UNDERGRADUATE AWARD OF DISTINCTION

The NIC’s Undergraduate Award of Distinction recognizes fraternity men who, throughout in their collegiate experience, have found an outlet for development as both a leader and a better man. They are exemplary members of their organizations and serve their brothers, campuses and fraternity/sorority communities with humble confidence.

2018 honorees

Congratulations to the 2018 NIC Undergraduate Award of Distinction recipients! Click on the recipient’s name to learn more. 

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Doug Abramowitz

Zeta Beta Tau, Purdue University

“Doug Abramowitz has proven himself as one of the very best that Zeta Beta Tau and Purdue University have to offer,” said one nominator. “He is the definition of a fraternity man and a leader. He leads by example in all facets of his life and inspires others to be better.” Since Doug was elected to the Interfraternity Council (IFC) Executive Board he has been a driving force for community health, safety and responsibility initiatives. His work is grounded in improving the overall quality and long-term sustainability of the fraternity and sorority experience. Doug helped lead the re-design and implementation of the peer monitoring group, Safety and Risk Management Authority (SARMA), the implementation of the hard alcohol ban in chapter facilities and the transition from university adjudication to a self-governed council judicial model. He has consistently shown the willingness and ability to address complex issues and do what is necessary to advance the fraternity and sorority community. As a student, Doug maintains a 3.4 GPA in one of the top professional flight programs in America and has accepted a position as a commercial pilot to begin in summer 2018.

Connor Aller

Pi Kappa Phi, Missouri State University

As president of his Pi Kappa Phi chapter, Connor developed a “score card” system that helped the chapter see the measurable outcomes from its operations and streamline processes to increase efficiency. As a result, during his term the chapter had the highest GPA in its history. Connor also developed and implemented an Emerging Leaders Program within the chapter to provide skill development to potential leaders. His impact on the fraternity has been significant and lasting. The chapter received Missouri State’s Chapter of the Year award from the Interfraternity Council (IFC) and was recognized as a top 12 chapter within Pi Kappa Phi. Connor maintained an impressive level of involvement within the chapter as past President. He has served as Social Chair, working diligently to eliminate high-risk situations and unregistered events, and he currently serves as Scholarship Chair. In this role, Connor has developed a Scholarship Opportunity Class, in which men who are not meeting the fraternity’s GPA expectations can attend to develop successful study habits, learn from other brothers through an academic mentorship program, and show their commitment to themselves and the fraternity. His commitment has resulted in being the only brother to receive the chapter Member of the Year award twice. Connor also received the Fraternity and Sorority Life Outstanding Fraternity Sophomore Award, Outstanding Fraternity Junior Award, and most recently, the Man of the Year Award out of the more than 1,500 men in the IFC community.

Rhys Collins

Sigma Nu, East Carolina University

“Of the many students I’ve worked with, this was one of the most natural recommendations I’ve had the privilege to write,” said one nominator. “I’m honored to have had the opportunity to work with Rhys Collins and look forward to watching him continue to grow as an integral leader in the community.” Rhys has served as a chapter and Interfraternity Council President (IFC) during a year of “turmoil and shift” in culture at East Carolina University. He has supported the IFC community to create positive change through four chapter closures, media scrutiny, three staff transitions, and additional hurdles. Rhys hasn’t shied away from a challenge; he has provided leadership for the IFC Executive Board and its chapters with the message that everyone needs to do better and progress takes work. He supports other leaders and has done an incredible job calling people up to the plate, mentoring them, and encouraging them to “be the change.” His structure and inspiration have turned the community around with a new sense of purpose. He’s helped campus organizations understand accountability and safety, ensuring stronger brotherhood and increased sustainability of ECU chapters. Rhys is involved in multiple capacities across campus and its organizations and community are “lucky to have his honesty and integrity as a leader.”

Juan Hernandez

Lambda Theta Phi, University of Northern Iowa

Through his leadership and contributions to the campus and fraternity and sorority community, Juan Hernandez has made positive changes and is leaving his mark on his university.
As President of the Lambda Theta Phi colony at University of Northern Iowa, he has been integral to the group’s successes. The colony has partnered with several organizations on campus that provide cultural and educational programs in the campus community. Lambda Theta Phi was one of a group of organizations that planned the university’s first Latino Heritage Month, a campus-wide celebration. Juan also serves on the university’s Suicide Prevention and Mental Health Awareness Committee that provides education and trains peer leaders. He is also part of the Diversity Fund Committee, which reviews grant requests of funds for diversity-related campus programs, and he has worked with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life to host the first campus-wide Multicultural Greek Showcase. He gives generously of his time as an English Teaching Assistant at the local YWCA and also serves as an Ethnic Student Promoter in the nearby greater Cedar Falls and Waterloo communities in Iowa.

Ramiro Jimenez

Acacia, Illinois State University

Currently President of the Interfraternity Council (IFC) at Illinois State University, Ramiro Jimenez has been an exceptional leader for the campus community and innovator in his approach to enhancing the fraternity experience. Soon after his initiation into Acacia in 2015, Ramiro began taking on leadership roles within the organization, serving first as Service Chair. He was able to show brothers the joy of serving others through organizing service projects that directly give back to the community, like partnering with elderly homeowners to complete outside chores and creating partnerships with local agencies such as the Humane Society and Habitat for Humanity. Ramiro also served his chapter as House Manager and IFC Delegate. Through the latter role, he built relationships with other chapters and his constant reliability led him to become a member of the IFC cabinet, then IFC VP of Programming and most recently IFC President. Throughout these opportunities, Ramiro created trust amongst the fraternity community and showcased his personal integrity. He is also a proud member of the campus Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Otha “Tre” Nelson

Sigma Nu, Northwestern State University

“Tre, as he is called on campus, is without a doubt one of our most active, engaged and well-rounded students at NSU,” said one nominator. His resume speaks for itself, highlighting involvement and accomplishments such as Student Body President, Greek Man of the Year, Homecoming King, and Mr. Northwestern State University. He accumulated a consistent record of service and leadership to his chapter, including serving as Vice President, Social Chairman, Alumni Relations Chairman, and Housing Chairman. He has also served Sigma Nu Fraternity on the national level as a collegiate member of the board of directors and the lone student voice on the LEAD Advisory Committee. For two years, he lobbied for the fraternity/sorority experience on Capitol Hill, and he served as the national student board member of the Fraternity and Sorority Political Action Committee. “Tre is truly a fraternity man of distinction, not just at Northwestern State, but with his work on Capitol Hill and in Sigma Nu Fraternity,” another nominator said. Throughout his fraternity involvement, Tre has shown an “impressive ability to consider complex and broad issues through the lens of the larger community and to offer perspective on behalf of all chapters and undergraduates.”

MIKE POGGEMILLER

ALPHA GAMMA RHO, IOWA State University

As Interfraternity Council (IFC) President, Mike Poggemiller committed to being accessible and approachable for all chapter Presidents. He brought his “energy and positive attitude to the emerging leaders of the community,” said one nominator. Mike served as his chapter’s Public Relations Chair, Secretary and newsletter editor. In 2017, he was selected as one of four collegiate members to serve as Undergraduate Directors on Alpha Gamma Rho’s national board of directors. “Perhaps, the most significant contribution from Mike Poggemiller comes from his drive to do what is right, even when it is not popular,” said a campus nominator. “With growing enrollment at Iowa State, we have seen an increase in high-risk drinking by students the weekend before school starts in the fall semester. Mike knew this and was committed to cultivating a change.” Under his leadership, the IFC moved their New Member Symposium to the Saturday before school. By hosting the event on this day, Mike led an educational program for the newest members of the community, removed them from a high-risk opportunity, and welcomed them to the community. “This decision was not welcomed by every chapter or member of our community. In fact, Mike took some heat from his peers about this decision, but at the end of the day, he knew this is what needed to be done to be the community we want to be.”

lucas renz

sigma phi epsilon, kansas State University

“Lucas has been an incredible IFC President,” said one nominator. “He has added structure and motivated the board, as well as inspired the 26 chapter presidents to engage in tough conversations.” In May 2017, the university dissolved the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life and moved the advisors to another office, leaving the council and its chapters without direct advisory support. At a difficult time for campus fraternities and sororities, Lucas led the IFC in incorporating alumni perspective into decisions, securing the IFC’s finances, and setting up an alumni mentorship board. Lucas kept it together and made the community stronger. Additionally, Lucas was elected by his peers to represent the College of Business on the Student Governing Association Student Senate. He also was involved with the K-State Alumni Association’s Student Homecoming Committee. Another nominator wrote, “Lucas’s integrity, dedication and investment in the fraternity community will serve as a model for future leaders in the years ahead.”

patrick ryan

sigma phi epsilon, University of Toledo

It is clear why so many members of the fraternity and sorority community at The University of Toledo find Patrick “Pat” Ryan to be a mentor and role model. Over the past year he has served as his chapter’s President, a member of Blue Key and Mortar Board, and has continued his passionate support for Veterans Matter. He is someone who believes there is never a shortage of time in a day when you are working on your passions. “He is the true definition of a servant leader and empowers fellow students to become leaders in their own right,” said one nominator. During Pat’s term as Sigma Phi Epsilon President, he had to navigate several challenges. “He was always able to advocate for his members’ concerns and excitements while also recognizing how best the community can move forward,” said another nominator.

Jack Schimpf

beta theta pi, University of Missouri

According to one nominator, Jack Schimpf is a, “man of integrity. He steadfastly chooses accountability over popularity and has earned a high degree of moral authority as a result.” During his time as Beta Theta Pi Chapter President, Jack oversaw tremendous change within his chapter and community, and continues to work to ensure fraternities are taking the action needed to improve. Jack was at the forefront of bold leadership when he helped successfully transition his historic chapter house to a substance-free facility and worked to root out some of the misconceptions of fraternity alive within his own chapter. Jack has worked and continues to work to challenge the norms in his community by serving on committees about conduct processes, University policy, and more. Jack serves as a poised and mature voice advocating for the change all fraternities must undergo. Another nominator said, “He has the wisdom and courage to know and do what is right, even when it’s hard.”

Justin Whitaker

Phi Gamma Delta, Sam Houston State University

At Sam Houston State, Justin Whitaker served as President of his FIJI chapter as well as Order of Omega. He also served on the Interfraternity Council (IFC) executive board as the Recruitment Chairman and won the university’s highest undergraduate award for his work within the fraternity and sorority community and the greater campus community. One nominator said, “Justin gives 110 percent to every position he holds.” Under his leadership, his chapter not only grew and raised its GPA, but also put on its most successful philanthropic event ever for the Shriners Hospital for Children. Additionally, the chapter co-hosted and collaborated with the Project Sunshine organization for the first-ever Sammy Gives Sunshine event. It brought in more than 500 students to help make handwritten cards, stuffed bears, and toys, as well as put together hundreds of care packages for children in hospitals all around the country. Justin is certainly leaving his organization in a better place than when he joined.

Undergraduate Award of Distinction

The Undergraduate Award of Distinction recognizes fraternity men who have found in their experience an outlet for developing as both a leader and a better man.

award criteria & nomination form

A potential Undergraduate Award of Distinction recipient is:

      • An individual who strives to embody the values of his fraternity and expects the same from those with whom he associates.
      • Currently enrolled full-time as an undergraduate student or graduated in the 2017 calendar year.
      • Someone who exhibits high personal standards, academic achievement and a commitment to positive change in the chapter/campus/community.
      • Someone who values and demonstrates campus and fraternity community involvement and participates in community service.

To be considered, nomination must include:

        • Application
        • Fraternity endorsement
        • Institution endorsement
        • Supporting documentation

2017 Undergraduate award of distinction recipients

nick depeel

Phi Mu Delta
Ohio Northern University

Nick DePeel is a re-founding member of Phi Mu Delta’s Mu Beta Chapter at Ohio Northern University. He later became President of the chapter and led the group to be recognized as the top Greek organization on campus, receiving 70 percent of awards within the fraternity and sorority community in 2016. For this work, he was also recognized by Phi Mu Delta as President of the Year at the organization’s 2016 National Conclave.

“As one of the most strategic and driven members of our fraternity, Nick took a small, struggling colony of 13 members to 52 members by the end of his term as President,” once nominator wrote. “Nick embodies what it means to be a good fraternity man. He is loyal to his brothers, holds them accountable and praises their achievements.”

In addition, the men under Nick’s leadership re-imagined Phi Mu Delta’s New Member Education Program. The Leading the Lion’s Pride program emphasizes strong relationship building, knowledge of Phi Mu Delta practices and values, development of emerging leaders and focuses on critical thinking. The National Fraternity was so impressed with the program that it was adopted nationally in January 2017.

Nick is also steadfastly committed to his university and the surrounding community. He has volunteered locally with Habitat for Humanity and the American Red Cross as a Blood Drive Coordinator. On campus, he has served as an orientation leader and is involved with the Kappa Psi Pharmaceutical Fraternity as part of his academic pursuits at ONU.

“Nick displays an incredible amount of passion and has a giving heart,” another nominator wrote. “He’s committed to making a difference in the world and to helping others on a weekly, if not daily basis.” Nick seeks long-term, meaningful relationships with peers that compliment his own style and viewpoints, while also welcoming diversity and showing interest in democratic issues. He continually stresses, “our members are students first and foremost” and commits himself as a resource to his fraternity brothers.

William gradle

Pi Kappa Phi

Western Illinois University

“True leaders understand the potential of others, exhibit self-awareness, exemplify character in thought and action, develop and foster collaborative relationships, and strive to create social change,” one nominator wrote about William Gradle, a member of Pi Kappa Phi at Western Illinois University. “Throughout his tenure at Western Illinois, Wil has distinguished himself as a true leader both within Pi Kappa Phi and across the campus community.”

In addition to serving his chapter as New Member Educator and President, Wil also serves as one of 12 students on Pi Kappa Phi’s council of chapter presidents, an advisory group to both the organization’s national staff and board of directors. Wil has also collaborated with Dr. Lori Hart, Senior Director of Strategic Prevention Initiatives for Pi Kappa Phi, as well as IFC, Panhellenic, and United Greek Council leaders at WIU to develop and propose new community-wide risk management policies. He served as President of the Student Government Association from 2015-16 and student representative to the Western Illinois Board of Trustees in 2016-17, all while maintaining an impressive 3.98 cumulative grade point average.

“Mr. Gradle is a shining example of what students at Western Illinois University should strive for socially, academically, and personally,” one campus nominator wrote. “He has a keen focus on his academic studies and aligns his summer plans with volunteer and internship agendas each summer to hone his human interests and leadership.” Wil is connected to global concerns and lends himself to creating change through his volunteerism in Kentucky communities stricken with extreme poverty and internships with a global revenue management focus. Wil graduated from WIU in May 2017 and expects to complete a Master of Arts in Economics from WIU in May 2018.

During his Student Government Association presidency, he delivered the inaugural State of the Student address where he discussed the future of the university for its students and created a heightened sense of community and college loyalty among his peers. “What is remarkable about Mr. Gradle is the responsible manner in which he encounters life, whether as a student or as a mentor helping to develop the minds of young people,” another nominator wrote. “He is not satisfied with mediocrity and is able to function in environments that require quick responses to challenges that may be presented to him.”

aditya rengaswamy

Theta Chi
Case Western Reserve University

“We have not had a student who has been a better scholar, leader, volunteer, innovator, role model and producer than Aditya.” Aditya Rengaswamy gave countless hours of his time to Theta Chi, his campus community and the surrounding greater Cleveland community while attending Case Western Reserve University. He was the 2016 recipient of Theta Chi’s Reginald E.F. Colley Memorial Trophy, an honor given annually to the most outstanding undergraduate member of the fraternity. In addition, he is a past recipient of the Freshman of the Year Award from Case Western’s Weatherhead School of Management, the Outstanding Student Ambassador Award, the Wolstein Promising Innovation Award and the Dean’s Award in Accounting.

Aditya’s scholastic and academic achievements while serving the community are unparalleled—he coauthored a Franchise MBA book and workbook, taught English at Kalamaja Schools, and co-managed a student venture fund providing financial assistance to student-run startups in the Northeast Ohio region.

Aditya founded and led the Kids Against Hunger Cleveland Chapter, winning the Service Group of the Year Award in 2014. He also served on the Student Executive Board for the What You Do Matters Summit, a program facilitating discussions around hate speech and making conscious changes in diversity and inclusion within the community. In 2015, Aditya served Theta Chi as a Chapter President and made a significant impact on the chapter’s involvement in Mental Health Awareness Week, alumni engagement and financial reporting/budgeting.

“The chapter really flourished under Aditya’s leadership,” one nominator wrote. “He pushed and empowered his brothers to do more and be better as an organization. He focused a lot on increasing the member development opportunities the chapter provides, and held his officers accountable to their duties to keep the chapter moving forward.”

jesse sheldon

Kappa Alpha Order
University of Washington

Jesse Sheldon’s leadership in countless campus and community organizations has led him to receive various accolades from his campus, community and Kappa Alpha Order. Most recently, Jesse has been named the Spokane Valley Entrepreneur of the Year and Spokane Young Philanthropist of the Year. He also received the Spokane Human Rights Award and the Key to the City of Spokane Valley because of his persistence and dedication to improving the lives of others within the community. This recognition follows his work as the founder, Executive Director and President of the Board of Directors for Inland NW Baby, a nonprofit organization providing basic necessities for families with young children in need including diapers, clothing and hygiene items.

“I am very impressed that a young man saw this need in the community and came up with a solution to fill that gap,” one campus nominator wrote. “Kappa Alpha is proud to call Jesse a member; he is someone who embodies the value of his fraternity and expects the same of those around him.”

While serving in such great leadership capacities throughout the community, Jesse has also remained committed to his chapter of Kappa Alpha Order at University of Washington and to his studies in the Lavin Undergraduate Entrepreneurship Program. He has served as both the social chair and recruitment chair for KA, making him the external link for KA to fellow students and potential members, as well as the surrounding community.

“Jesse Sheldon has found in his experience an outlet for developing both as a leader and a better man,” another nominator wrote. “He strives to embody the values of Kappa Alpha Order.” Jesse’s involvement in his chapter has resulted in significant improvements in operations and overall success, including the honor of the Samuel Zenas Award for Chapter Excellence in 2014 and 2015, the highest award KA can bestow upon a collegiate chapter.

eric smith

Sigma Phi Epsilon
Valparaiso University

Eric Smith’s advisors and peers describe him as passionate, intelligent, inquisitive and caring. “I struggle to imagine an individual who more accurately depicts the value of fraternity here at Valparaiso University,” one nominator wrote. “His passion and incredible work ethic have served our community well during his entire undergraduate career, and his tremendous leadership and service are an example to many.”

Eric’s impact on the Indiana Zeta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon has been notable from the very beginning. As a sophomore, Eric stepped up to join the chapter’s executive board when there was a sudden vacancy, helping to provide stability for the chapter. In the spring of that same academic year, the fraternity and sorority community awarded Eric with the Fraternity Emerging Leader Award due in part to his work with his own chapter, but also because of campus-wide initiatives like the founding of Greeks United Around Respect and Discussion of Sexual Assault (GUARDS). The founding of this organization was the result of powerful conversations with fellow students to which Eric felt compelled to respond. He collaborated with a senior sorority woman to develop the concept and bring GUARDS to fruition, and today the organization provides sexual misconduct and Title IX education for fraternities and sororities at VU.

Eric also served as IFC President and in several leadership roles within his chapter. He led his council to be recognized by the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values (AFLV) in all eight programming categories and receive the 2017 Jellison Award from AFLV for the Outstanding Interfraternity Council in Division II.

Incredibly, Eric maintains a 3.96 GPA while balancing a wide variety of co-curricular opportunities. He was a 2017 recipient of the SigEp J. Edward Zollinger Outstanding Senior Award given to one graduating senior per district of the fraternity, an honor based on scholastic achievement, fraternity and campus leadership, and community involvement. “Eric is one of the finest young men with whom I have had the opportunity to work in my 19 years as a fraternity and sorority advisor,” one campus nominator wrote. “His commitment to excellence is unparalleled, and he expects the best from himself and all those around him at all times.”

kyle stepp

Alpha Tau Omega
University of New Mexico

“You will find Kyle highly motivated, thoughtful, innovative, dedicated and kind,” one nominator wrote of Kyle Stepp, a recent alumnus of Alpha Tau Omega at University of New Mexico. “Despite almost epic life hurdles, Kyle not only perseveres but excels in everything he does.”

He grew up without his parents and was diagnosed with Stage IV cancer in 2008, with a 20 percent chance of survival. It was during a summer at Camp Enchantment for kids who have or have had cancer that Kyle met a member of Alpha Tau Omega, who served as a counselor and later introduced Kyle to several other ATO brothers. “Even though I was a high school student, the brothers of Alpha Tau Omega went out of their way to support me during one of the hardest times of my life,” Kyle said. “Going into college, I wanted to be a part of something much bigger than myself and involved in an organization seeking to make our society a better place.”

And that’s exactly what Kyle did during his time at UNM. He served as a Founding Student Director for UNM LoboRESPECT Advocacy Center, where he organized and managed prevention efforts and educational programs about sexual violence, bullying, hazing, and hate bias. At the same time, he worked as a Miracle Family Coordinator for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals serving families of patients at UNM Children’s Hospital. Kyle also became involved with Camp Enchantment as Director of Development, served as UNM’s IFC President, held various roles within student government, volunteered for several nonprofit organizations, interned with the State of New Mexico Senate, and served as an officer for Alpha Tau Omega. It’s no surprise that before graduating, Kyle was named the Thomas Arkle Clarke Honoree for 2016, ATO’s top undergraduate recognition. He was also the first-ever undergraduate speaker to address his peers at commencement.

“It is without a doubt that Kyle has been one of the most influential students ever to be called a Lobo,” wrote one nominator. “His time at UNM will leave a positive impact that will be felt for years to come.” Upon graduation, Kyle accepted a position as a Leadership Consultant in ATO’s Growth Department, where he spent the last year inspiring young men to join new chapters of Alpha Tau Omega and helping develop the fraternity’s newest members.