Understanding the Impact of Legacies on the Brotherhood

By Brian A. Hoffman —

I am not a ZBT legacy. In fact, I am a legacy of another fraternity, and was recruited heavily by that fraternity when I was a freshman at Tulane. I remember it vividly, being brought to their house, meeting their president and other prominent brothers, and being invited to each of their recruitment events. I remember getting a Facebook message saying “Welcome to Tulane! Be sure you come by our event. Come to the VIP door and let the guy know your bro is ____. You can bring a few friends. Also here’s my number, you can text me or call me I’ll say whatup.”

The text above was only slightly edited, and suffice to say I found out quickly – they weren’t for me. Not because of who they were, but because of who I was and the type of experience I wanted to have. I ended up joining ZBT, as it was where my upperclassmen friends wound up a year before me, and where I felt I best fit.

So why do I share this story? I share it because every year, we hear about stories of men joining and ZBT having such a positive impact on their lives. We hear stories of “my son joined, and it was an honor to surprise him and be part of his initiation.” And we hear “My son didn’t join ZBT, he joined elsewhere, which is sad, but I know it was his choice; you guys did all you could.”

Our goal is to keep ZBT in the family, from generation to generation. This is our goal because we strive to truly be a “Brotherhood for a Lifetime” and not just a four-year experience. This is our goal because 18-22-year-old brothers have hopefully only begun to live out the rest of their adult lives, and we want to instill a deeper understanding of the word “lifetime.” Our undergraduate brothers are instrumental in the success of our organization, but they exist in ZBT today because of generations of brothers who came before them.

Last year, about 5% of our new initiates were legacies, consistent with 2016-17 and up from the past when that number hovered around 2-3%. While that may not seem like a major jump, we’re talking about ZBT extending a generation for an additional 20-30 families. The ZBT experience is not only about joining, learning, leading and teaching as an undergraduate, but it’s about giving back and passing along your knowledge and passion to future generations.

One of the best ways for alumni to remain engaged or to become reengaged is by giving their son a firm ZBT handshake and an embrace, both father-to-son and brother-to-brother. We, our undergraduate and alumni brothers as well as our staff and volunteers, collectively can share our ZBT story, pass it along, and keep our family stories alive for years, decades, and generations to come. Keeping the legacy of a name alive in the history of ZBT, it is the challenge of our undergraduate brothers to see in the eyes of a legacy their future son, and to give him the opportunity to rekindle a fire in his family’s connection to ZBT. We as brothers should invite these men “to the VIP door.” When they say, “my brother’s a ZBT at _____,” we should respond with “that’s awesome, welcome!” and keep ZBT growing and thriving across generations.