gift-giving amongst ourselves, we gave the gift of play to the children of Northern New Jersey through our annual donation to Toys for Tots. This year, we were able to collect an awesome 23 toys! Way to go, NYMAAC! Our donations took a trip on a collection train that made several stops throughout Northern New Jersey on December 12th.
Finally, we celebrated this past holiday season with a new event. On December 17th, we saw the production of ELF the Musical at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Thanks to everyone who came out to spend time with us over the holidays and Happy New Year to all! 2016 will be a great one!