Delta Sigma Pi’s 51st Grand Chapter Congress was held in New Orleans, Louisiana August 16 – 20, 2017. Many collegiate and alumni brothers from central Iowa attended this biennial event. Recorded below are the experiences of 2 alumni: Jody, President of the Des Moines – Central Iowa Alumni Chapter, who was the chapter’s delegate to congress; and David, VP-CO of the Des Moines – Central Iowa Alumni Chapter, who was the chapter’s alternate delegate.
Both David and Jody flew to NOLA, David by way of Minneapolis where he happened to share a plane with some Twin Cities Alumni Chapter (TCAC) members and Jody by way of Chicago and some flight delays and an 8-hour layover at O’Hare. But Jody did end up arriving in the crescent city and had an especially memorable taxi ride from the airport to the hotel driven by an extremely Cajun cabbie.
The hotel was the Sheraton New Orleans, and both commented how great of a location this was to the city’s action, being just a block from the famed French Quarter and 2-blocks from Bourbon Street. Throughout the week, Jody and David became well-acquainted with several of the local establishments including The Jimani and The Worlds Famous Cats Meow. There were a few issues with the hotel. More than 1 brother was treated in the hospital for allergic reactions to hotel food. The lack of ventilation in the hotel rooms left pot smoke lingering in rooms and hallways. (It is unconfirmed whether or not it was Deltasigs or other hotel guests passing the doobie.)
Brothers got lucky with the timing of Grand Chapter Congress. Earlier in August the city experienced flooding associated with failures of the city’s storm water pumping system.
Then later in the month after congress had concluded, remnants of hurricane Harvey made landfall in Western Louisiana. During the week of Grand Chapter, the weather was mostly pleasant, hot, with some rain. August is typically a slow month for tourism in the city, so especially early in the week, brothers felt like they had much of the town to themselves. It was not hard to get on tours and see performances. Several TCAC brothers took a bayou tour.
Neither Jody nor David participated in the community service initiative, working on the city’s historic cemeteries, but they did hear that one of the COYs found some bones (not an unusual occurrence) while cleaning up around a grave.
Tuesday night both Jody and David (by invitation) attended the National Officers Appreciation Event, which was held in a bowling alley that also featured live music (pictured) and arcade games. This was a fun time for the 2 bus-loads of brothers who attended.
As the sessions kicked off on Wednesday, David had the special opportunity of assisting with the setup of AV equipment and gaining backstage access to the logical operations of a Grand Chapter Congress. In business, it’s all about who you know, and David’s connections to TCAC President, Adam and Central Office’s Jeremy provided David the ‘in’ for helping things run smoothly and managing activities like estimating attendance during different sessions and setting up projectors.
Jody attended the Alumni Forum session and said that it was good. Linda, the National Alumni Development Committee Chair led the discussions that featured ideas from different alumni chapters from around the country. Jody believes the Des Moines – Central Iowa Alumni Chapter needs to develop and hold an annual ‘signature event’ that it will be known for, much like other chapters do. Also interesting were the comments and experiences by one East Coast alumni chapter that was just starting up, so Jody was able to compare Des Moines’ progress as an alumni chapter to one newly-created.
The Wednesday night’s Grand President’s Dance was good, but neither Jody nor David stayed the whole time. With the hotel being located next to such great night life, often options outside of the hotel seemed just as attractive as the fraternity’s scheduled events. This was a comment that they had heard from other alumni regarding previous Grand Chapters held in NOLA… that those were unique because of the fun location. The space for the Grand President’s Dance was not as large as the 2015 GCC in Schaumburg, but did feature some games and plenty of dancing.
Thursday was the honorary initiation. Both Jody and David were impressed by the story of Honorary Initiate, Alden McDonald, president and CEO of Liberty Bank. Mr. McDonald had an amazing story of coming from nothing to being the owner and CEO of a bank, then that bank being devastated by Hurricane Katrina, and McDonald building it back again.
The business sessions for debate and voting by the Grand Chapter kicked off Thursday. David and Jody described these as intense. Going into GCC Jody believed that the Fraternity and its members were generally of a progressive nature, in terms of thinking about the proposed legislation, especially after talking to many Midwestern alums who often shared her views. But she was surprised to find how passionate others were about tradition and keeping things exactly the way they are now. David was mainly concerned that collegiates might be misinformed either about our history, what these traditions actually mean and whether or not they are important to our future, and what the proposed changes would do in practice to the Fraternity.
There was some legislation that easily passed (having to do with clarifying some policies), but all of the other legislation failed (although 1 piece of it only failed by 3 votes). Part of what made passage difficult was the hurdle of achieving 3/4 of the vote (not just a simple majority).
Jody and David commented that the time for discussion did not seem adequate, but both doubted that more discussion would have changed any hearts or minds. Perhaps delegates were locked into their votes even before arriving at Grand Chapter.
More passion was expressed in the elections for National Officers than in the proposed legislation changes. North Central Provincial COY, Brikken gave the intro speech for Grand President Candidate Jodi (North Central PVP). Both David and Jody thought Brikken’s was a very good speech.
They also believed that it wound up being the best public speakers who came away with election victories. And both believed Grand President Candidate Tricia (Northeastern PVP and GP election winner) gave a great speech.
They also liked Nolan’s speech (pictured) for Jillian (former Des Moines resident, Great Plains RVP, and North Central PVP candidate). David and Jody heard from multiple brothers that the race between Jillian and Cory (North Central RVP and winner of North Central PVP election) was the toughest vote because they like both of the candidates so much.
This was a unique GCC experience for the Iowans in attendance as well as many of their Minnesotan friends because they all knew candidates Jodi, Cory, and Jillian and were very invested in the campaigning. Campaigns did not heat up until Thursday, but after that the swag was flying and David and Jody commented on the strong ground-game of Jodi’s GP campaign. David thought that the rules for campaigning are in need of updates especially related to the prohibition of campaigning via social media. David also noted his frustration with the fact that current board members had to stay impartial to all candidates.
The Friday night event was actually 2 events. Due to the record or near-record attendance of the 2017 GCC (about 1,200 brothers) there were too many people to fit onto the planned activity. This was a riverboat cruise. So many brothers, including 2 from Iowa attended a ghost tour (by boat) followed by a dinner at Bubba Gump Shrimp. Jody believes that one of the Iowa brothers on the haunted boat tour captured photographic evidence of a ghost (a claim that has yet to be fact-checked).
The majority of GCC attendees who did not go ghost hunting, started with a parade (pictured) from the hotel down Canal Street towards the river, where the river boat (featuring a dinner cruise) was waiting. Both David and Jody commented about how neat the parade was. Large in size, tossing beads, stopping traffic, drawing much attention… it was quite a spectacle.
But Jody and David were less impressed by the river boat, the cruise, and the Southern cooking served on board. There were some good views from the water, especially of the city as the sun was setting and the town was going up in lights, but the boat felt crowded.
Saturday night’s banquet was a good one. The evening’s emcee, Burton, kept things light and fun. This was especially helpful to combat the low spirits of many brothers from the Midwest who were hoping Jodi would have been elected GP. David and Jody also commented on how passionate Lifetime Achievement Award winner Claire Sammon Roberts was and the high quality of her speech during the banquet.
Overall both David and Jody had great experiences and great stories from the 2017 GCC. David (an Iowa State grad) had a neat moment finding and connecting with another Iowa State alum he had previously never met who currently lives in Richmond, Virginia. And one of David’s favorite moments came Saturday night out at the bars for one last hurrah with some of his closest friends and having a great time win or lose.
Jody did have a funny story about Nolan stepping in a very deep mud puddle that had filled a street pothole. 2017 was a very different experience for Jody compared to her only other Grand Chapter (Orlando in 2007). She was quick to point out that both of these were the highest-ever attended GCC’s. For one she was a collegiate and the other she was an alumni with years of volunteer leadership experience. Jody said her favorite part of the trip was Monday. That was before the official congress had begun and a bunch of brothers took the day to go out as a group to explore the city… with no agenda, before any campaign craziness, just being flexible and doing whatever looked fun. It was a long day and a great day.
David and Jody had a great time at the 2017 Grand Chapter Congress in New Orleans.
Mark your calendars for the 52nd GCC: August 14-18, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia.