Phi Psi taught me to be my own person

By: Carl Geringer, Arizona State ’79

I graduated from Arizona State 35 years ago, and since then I’ve seen a lot of changes in the way that colleges prepare today’s young adults.

The political landscape has a very significant impact on today’s students, as well as others’ attitudes toward Greek life. Back in my day at Arizona Beta, we always had open debates on any number of issues. You don’t seem to see that as much anymore. I strongly believe today’s students aren’t taught enough to be their own person but rather schools aim to teach them what to think. In a way, they are puppets of the institution.

Phi Kappa Psi taught me to be my own person, and also to know, care for, and understand my fellow brothers.

I appreciated the importance of that later in life. In the beginning, Phi Kappa Psi attracted me because of its bond of brotherhood. It was stronger than other groups I saw on campus.

We were a proud, close group and did great academically. It was a challenge to stay strong, living on the outskirts of campus in the less favored ‘Old Row’ of fraternity houses. Like many chapters, we struggled to recruit and keep enough men. It was a tough time financially for many Greek groups. Our kitchen equipment had been sold off in the 1960s to keep the house going, so we couldn’t cook our meals there, as one example!

It’s amazing how even now, my friendships with Phi Psi brothers are some of the strongest relationships in my life. We still meet regularly in small groups and have hosted a couple of large reunions over the years.

It’s those bonds, and my gratitude for so much gained over the years, that inspired me to begin pledging monthly support to the Phi Kappa Psi Foundation back in 2009.

Giving back has always been important to me. In college, I served as the philanthropy chairperson, and Phi Psi taught us from Day 1 the value of charitable giving and community service. I contribute because I’m thankful for the ways my fraternity experience helped me to develop my mindset.

In fact, last year I had two incredible opportunities that remind me of the lasting value of the learning experiences I had in Phi Psi, particularly the importance of networking and of giving back to the community.

The first was the US Navy offering me a seat aboard a C2 Greyhound transport for a 500-mile flight out to the aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson on deployment. I was privileged to be invited to spend the day watching the operations onboard and meeting/observing our servicemen. I am so proud of those who are defending our country and our freedom.

The second opportunity was sailing aboard Maserati, arguably the world’s fastest open ocean racing yacht. I joined the team in Okinawa, Japan to sail to Hong Kong in December. There were four other crewmembers on board, each of us with a responsibility to watch out for the safety of one another and of the boat at every moment. Traveling at high speeds by sail day and night requires incredible concentration and awareness that you rarely use in life. What I learned through Phi Kappa Psi about the importance of accountability and responsibility for others is still cemented into my head!

I know that today’s generation needs our support in similar kinds of education. Moreover, I know the Phi Psi Foundation does great things for brothers at every chapter.

Years ago, I directed my dollars only to my chapter. When Arizona Beta went dormant, it was clear to me that every chapter is equally important, every chapter needs our help, and every brother struggles in one way or another.

I give to the national Foundation because I see so much good coming out of the Phi Psi experience, support that isn’t readily available elsewhere.

College gives young men the building blocks to succeed, but it does not and should not provide an answer for every question or send you down their road. The programs of Phi Kappa Psi help young brothers see their own road ahead — one in which each one needs to make his own decisions on where to go, what to do, how to think, and how to evaluate the wealth of information out there. Phi Psi helped me to be my own thinker, my own decision maker, and that is as critically important today as ever.

Were it not for Phi Kappa Psi, I would’ve never had the magnitude of experiences I did during my college years — experiences that paved the way for me to experience life to its fullest and brightest.

I would encourage brothers of every age to consider giving back to the Phi Kappa Psi Foundation. My advice for undergraduates? Be your own person, not a shadow of others. Shoot for the stars, but if you only make it to the moon, understand that there aren’t many that have made it to the moon with you. Learn from your mistakes and failures, as well as your successes.

Inspired by Carl’s story? Set up your recurring gift today to ensure the future of Phi Kappa Psi.