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Phi Sigma Kappa's President is Alumni Man of the Year

 Phi Sigma Kappa is a genuine brotherhood that is preparing men for the road ahead.

“I was a freshman at Penn State, and I joined because I found it to be the easiest group of guys that I met to fit in with when I was rushing. They just seemed to be real people, not putting on any airs. I just felt really comfortable with that group of guys” says president of Phi Sigma Kappa, Fred DeCock.

Fred made many fantastic memories alongside these true brothers. It is difficult for him to pick a single favorite moment.

“I think the best thing that came out of it was the lifelong friendship and bond that I have with all the guys that I lived with in the house. They were essentially the group that I grew up with,” he says. However, he recalls one treasured moment. “I have the very unusual but fortunate circumstance that my younger brother, Gary, joined the fraternity when he was a freshman and I was a senior. Many years later, my oldest son, Christopher, joined as well. So I have a brother and a son who are brothers in my fraternity.”

The fraternity experience is valuable and irreplaceable. Fred reflects on this.

“I think it's that lifelong connection. Four years in college; you do a lot of growing. You see a lot of things that are great, and some things that are not so great, but you learn from every one of them. I've learned how to apply all of the skills that I learned while living I the house throughout my life.”

Fred also illustrates how fraternity life reaches and supports beyond the classroom.

“You learn a lot of things in a classroom in college, but there is a huge amount of things that you learn outside the classroom. How to deal with people, how to deal with an organization, business skills like budgeting, communication and prioritization, and seeing other people's perspectives. There were a lot of similarities among the guys that I lived with, but there were a lot of differences, too. You're going to deal with all sorts of variety in your life, and that is where it really started to make sense to me.”

Those lessons served Fred well after graduation.

“After I graduated I got a job in the electronics industry in my hometown of Berwyn. After that, I moved to New England with the same company, and then to Harrisburg. I spent 27 years with that company, and for the last 10 years, I've been working for Penn State in the health field,” Fred says.

Listening to those who have experience is critical, and Fred has advice to share with today's active brothers. He feels that it can be difficult to realize, while a young man, just how important it is to maintain friendships and support each other beyond your school years. You can get wrapped up in the moment, especially when considering the excitement of fraternity weekends and events.

“Enjoy everything that you're learning as a brother, and work hard to apply the principles that you're taught as a brother in all facets of your life, not just while you're living in the fraternity house. They are lifelong lessons that you can and should use in everything that you do. Don't give up on being a Phi Sig after you graduate,” he advises.

After graduating and becoming an alumnus, it is important to give back to Phi Sig, and it is possible to give back in many ways, as Fred points out.

“The benefit of being an alumnus is that you have the means to contribute to keeping the fraternity experience alive, and giving back isn't just limited to financial contributions. One thing that we really need to focus on now as alumni is how to help the guys who are just joining the fraternity with the challenges that they are faced with currently. We also need to help them succeed once they graduate by  getting alumni to be mentors for the actives, and helping them get on the right career path, or make the right connections to be successful in whatever they choose to do, whatever career path they're going to take. There is probably an alumnus who has taken that path already, and knows what to do, what not to do, and what works. Once they graduate, they still need direction, and collectively we have a huge amount of experience that we should share with them to make sure that they succeed as well.”

With his dedication, as well as contributions, Fred has been named Alumni Man of the Year.

“As the current president of the alumni association, I asked our alumni board for nominations for our Man Of The Year award.  A couple of days after I sent that email out, I was expecting to see a list of guys, and then we could discuss who should receive the award. Well, one of my oldest friends and brothers on the board sent me a note that said, 'as a board we met secretly, and decided that you, Fred, were the most worthy candidate, so we're giving it to you.'” This came as a complete, but pleasant surprise. “My predecessor always had the rule that if you're on the board you can't win that award, so I assumed that they would continue that tradition, but they went a little rogue on me,” Fred explains.

Having been named Alumni Man of the Year is satisfying to Fred for a notable reason.

“When I joined Phi Sig in my pledge class, they ranked us based on grade point average. In my class, as a first term freshman, I was low man on the totem pole. Every Phi Sig knows what we call that guy, and every pledge class has one. It’s a little demeaning.  I try to point out that even though you're low man now, it doesn't mean you can't succeed at doing other things. I was active president when I was in the house. I joined the board, and was secretary and became president, so the Man of the Year award is kind of the culmination of going from the very lowest of lows, if you will, to somebody that people think has done all the right things,” Fred says.

When it comes to doing the right thing, Phi Sigma Kappa has three cardinal principles that guide the brothers: Brotherhood, Scholarship and Character.

“There is a large group of us that are still in touch. We see each other regularly. We have been on  family vacations throughout our lifetimes. We have laid a few close brothers to rest in the last couple of years. There is a huge coming together of brothers and wives and friends to support each other in those difficult times. But, it has lasted through  constant communication and being the same people that we were when we first met. I know the guys that I lived in the house with very well after more than 40 years of brotherhood. I know them better than I did then, but we’re still on the same terms, I think, as we were 40 years ago. It’s really hard to imagine that as a young man.”

Scholarship can be pursued in a number of different ways. At its core, this principle is about applying yourself as best you can. Fred comments, “I've tended to look at it and say, 'How can I learn about whatever is most interesting to me at the time?' and apply it. Then, when I do my work it's, 'How do I learn what I need to know to make the job that I'm doing as good as it can be?'”

Last is the character of principle. To summarize this mighty principle, Fred closely references John Wooden. “Character is who you are when no one's watching you,” he says.

Considering character, Fred, as well as the alumni association, are proud of the actives for the community service and other awards they won recently. “It is really part of character. They are living that principle and showing that it's an important part of what they do,” Fred says.

He always looks forward to the Founder's Day Celebration, held this year on March 24. It is an opportunity for alumni and actives to come together to share stories and find ways to work together. “We had some really interesting discussions that we're going to use to make things better for them. We are focused on changes that we need to make to ensure long-term success. Input from actives and alumni who attended was incredibly valuable and is helping us continue to collectively make the right decisions to keep Kappa chapter going,” Fred says.

He once again reveals how proud he is of his fellow Phi Sigs when asked what resonates with him most concerning his experience in the fraternity.

“The thing that I remember the most is it was pretty easy for everybody to line up and get on the same side of an issue. It wasn't hard to convince the group that a decision was the right thing for all of us to do and get everybody to move in that direction,” Fred says. 

It is no surprise that the president of Phi Sigma Kappa is content with his college experience. If given the option, he wouldn’t do it any differently. “There are obviously pieces and instances along the way that I wish that I had made a better decision or done something differently. Overall, I think I was very fortunate to be at Penn State at the time with the group of guys that I was with. I know it's really paid off over the course of my lifetime,” he says.

When it comes to overcoming personal challenges, Fred feels his greatest was accomplished alongside his wife. “I think that we're both very proud of our two sons. Stacie and I worked as a team to raise them. I hope they apply that in their own lives to guarantee their success in life. I learned a lot about that teamwork at Phi Sig. It’s even more important when it is working together on something you really believe in,” Fred says.

Fred has had some recent changes in his life, and he is looking to the future. He still works at Penn State Health, but he has recently taken on a new, more focused role. “Obviously, I'm getting closer to retirement, so I'm looking for things that I'm going to be able to do in my retirement years. I'm looking for new challenges that are beyond my career path,” he says.

Fred concludes with the most important advice he believes he ever received. “I always go back to what my dad said: 'Don't let school get in the way of your education.' You're going to learn a lot more from  who you interact with than the books that you read or the class that you take. Those real-life applications are so important. Not that class and being studious are not important, but you've got to take all of that together and use your life learning appropriately.”