By Nicole DeStefano
Nation & World Editor
Alec Paterno stood behind the lens of a camera with a smile. In his right hand, he proudly held up a white piece of paper that read “Beta Theta Pi.” With a click of his camera, the moment was captured. Paterno was now a founding father of a new fraternity at the College.
“I went out to different (organizations’) rush events, but I never really saw myself fitting in,” said Paterno, a junior biomedical engineering major. “I thought joining Beta Theta Pi would be cool because it’s a different experience — it’s unique.”
Beta Theta Pi, whose mission is to “develop men of principle for a principled life,” will be joining 11 other fraternities on campus this spring for official recruitment.
“It’s a chance to get something started on campus rather than join something that is already here,” Paterno said.
Beta Theta Pi is currently wrapping up its fall recruitment and thrilled to induct, educate and initiate its founding fathers later this semester, which currently stands at 26. Beta’s founding fathers are selected through a series of one-on-one meetings with the goal of recruiting a well-rounded, diverse and inclusive class.
“My good friend Alec Paterno joined Beta Theta Pi and told me to meet with the adviser, Bryant Fiesta,” junior chemistry major Mattheus De Souza said. “After speaking to him and hearing his goal for Beta Theta Pi, I decided to join.”
Colony Development Coordinator Bryant Fiesta and Director of Expansion John Hubbard are the driving forces behind the College’s chapter of Beta Theta Pi. They are not only dedicated to creating a successful organization on campus, but also recruiting founding fathers and brothers who will uphold Beta’s values.
“Beta Theta Pi seeks scholars, leaders and gentlemen,” Fiesta said. “Men who have a given desire to maintain high academic achievement in their field of study, men who have varied involvements on campus and who are seeking a well-rounded college experience, and men who — in their interactions with their partner, brothers and community — are urbane in deportment.”
Beta Theta Pi was founded on Aug. 8, 1839, by eight men at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. The organization has continued to grow and show improvements in the areas of academics, recruitment, risk management and leadership development. When Beta’s award-winning Men of Principle Initiative was first created in 1998, the fraternity’s average chapter GPA was a 2.8. Today, it stands at 3.204 — the highest GPA of all fraternities in the country.
Internationally, Beta Theta Pi also attempts to confront and dispel fraternity stereotypes through leadership programming and positive culture-changing initiatives. The fraternity launched the “I Am A Fraternity Man” campaign in March 2015 to “share the true stories of fraternity men that you didn’t know existed.”
Fiesta believes that the fraternity will positively enhance the College’s Greek Life community. When it comes to the organization’s potential contributions to campus life, Fiesta thinks a former Beta articulated it perfectly.
“With its focus on values-based leadership, Beta Theta Pi will amplify the educational experience offered at the college,” said Chris Althoff, a Beta alumnus from Kansas State University. Althoff has served for more than a decade as a Beta volunteer and adviser.
“For this reason, Beta is more than just a social club. It represents in many cases the pivotal leadership experience in the life of a young man which helps make him a better son, brother, husband and father,” Althoff said.
Each of the founding fathers at the College thus far have been carefully selected. While the organization is something completely new to the young men, Fiesta and Hubbard want to make sure every new member understands what being a Beta is all about.
“I joined Beta Theta Pi on my own,” said Cody Stoia, a founding father and a junior finance major. “At first, I knew almost nothing about the organization… Bryant Fiesta was amazing with introducing me and explaining to me all the parts, functions and beliefs of the fraternity.”
Fiesta’s intentions are clear: he does not only want members of the College’s Beta Theta Pi to benefit from the organization on a personal level, but to also help create a successful and rewarding organization for future Betas. Whether you are a founding father or simply a brother, the goal is for your college experience as a Beta to be fulfilling.
“Being a founding father of Beta Theta Pi is a unique experience where men will have the ability to build their own positive experience and leave a legacy for those who will become members in the years after they graduate,” Fiesta said.
“Rather than adapt to a culture that does not align with their beliefs, they are afforded the freedom and responsibility to help shape the direction of an emerging chapter at the College,” he added. “In addition to the numerous programs offered by the General Fraternity, there are a number of leadership opportunities available beginning in the first term, and they have a chance to help bring positive change to the entire Greek community at TCNJ through living the values of Beta Theta Pi.”
The fraternity’s national core values allow members to “build lasting bonds of friendship and brotherhood.” They include mutual assistance, intellectual growth, trust, responsible conduct and integrity.
“I decided to go Greek at TCNJ because I wanted to meet more people and become more involved on campus, while having brothers who are always by my side no matter what,” said Ricky Brum, a sophomore mechanical engineering major.
College students choose to go Greek for many reasons. It may be a resume booster, a way to enhance one’s social life or simply a way to fit in with the crowd. But according to Fiesta and some of the founding fathers, being a Beta at the College is not just about wearing a lettered shirt.
“Being a Beta is all about relationships,” Fiesta said. “Betas surround themselves with kind and intelligent people within the organization — an organization that recognizes and respects the worth of each person, refusing to take part in activities that undermine the dignity of others. An organization that willingly lends its talents and abilities to serve the community. An organization that builds bridges, not walls.”
Over the years, Greek Life’s presence at the College has increased. Currently, more than 25 percent of the student body is part of a Greek Life organization, according to the Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life.
“I decided to join Greek Life at TCNJ and become a founding father of Beta Theta Pi because of the mark I will leave on this campus,” De Souza said. “Years from now when I return to TCNJ as an alumni and see men wearing Beta Theta Pi shirts, I will know that I was one of the men who started the organization.”