Alumni Profile: Jay Geshay (Purdue ’80)

The following interview was done by Joel Zeni, a member of the volunteer Cornerstones Task Force, and an active member of the Oregon State Chapter.  In this article, Joel (JZ) interviews Jay Geshay (JG) about his experience as an undergraduate & how that experience has shaped his life.  Brother Geshay was initiated in 1980 at Purdue, has received the Order of Pythagoras & the Award of Merit, and is currently Senior Vice President of Community Planning and Strategic Initiatives with United Way of Central Indiana . Enjoy!

JZ: Jay, thanks for agreeing to do this interview.  

JG: Thanks for asking Joel.  

JZ: You were initiated in 1979 at Purdue, and held the undergraduate positions of Pledge Class President, Sentinel, and have gone on to volunteer as an Alumni in the role of House Corporation Board President.  Would you share with me a couple of your most treasured memories of being an active member?

JG: To me, it’s all about relationships.  My favorite times were just the normal, everyday times that I spent with my brothers, eating lunch and joking around, studying until all hours of the night for difficult exams.  Really just staying connected with my brothers was my favorite aspect of the brotherhood.

Jay Geshay

JZ: Tell me about the three most important experiences you had an an active member.

JG: The most important Acacia experiences as an undergraduate was when I was the pledge president in 1979. It taught me about being a leader of my peers and about how to handle the stress of being in the spot light.

Another great experience I had was living in a house with fifty brother who have different life experiences, were raised differently, and communicate differently. The diversity of my Acacia brothers really helped me understand and appreciate differences in others.

Another great aspect of Acacia was the fun social activities and friendships, just the day to day life was an experience that I always enjoyed.

JZ: So after graduation what was your path?  Would you talk about how you got to where you are today?

JG: Well I graduated from Purdue in 1982 and then when to Chicago to get an MBA at Northwestern. After getting my MBA I started a business with a friends. For 15 years I ran this business with the help from all the skills that I learned from Acacia.

After receiving a Masters of Divinity, I accepted the position that I have now which is the Senior Vice President of Community Planning and Strategic Initiatives with United Way of Central Indiana. I have had this job for the last five years.

JZ:
You talked about obtaining important skills  and principles from Acacia to run your business and your job at United Way, what were they?

JG:
There are three principles that I have embraced since being an undergrad.

The most important was the success of your brother. If you help other succeed, you will succeed.

Another important principle is maintaining a strong reputation with everyone you meet.

Finally a principal that sets Acacia apart from the rest is the focus on service to the community. This principal is also a key principal of United Way.

JZ: Knowing what you do now, what additional experiences would you recommend Acacian’s to pursue both undergraduates and Alumni?

JG: I would share with my fellow brother to seek opportunities to serve others and get involved in house, school and community activities.

JZ: If there is just one “Life Lesson” that you believe in, what would that be?

JG: Life is about relationships. Build, nurture, and enjoy them.

JZ: One of the main aspects of Cornerstones is life long learning, what has your approach been to lifelong learning?

JG: Ask more than you tell, and don’t give up wondering why!

JZ: Wow – it seems like all of these lessons are at the forefront of your mind.  

JG: They really are because these are lessons I use everyday.

JZ: Well thank you for your involvement over the years, and for your time today.  

JG:My pleasure, thanks again for asking.

Alumni Profile: Byron Tabor (Iowa ’78)

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.”

Chapter Treasurer

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.

Byron today

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

Optimal Fraternity Experience

Cornerstones 2.0 reflects a rethinking of how we interact with the program.  Along with Cornerstones 2.0 comes a revised mission statement to guide our activities.

A mission statement answers the questions: “What do we do?” “For whom do we do it?” “What is the impact?”

The re-written Mission Statement of Cornerstones is:
To create & foster the optimal fraternity experience* for every individual member of Acacia Fraternity by providing an environment that promotes continual self-development, accountability to shared goals, and standards for personal conduct. The resulting outcome is graduating seniors who are able to articulate the positive impact of Acacia Fraternity in their lives, as well as their plans for staying involved as an alumni member.

* “Optimal Fraternity Experience 

The idea of the “optimal fraternity experience” is a combination of two ideas.

1. from a question that Darold Larson likes to ask undergraduates – “Are you having a good fraternity experience?”

  • Generally speaking, if you have a “good fraternity experience”, it is much more likely that you will stay involved as an alumni in some manner at some point.  This is what we’re going for.
  • If you have a “bad fraternity experience”, it is likely that you will not want to be involved as an alumni, and therefore might never get to fully realize the positive impact that the fraternity could have in your life.

2. from the book Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi.

In the book, optimal experience, or “flow” is defined as:

the state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter; the experience itself is so enjoyable that people will do it even at great cost, for the sheer sake of doing it”.

“Flow” is also described in the book as being the same phenomenon as when athletes are “in the Zone”.

One of the characteristics of Flow is that you lose a sense of time passing – or in other words, you are so engaged in doing whatever you’re doing that a 2-hour timeframe seems to pass by in 20 minutes.

How Flow Theory Relates to Cornerstones & Your Goals / Ambitions / Objectives

The Cornerstones Personal Development Plan document is intended to help you define & refine your own ideas & beliefs about what is most important to you in your life.

This is the first substantive step recommended for any pledge or member (& even for alumni!)

This first step is so vital because ultimately it is best for you to be working towards goals or objectives that are personally meaningful to you.

Flow Theory

(description copied verbatim from Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi, Harper Perennial Modern Classics; 1ST edition – July 1, 2008)

The essential steps to get into Flow are:

  1. to set an overall goal, and as many  subgoals as are realistically feasible;
  2. to find ways of  measuring progress in terms of the goals chosen;
  3. to keep  concentrating on what one is doing, and to keep making  finer and finer distinctions in the challenges involved in the  activity;
  4. to develop the skills necessary to interact with  the opportunities available; and
  5. to keep raising the stakes  if the activity becomes boring (or if you reach your goal)

So What? 

Glad you asked.  The goal is to get to a place where every member of your chapter could answer positively to Brother Larson’s question: “Are you having a good fraternity experience?”  
There are, of course, a number of elements that contribute to the answer of this question – but I would humbly suggest that if every member of your chapter were to complete the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan, do all of the exercises within, every one would be that much closer to living their ideal life.  At the very least, each member would know what they are intending to do in their life.
The idea is that once you have completed your Cornerstones Personal Development Plan all you would need to do each semester is review your values, visionmission / purpose statment, strengths, then re-define your goals & action plans for the upcoming semester.

Questions for You – Leave a Comment

What do you think of this idea of “optimal fraternity experience?”   Is it attainable?  What would it take to attain it?

Example of E + R = O

Ok, so to remind you of where this post came from, I’m going to copy some text here from another post “Response-Ability Determines Growth”, then we will go on & analyze a relevant situation using this formula.

Formula for Taking Response-Ability

In a book that I have frequently mentioned, The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield puts this principle first and foremost of all of the 64 principles discussed in that book.  He calls it “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life”, and he provides a simple formula to help illustrate this point.

E + R = O (or Event + Response = Outcome)

The explanation from the book follows:

“The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it is success or failure, joy or frustration) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event or events in your life.  If you don’t like the outcomes you are currently getting, there are two basic choices you can make:

  1. You can blame the event (E) for your lack of results (O).  In other words, you can blame the economy, the weather, the lack of money, your lack of education, the current administration in Washington, your bosses attitude, and so on…  No doubt all of these factors do exist, but if they were the deciding factor, nobody would ever succeed.
  2. You can instead simply change your responses (R) to the events (E) – the way things are – until you get the outcomes (O) you want.  You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of yourself & the world) – and you can change your behavior – the things you do.  That is all you really have control over anyway… Everything you think, say & do needs to become intentional & aligned with your purpose, your values, & your goals.”

Ok, so how does this apply?

Let’s examine the following scenario  and see how a change in Response can change the Outcome.

Event – In order to graduate from your degree program, you must complete and verify an internship experience.

Response #1: You submit a resume to a promising employer for the following summer.  You will wait to hear back from the employer.

  • Possible Outcome: Your resume will be received through their online system & filed alongside 250 other resumes.  When the time comes to choose who will get the job, this company has a policy to only consider those potential hires that have followed up with the company after submitting, which is only 25 applicants, and you are not on that list.  Sorry, no job for you.

Response #2: You submit a resume to a promising employer for the following summer.  You follow up your resume submittal with an email to their human resources department to verify that they have received it.  Once you have verified that, you will wait to hear back from the employer

  • Possible Outcome: Your resume will be received through their online system & filed alongside 250 other resumes.  When the time comes to choose who will get the job, this company has a policy to only consider those potential hires that have followed up with the company after submitting, which is only 25 applicants, and you ARE on that list!  Congratulations, you get an interview! Now you have a chance to wow them with your interpersonal skills!  But you show up for the interview 5 minutes late, which is one of their pet peeves, and they interview you but don’t hire you… sorry, but a good effort.

Response #3: You submit a resume to a promising employer for the following summer.  You follow up your resume submittal with an email to their human resources department to verify that they have received it.  Once you have verified that, you write a personal thank you note to the human resources employee who responded to your email, thanking them for taking the time in what was probably a very busy day.  You mention in the note that you will be following up with them via phone next week if you haven’t heard from them at that point.

  • Possible Outcome: Your resume will be received through their online system & filed alongside 250 other resumes.  When the time comes to choose who will get the job, this company has a policy to only consider those potential hires that have followed up with the company after submitting, which is only 25 applicants, and you ARE on that list!  Having already sent the thank you note to the HR employee, unbeknownst to you, you are on the very short list of 3 applicants that they are “actually considering” for the position.  Congratulations, you get an interview & the inside scoop that you are one of three being considered for the position, and that since the HR person “just loved your note”, and since he or she “actually makes most of the hiring decisions”, you’ve made a very positive impact.  You show up early for the interview, ace it, and find out later that you receive the internship, congratulations!

Can you see how important it is to have the correct response to the conditions in our lives?  Can you see how taking the responsibility to focus your attention just a little bit more than you did in the first example could potentially lead to a much better result?

The challenge is to make these kinds of decisions & choices in every area of our life in which we want to see positive results.  You have the power to determine many, if not all, of the conditions in your life.

It is your responsibility to tailor your Responses to the Events in your life in order to achieve the Outcomes that you want.

Take responsibility to achieve the outcomes that you want by refusing to resort to blaming or complaining.  Anytime you feel like blaming or complaining, stop & ask yourself : “What kind of response from me would lead me in the direction of the outcome I’m shooting for?”  Listen to your inner voice, and do what that voice says!

Response-Ability Determines Growth

It is not what happens to you, but how you react that matters.” – Epictetus

The Inner Gate of Change

You are ultimately responsible for your own growth & development.

You are the only person who can make the decision, for you, to choose to participate in the Cornerstones Program.

Here are a couple of quotes that are relevant to everyone’s personal development:

No one can persuade another to change.  Each of us guards a gate of change that can only be opened from the inside.  We cannot open the gate of another, either by argument or emotional appeal.” – Marilyn Ferguson, American author, educator, & public speaker

I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestioned ability of a man to elevate his life by conscious endeavor.” – Henry David Thoreau – US Transcendentalist author (1817 – 1862)

The quote above reflects a mindset (or paradigm or perspective) that believes in the ability of every human to choose their response to the events that happen in their lives, regardless of what those events are.

Formula for Taking Response-Ability

In a book that I have frequently mentioned, The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield puts this principle first and foremost of all of the 64 principles discussed in that book.  He calls it “Take 100% Responsibility for Your Life”, and he provides a simple formula to help illustrate this point.

E + R = O (or Event + Response = Outcome)

The explanation from the book follows:

“The basic idea is that every outcome you experience in life (whether it is success or failure, joy or frustration) is the result of how you have responded to an earlier event or events in your life.  If you don’t like the outcomes you are currently getting, there are two basic choices you can make:

  1. You can blame the event (E) for your lack of results (O).  In other words, you can blame the economy, the weather, the lack of money, your lack of education, the current administration in Washington, your bosses attitude, and so on…  No doubt all of these factors do exist, but if they were the deciding factor, nobody would ever succeed.
  2. You can instead simply change your responses (R) to the events (E) – the way things are – until you get the outcomes (O) you want.  You can change your thinking, change your communication, change the pictures you hold in your head (your images of yourself & the world) – and you can change your behavior – the things you do.  That is all you really have control over anyway… Everything you think, say & do needs to become intentional & aligned with your purpose, your values, & your goals.”

What will your choice be? 

No one is going to hold you accountable for your own growth & development if you don’t hold yourself accountable first.  You must make the choice and say,

  • “You know what?  I’m going to work on my time management skills so that I can achieve at a higher level”, or
  • “Alright that’s it, I’m going to learn about the best way to run a group meeting so that I don’t have to waste so much time just trying to make a decision”, or
  • “There’s just got to be a better way to give a speech than the way I’ve been doing it – I’m going to do some research & incorporate what I learn.”

That’s all that Cornerstones represents.  As I mentioned in a previous post – if your response to Cornerstones is something along the lines of “Man that s^%# isn’t gonna make a difference in my life”, then you are exactly right.

And likewise if your response to Cornerstones is “Hmmm, there might be something here for me, I’m going to just try it out by completing the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan, and see what happens…”  You will get a different Outcome or result than the member in the first example.

Take responsibility to achieve the outcomes that you want by refusing to resort to blaming or complaining.  Anytime you feel like blaming or complaining, stop & ask yourself : “What kind of response from me would lead me in the direction of the outcome I’m shooting for?”  Listen to your inner voice, and do what that voice says!

Jumpstart Cornerstones at Your Chapter

10 Actions to Jumpstart Cornerstones at Your Chapter (Active Members)

1 ) Have every member complete the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan. Schedule a time for the members of your chapter (& pledges if applicable) to complete the personal development plan template provided by Acacia HQ.  Or just share the url with all of your members & set a timeframe within which it is to be completed.

2 ) Post everyone’s personal goals in a public location, whether that be in your chapter house, or online through GoogleDocs, or ACACIAconnect.org, or individual blog sites for each member.   Knowing each other’s goals will make it easier to support each other, as well as reveal to each other what we consider to be the most important aspects of our lives.  Some may hesitate to make their goals public, and that’s ok.  Some may want to keep some goals private, and that’s ok also.  If members are not willing to share their goals, at least ask that they share their Values, as written out in the Values Clarification exercise in the Cornerstones Personal Development Plan.

3) Implement weekly Accountability Group meetings. Schedule times for 5 – 6  members with similar goals (or similar grade levels) to have a brief meeting, during which everyone has a chance to discuss their progress on their current goals.  In the book The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield calls this a “MasterMind meeting”, and recommends the following 7 steps.

Group at ALA '11

  1. Ask for Spiritual Guidance by Delivering an Invocation (use Bless Now Acacia, or this book suggests something along these lines: “We ask now to be filled & surrounded with light, and our hearts be open to receive guidance from the higher power.”)
  2. Share What’s New & Good (in terms of making progress toward your goals)
  3. Negotiate for Time (determine how much time each group member will have for the focus to be on them)
  4. Individual Members Speak While the Group Listens & Brainstorms Solutions (remember – in brainstorming there are no “bad ideas” – keep your mind open)
  5. Make a Commitment to Stretch (once each member gains feedback, ask each member to verbally commit to a next action to move him forward & the commitment should be a stretch)
  6. End with a Moment of Gratitude (go around and have each member express one thing he appreciates about each other person in the group)
  7. Be Accountable (at next meeting, simply ask “Did each member take action?  Did they achieve their goal?”).
  • (this content was paraphrased from pages 310 – 312 in The Success Principles by Jack Canfield, published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2005)

4 ) Implement an Accountability Partner system by which each member (that is interested in participating) has a partner with whom they “check in” each day simply to talk about successes they have had in reaching their goals and their plans for next action steps to continue to move toward their goals.  Also in The Success Principles, author Jack Canfield suggests that “The key to a successful accountability relationship is choosing someone who is as excited about reaching his or her goal as you are about reaching yours – someone who is committed to your success and theirs.” (from page 313 of The Success Principles, published by Harper Collins Publishers, 2005)

5 ) Survey the entire chapter to discover topics of interest for “educational/developmental presentations”, compile the results, then use all of your resources to schedule presentations that are relevant to the topics of interest.  You can use the Survey or Poll functions through your ACACIAconnect.org account for this purpose.  Simply navigate to the Tools menu from your ACACIAconnect.org Dashboard, select Survey or Polls, follow the instructions & share with your chapter members.

6 ) Discover opportunities hosted by university community.  Find out if your university (or the Student Union Board, or the Student Body, or the Campus Activities office, or the Career Center) schedules & hosts any expert speakers that would fulfill any of the above-mentioned topics of interest. If so, publicize the event to the chapter and encourage members to go.  Hold a brief discussion afterwards to hone in on key points made during presentation, by asking these basic questions that could be used to reflect on any development activity:

  1. “What?” – as in “What experience did you just have?”
  2. “So What?” – as in “How is this experience relevant to you?”
  3. “Now What?” – as in “What will you do now that you have this new knowledge, experience, mindset, or perspective?”

eNewsletter example

7 ) Publish an eNewsletter to send out to alumni in which you provide brief bios of each of the members of your chapter, including which of the members are currently looking for internship or employment opportunities.  Each chapter is encouraged to work with Acacia Headquarters to create eNewsletters to be sent out to you alumni – or you can take this into your own hands & just get it done.  If you are interested in creating & distributing eNewsletters, please contact Keith Bushey at kbushey@acacia.org

8 ) Use your alumni as resources.  Use the results of your earlier survey to discover topics of interest for “educational/developmental presentations”, and publish a list of topics in your eNewsletter (or on your chapter website) that the chapter is interested in.  Once you get this list published, recruit alumni members to deliver educational presentations on one of the following topics (or any other you’re interested in):

  • Time Management
  • Goal Setting
  • Job Search
  • How to Find a Mentor
  • Things I Wish I Knew When I Was in College
  • Financial Management
  • or any other topic that the chapter is interested in

9 ) Build your “Cornerstones Library”.  Create a “wish list for a Cornerstones Library”, then do whatever you have to do to bring it to life, and use the contents of the Cornerstones library for the personal development of chapter members. Do some research to find out about any books or training materials that meet the topics of interest (mentioned above) in terms of utilizing them for Cornerstones discussions/activities. If you’re having trouble deciding which books to select, take a look at a previous post for some ideas.  For example, let’s say you wanted to purchase copies of The Success Principles for all members of your chapter, and that you were able to do that.  Those books could then be used in the Accountability Group structure, by assigning the reading of sections of the book to Accountability Group members, then focusing on those sections during your meetings.  All you would need to do is ask yourself: “What did everyone discover in the assigned section?”, “How is that relevant to your life situation?”, and “What will you do now that you have this new knowledge?”

10 ) Take responsibility and ownership for your own development, bring along any brothers who are interested, and don’t waste time trying to motivate members who just aren’t motivated to work on their personal development.  This may be difficult to understand, but you cannot change another person.  Change only happens from within that individual.  You can do your best to inform your members of opportunities that are available, and inform them of what you are doing in your own life, and the benefits that you are seeing as a result.  Cornerstones is about commitment, not compliance.  We are interested in working together with other brothers that are committed to their own development.  We are not interested in telling brothers that they “have to” participate in Cornerstones, because that will automatically set up resistance in their mind, which will make it harder for them to commit.  Work on your own sphere of influence – your own thoughts, ideas, and attitudes.  Let your actions speak for you.  Let others see a change in you, and soon they will be asking how you are doing what you’re doing.