I’m working to ensure that those who come next will take hold of these ideals

By: Jesse Lackey, West Virginia ’17

I define a leader as one who motivates others through inspiration, not authority; gaining their respect through the transformation of words into action.

I thank Phi Kappa Psi for proving me the opportunities to develop as a man and a leader. My experience has given me the confidence to make tough choices, and the clarity to understand that I’m not going to be liked by everybody all the time. I’ve learned the value of establishing guidelines for how we should act as brothers and have been taught the value of accountability.

I grew up in Salem, WV. In high school, I had been active as team captain for the basketball and baseball teams. I was involved in the 4-H Club. By the time college came, WVU was the only school I had in mind and I worked hard to keep great grades.

But after my first few semesters, I was ready for a new challenge.

I had heard people talking about Phi Kappa Psi coming back to campus and they were looking for people to lead the effort. I later learned that the chapter had lost its charter in 2013 during a self-imposed suspension. I was attracted to that kind of accountability, and I liked the idea of rebuilding something new.

A band of brothers formed. A direction was established, and vision was cast. Leadership was essential. Maybe it was because I was willing to step up, or because I had a heightened sense of purpose, but regardless, I felt comfortable working with fellow colony members to craft our purpose and staking out our core ideals.

It was the fall of 2016 when we began working toward re-chartering. That process would take a year — with a lot of hoops to jump through and many tasks to be delegated. For a re-charter, you’re not elected to a leadership post, you’re selected. Last fall, I was asked to serve as president of the Colony. I leaned on WV Alpha alumni to guide me as we navigated the process. The relationships I’ve established with undergraduates and alumni alike have really been what has empowered me and the chapter to succeed.

While my local experience gave me a great footing, it was the two Phi Kappa Psi leadership programs that enabled me, and the WV Alpha Chapter climb higher. First, I represented WV Alpha at the Regional Officer Training (ROT) in Columbus, OH. This was very tactical and taught me a lot about what I needed to know to run a functional chapter. It gave me confidence as a chapter leader.

I was then nominated to attend PIVOT, a weeklong immersive leadership experience. This program was more focused on my development as an individual. PIVOT was life-changing. I don’t imagine I’d ever be able to experience anything like it again. There were so many successful alumni leaders in one place, sharing their experiences, sharing their triumphs and struggles.

While ROT helped me run the chapter, PIVOT reinforced my personal values and beliefs. I’ll never forget the session by Lee Cockerell, a former VP for Disney World Resorts. He came from virtually nothing and made it to the top. He described his work ethic and his perspectives about how he became successful in life. It has definitely motivated me to want to mirror his positive attitude and incredible determination.

I’m using the connections I made at ROT and PIVOT and other events to network. I’m now meeting more Phi Psi alumni in my field and have talked with them about their career paths and my future.

And finally, after all of this growth and learning that happened in the span of a few short years, everything came together on November 11, 2017 — the date when the West Virginia Alpha Chapter, with over 80 inaugural members, officially arrived back on campus.

As past president, one of the most important things I try to instill in our chapter brothers is the idea of always doing your best, and always remaining enthusiastically responsible. Remember who you are, never lose yourself. These ideals have served us well as a chapter and as men.

I’d love for Phi Psi to be the top chapter on WVU’s campus. I’d love to one-day receive Phi Psi’s Grand Chapter Award. My time is almost over, and as I slowly work my way out of my position as president, I’m working to ensure that the guys who come after me will take hold of these ideals.

I’m doing all I can to live up to the “Gentleman’s Paragraph,” and I want to extend a big THANK YOU to the Fraternity and our alumni for everything they have done for me.