- NIC Foundation
The Undergraduate Award of Distinction seeks to recognize fraternity men who have found in their experience an outlet for developing as both a leader and a better man. The recipients are those who embody the values of their fraternity and expect the same from those with whom they associate. We are pleased to recognize the 2017 recipients of the Undergraduate Award of Distinction.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
Sigma Phi Epsilon
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.”
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.