The historic home of SigEp’s Colorado State Chapter has undergone extensive renovations to become a state-of-the-art facility capable of hosting a best-practices Residential Learning Community. The vision was to create a space where undergraduates could engage in hands-on learning and conversation with faculty, staff and fellow Fraternity brothers. The home includes a house director suite, faculty fellow office and multimedia conference room as well as an 800-square-foot, dual-purpose library and classroom with vaulted ceiling and study loft.
Alumni involved with the renovations believed the addition of a marquis library and classroom was critical to attracting the best students and differentiating SigEp from the 25 other fraternities and 22 well-established learning communities that exist on the Colorado State campus. They wanted the space to be as inviting and functional as the university’s library and classrooms. In the end, the $2.7 million renovation has more than delivered on their expectation.
The historic three-story Colonial Revival home was originally built in 1930. Small repairs and improvements were made over the years, including the addition of a new kitchen and house mother suite in 1956. In the decades that followed, a series of fundraising efforts made other important improvements possible and produced a modest starter fund for a larger project.
In 2003, a group of Colorado State alumni, led by Bryan Harmsen, ’01, and Tony Mauro, ’99, laid out a 10-year plan to fully renovate the home. Working with undergraduate leaders, the alumni volunteers began the preliminary work required for a successful capital campaign and house renovation. They turned their attention to improving alumni communications and strengthening alumni engagement and volunteer support.
The chapter worked with Pennington & Company, a firm specializing in alumni relations and fundraising support, to produce professionally designed newsletters to be delivered twice a year. In addition to providing chapter and alumni news, the newsletter informed brothers about the maintenance of the aging chapter home. The alumni-led housing corporation shared photos, articles about small improvements and summary financial statements.
Meanwhile, members of the housing corporation worked diligently to build upon their reserve fund, which totaled $60,000 in 2003. They implemented strict financial discipline, stuck to a clear savings plan and invested in a low-risk portfolio. By 2012, the reserve had grown to more than $450,000. The volunteers decided they were ready to share their plans for a campaign with other alumni and again partnered with Pennington & Company to guide the chapter through a feasibility study and campaign.
Multiple concepts for a renovation were presented to alumni from every era of the chapter’s history. Agreement was reached on launching a campaign to complete a full renovation. Funds raised would provide for necessary updates to the home as well as physical additions needed for the operation of an accredited Residential Learning Community.
The housing corporation took its vision to several SigEp architects familiar with the Residential Learning Community program and best designs in student housing. Mitch Christ, Colorado State ’79; Walter “Bud” Frick, Miami (Florida) ’69; Jon Kucera, Virginia ’69; and Jan Peterson, Washington in St. Louis ’67, all contributed to the renovation plans.
As plans were being finalized for the housing project, the previously award-winning Colorado State Chapter encountered hard times. Undergraduate leaders increasingly struggled to hold members accountable, and a series of alcohol-related conduct issues linked to members of the chapter resulted in a loss of university recognition in December 2013.
Despite the initial heartache, alumni used the temporary closure as a unifying moment. They were convinced it was worth investing even more time and money to ensure that young men at Colorado State would benefit from the life-changing relationships and supportive environment provided by a SigEp experience. They decided to collectively move forward with a vision of creating a chapter that was stronger than ever, and volunteers expanded their long-term plan to include a 2018 recolonization.
Fundraising continued under the leadership of Campaign Chairman Al Hornung, Colorado State ’61, and the housing corporation’s board grew to include brothers from every decade since the 1960s. An even larger team signed on to help raise funds and rally support among brothers from their respective eras.
Ultimately, alumni from the 1960s led in total giving, with 39 brothers giving over 45 percent of all funds raised. When the campaign was complete, 139 brothers had made gifts and pledges totaling $1.18 million.
Under the guidance of alumnus Mitch Christ, the renovation team stripped the home to its studs and proceeded with renovations while preserving and restoring historic architectural details. By spring 2016, the team completed the $2.7 million renovation. Upgrades included new mechanical, electrical, plumbing, HVAC and fire suppression systems as well as the addition of a modern IT infrastructure. The renovation also provided components essential for residential learning, including the Jenkins Family Library, which will host academic courses for SigEp brothers when the chapter returns.
Building university partnerships
With their building project complete, the Colorado State alumni are working with university and SigEp staff to bring their chapter back to campus as an accredited Residential Learning Community. The goal is to receive accreditation from both Colorado State and the national Fraternity through their respective learning community programs.
Former SigEp Regional Director Ryan Garthright, Colorado State ’10, is leading the effort to recruit faculty fellows and develop the chapter’s academic programming. Hosting university courses within the chapter’s library is a top priority. Among the many opportunities under consideration is a partnership with the school’s President’s Leadership Program, through which participating members would receive a minor in leadership studies. To support this level of educational programming and provide scholarships for members, alumni have now focused their fundraising efforts on annual giving and are working to build a $1 million endowment over the next 10 years. And if their record of tenacity is any indication, it is safe to assume that the Colorado State alumni will see this and each of their current goals through to completion.