Significant Sig and 1972 International Balfour Award Winner David Dillon, KANSAS 1973, remembers a Sigma Chi program being available to chapters in the early 1970s that helped build brotherhood and leadership in a group atmosphere.
In 1972, under the initiative of 46th Grand Consul, Significant Sig and Order of Constantine Sig John W. Graham, Q.C., TORONTO-RYERSON 1933, Order of Constantine Sig and East Michigan Grand Praetor Jon Greenawalt, PENNSYLVANIA 1961, and Order of Constantine Sig Sandy Thomson, DENISON 1959, designed the Membership Development Program, known then to members by the nickname, “The Rainbow Project.”
From 1972–76, the program traveled around North America to Sigma Chi chapters, offering a weekend retreat at the host’s chapter house to help develop leadership and brotherhood. The Fraternity abandoned the program in 1978 because operating costs were too expensive.
Almost 40 years later, Dillon, now the CEO and chairman of the board at the Kroger Co., is assisting the Fraternity in launching the Journey chapter retreat program thanks to the impression left on him by “The Rainbow Project.”
“The thing that interests me, and it’s not a lot to do with Journey specifically, but it’s with the whole process of, ‘How do you take a group of brothers and teach them some true brotherhood skills?’” Dillon says. “We, for way too long, heard the [sayings] that Sigma Chi was just a place to have parties and have a few good friends to live with, but not much else. That’s really what has driven me. I have been interested in the Fraternity having something beyond that [stereotypical view], and instead having experiences that the brothers enjoy, learn and grow from life-changing experiences.”
Dillon, who will be a Distinguished Visitor at 2012 Balfour LTW at Purdue University in West Lafayette, Ind., made a lead donation to the Sigma Chi Foundation to help launch the Journey initiative.
Curriculum for the Journey program will be taught to alumni facilitators for the first time this summer at Balfour Leadership Training Workshop. If a chapter requests a Journey chapter retreat, it currently can choose from four workshops that last from 4–7 hours in length. Journey workshops cover Chapter rEvolution, Ritual and Values, Strategic Visioning and Strengthening Our Brotherhood. Two more Journey workshop modules are in the works, and the Fraternity plans for many more modules to be implemented in the future.
Dillon remembers prominent alumni returning to give back to his chapter when he was an undergraduate. Now, he, too, wants to return the favor after Sigma Chi taught him the leadership skills necessary to be in charge of 2,500 supermarkets, 800 convenient stores and 400 jewelry stores.
“When you are in college and you are going through the Fraternity, you look at some of the alumni who come back for different things and who are a part of [the Fraternity’s programs] and they have played meaningful roles in making things possible [for their younger brothers],” Dillon says. “Probably the early seed was planted when I saw the roles these people who I admired played when they came back to our chapter or when they came to [Balfour LTW].”
After serving on Balfour LTW’s faculty almost 35 years ago, Dillon is looking forward to returning to the summer event. He will have to mix business with pleasure, of course. Dillon will be visiting area Kroger stories as well. “What the Fraternity meant to me in college was the opportunity to learn my way as a leader,” Dillon says. “That actually made a difference [in my life].”