Alumni & Chapter News

Lighting the fire at Delta Lambda Chapter

By Andrea (Smithson) Benek —

Zeta Beta Tau has many avenues for celebrating excellence and remarkable achievements of our brothers and chapters, but no honor rises to the level of the Brummer Cup for most outstanding chapter in the Fraternity, the time-honored, respected and coveted traditional celebration of chapter overall success.

But how does a chapter go from the start, or even languishing in the middle, to being the very best among all active groups in the Fraternity?

The Delta Lambda Chapter at Monmouth College, the 2021 Brummer Cup winner, is here to show the way.

Delta Lambda of Zeta Beta Tau is nearing its 50th anniversary, to be celebrated in May 2022. The campus was home to a local fraternity briefly until it merged with ZBT soon after. Monmouth is a small institution, enrolling just 900 students, and the ZBT Chapter is small but mighty.

Until as recently as the mid-2010s, Delta Lambda was not so mighty – just small. Brothers were not well organized and they were not active on campus. But in recent years, dedicated and motivated undergraduate leadership and chapter advisors have made a strong turnaround.

Brother Jacob R. “Jake” McLean, Delta Lambda (Monmouth College) 2015, has been the primary chapter advisor over the past few years. He says the brotherhood bonds have always been strong among his chapter, but it was the motivation of the most recent chapter presidents that ultimately turned the group into a Brummer Cup winner.

“Attending International Convention lit a fire under (Benjamin R. Nelson, who graduated in 2020, and Rodolfo J. Garcia, 2021)” both past chapter presidents, Brother McLean said. They inspired and motivated brothers, established better operations and officer transitions, improved execution of THE JOURNEY brotherhood development program. Current President Jacob T. Rathgeb, 2023, worked hard to ensure Delta Lambda earned full accreditation in the Standards of Excellence program in spring 2021.

Particularly, Brother McLean says, Brother Nelson led the chapter brothers in creating recruitment standards that the chapter carefully follows, ensuring the motivation remains strong year to year and all initiates are proud to be ZBTs.

The students are great leaders, “they just need an occasional gentle nudge from chapter advisors,” Brother McLean added.

Now, the Delta Lambda Chapter has an impressive array of programming that facilitates individual brother and chapter wholistic success. The chapter’s connection to ZBT’s Jewish heritage is strong. The chapter is the top group on campus, earning many honors from the college and achieving top standings in academics and leadership. Besides the Brummer Cup, the group earned ZBT International Awards in chapter programming, risk prevention and academics. Brother Garcia, the most recent past president, was named the recipient of the Maine-Heffer Award for Most Outstanding Chapter President.

Brother McLean shared his best tips for chapters and leaders looking to improve on their own campus:

  • Ensure leaders understand and can explain the “why” for processes and decisions. All brothers should know the best practices and have a stake in the game. “All of it works better to make everyone succeed together,” he said.
  • The Standards of Excellence program is on every meeting agenda. The chapter brothers collectively engage with SOE. “The blueprints to be a Brummer Cup chapter are provided, it’s just up to them to enact and document,” he said.
  • Make sure finances aren’t a barrier to quality men joining the chapter.
  • Alumni and community engagement is key to success. “Even the best chapters need support. Connecting with your headquarters staff liaison and having a faculty advisor in place is important. Good alumni volunteers should support the undergraduate brothers and not look to re-create the chapter they had as an undergraduate.”

“Winning a Brummer Cup is a ‘Hallmark story’ for our alumni, who never thought it was possible,” Brother McLean added.

He’s hoping to leverage the energy to recruit additional advisors for longer-term support.

“The Delta Lambda Chapter has distinguished itself as a true leader on the Monmouth campus and within ZBT,” ZBT Chief Executive Officer Libby Anderson said. “Delta Lambda’s success is proof that small can equal mighty. We are thrilled for this chapter to earn its first Brummer Cup.”