Barry McNamara  |  Published April 16, 2019

A Celebration of Greek Life

Ben Nelson named Greek Man of the Year, Sarah Wright named Greek Woman of the Year.
Sarah Wright was named Greek Woman of the Year, and Ben Nelson was named Greek Man of the Year.
Sarah Wright was named Greek Woman of the Year, and Ben Nelson was named Greek Man of the Year.

MONMOUTH, Ill. – The recipients of this year’s Monmouth College Greek Man and Woman of the Year awards are both chapter presidents who have helped their organizations achieve big things.

Ben Nelson ’20 of Bedford, N.H., and Sarah Wright ’19 received the honors last month at the close of Greek Week for their active roles with Zeta Beta Tau and Pi Beta Phi, respectively.

Nelson is in the midst of his presidency, which spans the current calendar year, while Wright graduated in December after playing a key role in another of this year’s Greek life awards – the honor for excellence in chapter operations.

“That’s an award Pi Phi hasn’t won in recent memory, so to be a part of the team that made that possible for our chapter was a truly outstanding and memorable moment for me,” said Wright.

She and Nelson both worked their way up to their chapter’s main executive position. Wright was vice president of administration, while Nelson served as communications director and recruitment director. In the latter role, he helped bring in eight new members, bolstering ZBT’s numbers.

“It’s been cool to see the house grow,” he said. “Looking ahead to next year, we’re going to have a really strong group and we’re looking forward to doing even more good things.”

The advantages of Greek life

ZBT’s philanthropies are the Children’s Miracle Network and the American Cancer Society. Nelson said he is proud of the money his fraternity raises for the two groups and appreciates how his involvement with Greek life raises the bar on what he’s accomplishing in college.

“I’m super committed to the Greek life system,” he said. “I like that we commit to a higher standard for our GPA. That’s just one of the many ways that being in a fraternity helps you go above and beyond.”

Wright agreed that Greek life had a profound effect on her college experience.

“Some of the most lasting changes I see in myself due to Greek life are servant leadership and empathy,” she said. “I didn’t really know what servant leadership looked like before coming to college, but after my term as chapter president I can see that servant leadership can drive lots of change because you are leading based on the group’s desires and expectations. You’re not leading based on what you think the chapter should be.”

She said empathy came from the close bonds she developed with her Pi Phi sisters.

“As I grew closer to my sisters, I could greater understand that every single person has a story and every single person has had serious, defining experiences in their life that make them not only who they are, but dictate how they interact with other people,” she said. “I learned that having empathy, respect and gaining perspective – especially in times of conflict – helps usher in a sincere resolution and greater understanding between individuals.”

Nelson also noted the type of relationships that are forged at Monmouth. When deciding whether to attend a small college in New England or to attend Monmouth, the alma mater of his mother, Cheryl Conaway-Nelson ’90, he said he liked the “homogenous” feel he got on campus.

“It’s a really pretty campus, and I just could feel that there was a very homogenous relationship between the faculty and the students,” said Nelson. “I thought that was kind of unique, and I didn’t that get vibe at some of the schools I visited back East.”

Greek ties that bind

Wright said one of the highlights of her days as a Pi Phi was organizing an event that brought the campus together.

“We organized the All-Greek Cookie Shine, in which Pi Phi invited all Greek life members over to our chapter house and celebrated being Greek,” she said. “This tradition is unique in that it is public, and something we can share with Greeks and non-Greeks. It was a hit, and I was so proud to be able to have brought that to life with my executive team and the support of the whole chapter.”

Another similarity between the two award winners is their appreciation for the networks created through Greek life.

“It’s cool to meet people from other chapters and share that understanding that we’re bound by common threads,” said Nelson, who has attended ZBT events in Charlotte, N.C., Chicago and Champaign, Ill.

A biology major with a chemistry minor, Nelson plans to pursue a master’s degree in genetics or genomics after he graduates from Monmouth next May.

Wright has already used her network to begin a job at a mortgage company in Schaumburg, Ill.

“I solidified the job because of my ‘big’ in Pi Phi, Allie Vallance ’17,” she said. “My experiences in Pi Phi and at Monmouth have helped me excel in my role at this company.”

With her days at Monmouth now behind her, Wright offered some advice for the students following her in Greek life.

“I would encourage any new members to take advantage of the programming that your national or regional teams facilitate,” she said. “These programs have led me to make great friendships and build my professional network nationwide. Not to mention, the material offered at these events tends to be very rewarding and insightful.”

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