Simpson College picked up a national trophy at homecoming Saturday before the football game vs. Coe College kicked off.
The women of Simpson’s Pi Beta Phi sorority received the Balfour Cup during a ceremony. The grand president of Pi Beta Phi, along with Juli Holmes Willeman, executive director of the national sorority and a Simpson alum, were on hand to present the cup to the chapter.
The Balfour Cup recognizes the top Pi Beta Phi chapter in the country. Each chapter completes a chapter evaluation and gets points on the Chapter Evaluation Standards of Excellence for items such as philanthropy, scholastics, programming success, financial management and innovation. In addition, the evaluation assesses how well chapters offer opportunities to develop members.
“Our goal was to mark off every box that we could” on the evaluation, said Jess Tometich, who was vice president of philanthropy for the sorority last year, and is president this year. “I think we pretty much did that.”
“We struggle to choose the perfect words to describe what this award means to us,” said Maddie Travis, sorority vice president of communications, in a letter to alumni. “This signifies the perseverance each member displayed when we saw the competition we were up against in order win the Balfour Cup. Compared to larger schools, we may be weak in number, but we are strong in dedication and spirit.”
Runners up for the award included the chapters at Texas A&M University and Hillsdale College.
The Simpson chapter previously won the Stoolman Vase, the second-best chapter of all Pi Beta Phi chapters, in 1949 and again in 1950. The chapter earned the Balfour Cup in both 1995 and 1996.
The award recognizes chapters that are living up to our values, said Tometich. “We try to incorporate those whenever we can.”
One key value includes education, where the sorority had the top GPA among Greek organizations on campus three semesters in a row.
Philanthropy also was key in the win, Tometich explained. The group raised money by selling carnations on campus for Valentine’s Day. They held a party to celebrate Pi Phi’s 150th anniversary and held a pageant in which couples competed on talents and other criteria for La Casa gift cards. Proceeds from the events goes to efforts like Read, Lead, Achieve, which works with students to help them read, then lead and finally achieve more in their lives. Overall, the Simpson Pi Phi chapter ranked seventh in the nation for the amount of money raised per member.
Tometich said philanthropy is one of the main reasons she joined Greek “You hear about the stereotypical Greek life where people party all the time or just want the status of being in a sorority but it’s not like that at all,” she said. “We do a lot of volunteering throughout the semester.”
Members become pen pals with third-graders at Irving Elementary In Indianola, reading with students at school. At the end of the school year, students who have achieved their reading goals are invited to a party where they receive a free book and recognition for their achievements.
“Just seeing their faces light up when we’re all there, it’s pretty awesome,” she said. “I just love being able to impact their lives.”
Every member plays a role in preparing for the award, Tometich said. “All of our members are very dedicated,” she said. Some prefer philanthropic service, others prefer recruiting new members. “Everyone kind of finds their place, and then they excel in that.”
Alumni also play a role in their success, said Tometich. “We would not be where we are today without them,” she said. The active members work with a house corporation made up of alumni that maintains the home while an alumni advisory group offers advice on how to run the sorority.
Alumni played a practical role in this year’s award. During recruitment, members read letters from alumni talking about how Pi Phi impacted their lives to potential members. The focus on lifelong commitment was one of the
factors cited by the national organization in why the Simpson chapter won the award.
“This is the highest honor,” said Ardene Kildal Downing '62, a Pi Phi alum and member of the house corps. Downing pointed out that it’s an honor both for Simpson and for the sorority. The Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity was named top chapter for their organization in recent year, she said. “I think it speaks pretty highly of the Greek system at Simpson,” she said.
The alumni showed the club how they felt about the award, sending letters of congratulations and flowers when the award was announced. That was an extra special part of the recognition, said Tometich.
“Seeing how proud we made them and how supportive they are of us is truly amazing,” she said.
On Saturday, October 6, the Iowa Beta Chapter of Pi Beta Phi was presented with the Balfour Cup, Pi Phi’s highest and most prestigious honor.
Pictured in the photo (L-R): Paula Pace Shepard, Pi Beta Phi National President; Jess Tometich, Iowa Beta Chapter President, Pi Beta Phi; Juli Holmes Willeman ‘96, Executive Director of Pi Beta Phi.