“Hey, what time are you getting to the airport?” The seemingly meaningless question that would become the beginning of our Grand Chapter Conclave experience in Houston. Just the plane ride down to Houston was an adventure in and of itself. We’d be willing to bet that we were the most annoying people on that flight with how excited we were to get to Houston. On the way down, we also met SigEps from all of the region, exposing us to the first dose of the remarkable size of SigEp, and giving us just a taste of what was to come.
After 2 months of not interacting with any of our brothers from New Jersey Alpha, walking into the lobby of the Marriott hotel was so exciting. It was kind of like when you get to see all of your friends on the first day of school after a long summer break. Now that we think about it, that’s exactly what it was like. We were among the first to arrive, and we met two of our brothers who had arrived the night before us. Slowly, the rest of our chapter trickled in, and NJA felt whole again, just in time to watch esteemed brother Jacob Meiskin serve as the Guard in the Celebration of the Ritual.
The next day, we set off to our development track orientations. Between the 14 brothers of NJA, we split into three different groups: the Professional and Career Development track, the Personal and Leadership Skills track, or the Excellence in Chapter Operations track. Throughout Conclave, the brothers of NJA were excited to see what all of these tracks had to offer. The Excellence in Chapter Operations track offered an extra surprise when the NJA president, Jacob Schozer, was announced as one of the speakers for the day.
We think all of our brothers came away with valuable knowledge that they can use to advance not only their own personal goals, but also the goals of our fraternity. The tracks allowed SigEps from across the nation to meet like-minded individuals who were seeking the same ends as they were: to find ways to better themselves and their chapters. These sessions provided the perfect setting in which brothers could recount memories from their chapters and use their experiences to help those who needed inspiration.
As the week went on, we found ourselves, like many other brothers, exploring the not-so-secret fourth track of Conclave: the pool and the Texas-shaped lazy river. After lounging out at the hotel in the afternoons, we found ourselves connecting with brothers from around the nation. Although this was not part of the officially scheduled programming, the conversations we had in the lazy river were extremely impactful. We spoke with undergraduates and alumni about their chapters, their schools, and most importantly, their personal lives. This unique blend of brothers who all share common values provided invaluable insight to us. One night we were even able to venture out into the city of Houston and meet some of our recently graduated alumni who were living nearby. By the end of our time in the pools, we were taking notes with ideas to bring back home with us to continue our record of excellence.
This record of excellence shone through during the Balanced Man Celebration. About half way through the night, the lights in the theater went out and the crowd collectively held its breath as seven gold Buchanan Cups suddenly descended from the ceiling. The tension in the air was palpable, and our chapter brothers could be seen sitting near the front of the audience on the edges of our seats as we watched other chapters’ accomplishments and accolades flash across the big screen. Finally, on the fifth gold Buchanan Cup presentation, we found a familiarity in what was being presented. Thanks to our hard work over the past two years, we were able to call ourselves two-time gold Buc Cup winners, and our chapter exploded when our name was announced. From the creation of Megabed to the four or five different buc-cup chapters that squeezed into one little hotel room, the celebration we had back at the hotel that night was a night none of us will soon forget.
Our last day at conclave was filled with tons of celebration. From the SigEp Citations to the announcement of the new members of the order of the golden heart, we were truly moved by the dedication of the brothers that have come before us. And who can forget the other awards like the Honor of Philias where brothers demonstrated their ability not only to look inwards at their chapters, but outwards to the whole community to make a difference.
While we could ramble on about what happened at our first conclave for literally days, I think we can best sum it up by saying it’s an experience that we won’t soon forget, and one that we’re looking forward to again and again. See you in Phoenix! No Leroy, it’s in Kansas City! Ya know what, let’s just split the difference and say Denver, Colorado.
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