Rising Up from the Ashes
by Rachel Harmon, Musical Sisters United – Local Alumni Association (McNeese State University), TBΣ |
[dropcap style=”font-size: 60px; color: #0099FF;”]T[/dropcap]wo years ago my college sorority reached the end of its era. Alumni of the chapter were informed that Theta Tau could no longer survive at McNeese State University. The local chapter alumni met with the current band director and found that it was too late and our chapter could not be saved. We left that meeting feeling brokenhearted. Many “why” and “what if” questions began to fill our minds and became the preverbal “devil’s advocate” to our thoughts. Our chapter was gone, and there wasn’t anything we could do about it. Talk about feeling a sense of uselessness and despair. Something we had all worked so hard for was gone in the blink of an eye.
One of our local alumni members, Erin Johnson, had a dream that Theta Tau would have an alumni organization and place for our local alumni to continue to serve. If it weren’t for her passion for the organization, we would never be what we are today. We decided on the evening after we met with the band director that an alumni group would be formed. The courage of one person was enough to spark the flame for the rest of us.
While planning for our group, we found that determining our purpose was one of the most difficult tasks. We were no longer college students and had no current ties to the band. There were no more joint relations with Kappa Kappa Psi, because Theta Tau was gone. As alumni we had to figure out how we could serve without trying to replace the Tau Beta Sigma chapter. I must admit that it wasn’t an easy task. So many of the ideals we had as college students; now as adults we had to branch out of that box and find a way to serve without trying to be in college. We spent a great deal of time deciding what our purpose as an organization would be.
Soon after that, Musical Sisters United was born. The first year was a bit rocky as we searched to find our identity. See, we realized that the role of an alumni organization was one that was still under construction. Our alumni group is quite different than most as we no longer had a Tau Beta Sigma chapter to support. In the beginning, we tried to establish communications with the director of bands, but our attempts were unsuccessful. We had all these big dreams of getting Tau Beta Sigma back on campus and wanted to do as much as we could to make that process happen quickly.
As we became more comfortable with our identity, Deb Fleming—or “Mom” as we call her—came up with the idea for us to work in partnership with St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and feed the band during home games. We were not in a position to be able to achieve this task by ourselves, so the church provided a place for us to meet and feed the McNeese Band. Much to our disappointment, we only received a handful of band members on the first day. Game after game our regulars would show up with the occasional new student. By the end of the season we had a good 15-20 members showing up on a regular basis to receive a free lunch. We decided to keep this successful event as our fall service project.
At the end of the first year we felt triumphant. We had some great fundraisers, were adding new service projects, and felt as though we were making connections with the band. At the beginning of our second year, the excitement began as we knew that the two years of waiting for Theta Tau to come back was almost over. I called the Southwest District Counselor, Erika Pope, about the process of bringing Theta Tau back. She has such a passion for the sorority and an eagerness for Tau Beta Sigma to grow. She encouraged us to set up a meeting with the director of bands. At this point we hardly had any communications with the director of bands. He agreed to a meeting and we met with him. We were relieved and saddened as he wasn’t completely against the idea of it recolonizing, but he wasn’t extending open arms for that at this time. We were so eager for the sorority to return, but had to accept that he wasn’t ready. We adjusted the conversation to brainstorm ways we could help Kappa Kappa Psi as well as the McNeese Band. Our organization is made up of some Kappa Kappa Psi – Iota Upsilon alumni as well as Theta Tau alumni. So we had already decided as a group that we wanted to provide a support system for Kappa Kappa Psi. He put us in touch with Tommy Salvador, the current chapter president, and the quest to build joint relations began.
The theme for the fall semester was to do what we said we’d do. We knew that the director of bands was watching to see if we were an organization of our word. We’ve completed all the service projects that were asked of us as well as worked hard to create relationships with Iota Upsilon and provide a support system for them. This has been such a growing experience for us all. We feel that something good has come from the major heartache of losing our chapter. If it weren’t for the fall of the Theta Tau chapter, we may never have formed an alumni group and a place for our local alumni to continue to serve.
Many things can be learned from this process. Not to sound cliché, but I often think about the saying “If I knew then, what I know now” and that things would be different. As active members of your chapter I would encourage you to reach out and build relationships with your alumni. They are an invaluable resource for your chapter. They hold your traditions, history, and knowledge of the inner workings of your specific chapter. I’m not saying change is a bad thing, but as new members come in and old members leave, sometimes layers of the chapter vanish with them. As an alumni member of the Theta Tau chapter, I wish that I had been called upon for help and maybe I could have helped save my chapter. As alumni it is our job to support our local chapters if we can. It doesn’t necessarily have to be financial support, sometimes just having a relationship with them is enough. As alumni we must be willing to let go and let the new members lead our chapters into the future. Our chapters aren’t promised tomorrow, and in the blink of an eye we can watch something we worked so hard for end in a dismal fashion. Thankfully, the passion of one person brought forth something wonderful from Theta Tau’s pile of ashes. An alumni organization was born, and we found a place to serve our band again. Our hope is for chapters to build relationships with their alumni and allow them to be a support system to the active members.