Greek Row: The power of Sigma Chi

By By Rochelle McConkie

By Rochelle McConkie

Mayor Rocky Anderson, businessman Willard Marriott and Russell M. Nelson, a top leader in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, all have one thing in common — during their college years, they were members of the Sigma Chi fraternity at the U.

Traditionally, participation in Sigma Chi has been a track to leadership and community service for many “Sigs.” Members of the fraternity said this has to do with their strong emphasis on civic duty, brotherhood and diversity.

The fraternity is by far the largest at the U and has almost twice as many members as the next biggest chapter.

Five out of the last seven presidents of the Associated Students of the University of Utah have been Sigma Chis, including current Student Body President Spencer Pearson.

Vice President Basim Motiwala, who’s also a Sigma Chi, said it’s a coincidence that so many ASUU leaders are Sigma Chis, but it has become kind of a tradition for members to run. Motiwala said members aren’t told to run for office, and they don’t talk about it in meetings, but everyone is encouraged to be active on campus outside of Greek Row.

“It’s good to get involved, and ASUU is a path that most people follow,” he said.

Tim Jones, president of Sigma Chi, said some members are planning to run for office in the upcoming student body elections.

“It’s not like they do a secret campaign, but these guys are well-liked on Greek Row and well-received on campus,” Jones said.

Greek support typically makes the difference in many student government elections, since members of sororities and fraternities often make up a large proportion of those who vote and volunteer in campaigns. Motiwala said being a member of Sigma Chi helped him and Pearson get elected, since they already had good relations with other houses.

However, members don’t always have to be loyal to fraternity brothers running for ASUU office, Motiwala said. When he and Pearson ran for General Assembly positions in 2005, they ran with a party that was led by Sigma Chis, although there were Sigs running for the presidency with another party.

“It depends on who is running,” he said.

Jones said they often advertise their strong alumni when recruiting new members for the fraternity, noting that businessman Jon Huntsman Sr. and most of his sons, J. Willard Marriott of the Marriott corporation and LDS apostles Joseph Wirthlin and Russell Ballard all came out of Sigma Chi. Other business leaders such as Bob Garff and several other owners of car dealerships in Salt Lake City were also members of the fraternity.

Other national alumni include actor John Wayne, talk show host Dave Letterman, former President Grover Cleveland and actor Brad Pitt.

“It’s empowering to know that you belong to a community of men that are bound to succeed,” Jones said.

Thomas Wright, who was a Sigma Chi at the U from 1991 to 1997 and now owns the Sigma Chi house, said the diversity of the fraternity sets it apart, bringing in Utah and out-of-state students of different religions, majors and life situations.

“When you get into a situation where you have diversity, but common goals of what you want to be…that’s what makes for success,” Wright said.

Wright ran for the Utah House of Representatives for District 28 last year but lost to Democrat Roz McGee.

Jones said the Sigma Chi fraternity encourages high ambitions and teaches members how to be successful after they leave college. He said the Beta Theta Pi fraternity also has a strong alumni network.

“All of Greek Row should be producing leaders,” Jones said. “That’s my goal — to have all of my brothers going on to do great things in their lives.”

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Jarad Reddekopp

Sigma Chi member Matt Eve looks over the 2006-07 the Sigma Chi house roster.