The following interview was done by Alex Taylor, a member of the volunteer Cornerstones Task Force, and a member of the Iowa Chapter. In this article, Alex (AT) interviews Byron Tabor (BT) about his experience as an undergraduate & how that experience has shaped his life. Brother Tabor was initiated in 1978 & graduated in 1984. Enjoy!
AT – “Byron, as you look back on your undergraduate years in ACACIA, tell me about any profound memories and events that stand out.”
BT – “Well, I met my wife while I was in ACACIA. Does that count? She was a “little sister”, do they still have those?” [Laugher]
AT – “I don’t believe they do, or at least not like it was when we were in school. Anyway, is there anything in particular that you learned that continues to help you today? “
BT – “Well, I got firsthand experience how to work with different people, who come from different backgrounds, with alternative views and diverse talents. I learned that despite differences and diversity, such a group can find common goals and successfully work together for the good of the whole.
I’ve carried this lesson with me through-out my professional life. I always remind myself that, generally speaking, we all want the same outcome. So if we understand different personalities, and learn how to work with diversity, we can maximize our results. “
AT – “Tell me about why you joined ACACIA.”
BT – Things worked out for a reason. I proved the third degree to become a Master Mason four weeks after my eighteenth birthday. To the best of my knowledge I was the youngest Master Mason in the state of Iowa at that time. My great-uncle got me started in the Masons. He was 98 years old. We were the youngest and oldest Masons in Independence. Since I was a Master Mason when I arrived on campus the Masonic traditions of Acacia was a good fit.
My membership was more accidental than anything. One of my closest childhood and high school friends joined ACACIA, but I actually joined another fraternity. However, I tried out for the golf team and due to a scheduling conflict very early in my pledgeship, I missed a major chapter/pledge event. One thing led to another and I simply ended up moving across the river into ACACIA. During my pledgeship at ACACIA, and the Rituals in ACACIA, I was able to see the ties with the Masonic tradition and still find that to be pretty cool.”
AT – “What do you do now and how did you get there?”
BT – “Right now I’m a programmer for AEGON Asset Management, a large international financial interest. Specifically, I write programs for our derivative trading and accounting systems. After graduating from Iowa, we moved to Colorado, so my wife could get her undergraduate degree at CSU. While there I wrote a Tax Program that preceded all the tax software available today. After that I began to pursue a Masters degree in computer science at Iowa. When my wife began Vet school at ISU I worked for Tandy/Radio Shack in Des Moines and then Iowa State University. Her position took us to Wisconsin for 10 years before we came back to Iowa for my current position.
AT – Tell me about one of the leadership roles that you held when you were an undergraduate in the fraternity.
BT – I remember when I took over the treasurer’s office. It was a shambles. The guy I took over for had one of those philosophies that if we budgeted for 22 members then we had money from 22 members. He then spent the money like we had the 22 members when we only had 20. I was treasurer for 18 months, and it took about that much time to get an accounting system in place that worked.
AT – What do you do for ACACIA today?
BT – I dial in and attend the regular corporation board meetings, even though we don’t have a chapter right now.
AT – Come on, you do more than that…
BT – Yeah, I organize our annual alumni golf outing. But remember, I had a golf course in my front yard growing up, so running a golf outing is really easy for me.
AT – Well I know we appreciate it. Thanks. So what prompted you to stay involved with our Fraternity Chapter… especially since we have temporarily left campus?
BT – Well my father-in-law taught at the University so we were back in Iowa City on a regular basis and I made it a point to stop into the chapter once in a while to see how things were going. I remember one time walking into the house while initiation was going on. It was different than mine, but I could see the similarities. Over time I watched the ebb and flow of our chapter and have become friends with many brothers over the years. I like remaining involved.
AT – Are you involved in any other human service activities?
BT – I am very, very involved with Kiwanis. I have been the Lieutenant Governor five times in the last ten years. I work with a variety of clubs. They are all different, probably like our fraternity chapters. Learning how to work with different people in ACACIA has helped me work with different people and groups within Kiwanis. And it’s especially rewarding to see all the good work Kiwanis does for their respective communities and members.
AT – Last question, if you could pass on advice to today’s ACACIANS what would it be?
BT – At some point, a person gets to learn what they want to learn, not something forced upon them. It’s important to discover how you learn and use that knowledge to continue to learn.
Second, always look for someone “behind” you, take that person under your wing and bring them along with you. Make them better. People need good teachers who take the time to help them learn and apply their knowledge.
As I looked back, I wish we spent less time just sitting around. As a Chapter, we had so much opportunity to go out and make a difference in the community. We were surrounded by brothers with talent, and should have done more with that talent. I would advise younger ACACIANS to do something positive with the talented chapter you have. It is personally and fraternally rewarding.
AT – Thanks Brother Tabor