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Olivia Fryml Epps, Delta Phi/Clemson, is a member of the Young Alumnae Board. She previously served as advisory board chairman and finance and Panhellenic advisors for Beta Omega/Colorado College; facility corporation board treasurer for Beta Omega/Colorado College; and president and events coordinator for the Colorado Springs Alumnae Chapter, for which she was also the Grand Convention delegate in 2012.
Undergraduate officer positions held: I didn't hold any official titles as an undergraduate member, but I did a lot of the behind-the-scenes work for the chapter. I tried to fill in where I could with new member education, event planning, philanthropy execution and donations, etc. My true passion came as an alumna.
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? When I graduated from Clemson, I moved to Colorado to be a nanny for my nephew. Not knowing anyone there other than family, I immediately sought out Theta. I searched the website to find someone in the area and contacted Kim Matthews, Alpha/DePauw, a longtime Theta volunteer in the area. She welcomed me with open arms and provided wonderful information about volunteering and getting involved as an alumna. The website showed me information about volunteering, but it was really Kim who shared the opportunity to become a volunteer.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? Kim was really a huge catalyst for my volunteering. Additionally, the desire to make friends with similar experiences was a big motivator. Theta was such a big part of my life in college, I don't think I was ready to give it up as an alumna.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? Eight years.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? I don't think she knows it, but I've always considered Maggie McKenny Harris, Gamma/Butler, a Theta mentor. As a new advisor for Beta Omega Chapter, I was able to work directly with her and found her spirit and love of Theta inspiring. Any time I had a question or needed support, she was there. She has continuously empowered me as a volunteer, Theta, and career woman.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? Honestly, Theta fills my bucket. I love giving back to the Fraternity in any way I can. It has been a rewarding experience thus far, and I'm so thankful to continue to have opportunities to volunteer, even overseas.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? There have been so many, but I recall feeling overwhelmed with joy and passion for Theta at Grand Convention 2012. I was the Colorado Springs Alumnae Chapter delegate, which in itself was an amazingly wonderful experience. While I was there, I connected with volunteers who encouraged me to revamp our Beta Omega Facility Corporation and advisory board.
Do you have a special Theta moment? A special Theta moment of mine was as a collegian experiencing our annual Fall Band Party for the first time. I went with 125 of my Delta Phi sisters to Pumpkintown, SC (it's true!) and danced the night away in the middle of the woods on an outdoor stage. We brought sandwiches, sodas and friends, and danced to a live band for hours. I felt so close and at home with these women and their friends, and it was the first time I really felt part of something so much bigger than myself.
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I have both! As a civilian contracting officer for the U.S. Army, I have a passion for customer service, providing solutions to my customers while being a good steward of taxpayers' dollars. My personal passion, other than Theta, has been disaster response. I've volunteered with a veteran-focused organization called Team Rubicon, and provided administration and financial management for both domestic and international emergency response operations, including several in Colorado and one in the Philippines. It's been an invaluable, humbling experience to help those during a time of devastation and trauma (for instance, after a flood or tsunami), while also providing purpose to veterans who just want to continue serving others.
Jenny Randall Nichols, Psi/Wisconsin, is college district director (CDD) in College District I. She has also served as an educational leadership consultant (ELC), development advisor for Psi/Wisconsin, and director of risk management (now risk prevention committee chairman).
Undergraduate officer positions held: Social chairman (now event director) and chapter president (now chief executive officer).
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? It's a funny story! I ran into former Grand Council member, Julie Gilpin, at Summerfest, a big music festival in Milwaukee. She told me about a new role the Fraternity was expanding: director of risk management. Julie was the CDD of my college district when I was chapter president.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? I received great support as a college chapter from local- and district-level volunteers. My chapter faced some challenging times and they were always there to listen, guide and encourage me. They believed in me when I didn't and really helped us improve our chapter. I knew when leaving college that I wanted to give back what had been given to me.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? 13 years.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? There have been so many! Thetas have influenced every aspect of my life, personally and professionally. Two people stand out: Julie Gilpin and Regina Collins Simon. I've known these Thetas since I was a college chapter member and have valued their encouragement, wisdom and friendship for almost 20 years.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? I stay involved so that I can give back to an organization that has given me so much: lifelong friends, confidence and leadership skills, and the opportunity to be a part of a group of strong, smart and committed women. I love working with college members; their energy and enthusiasm are contagious and I truly enjoy being able to support their goals and help them through their struggles. I also keep volunteering for some personal benefits: I get to travel around the country and see my fellow volunteers who have become great friends.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? A really special volunteer moment for me was getting to see my college chapter win the Soaring Kite Award at Grand Convention 2014. Another special moment was attending the centennial celebration of Alpha Tau/Cincinnati in 2013. I was their CDD at the time and met many of the chapter members and alumnae who worked so hard to put on a beautiful weekend. I had also visited the chapter as an ELC and reconnected with a couple of the advisors and the chapter president I had worked with that year.
Do you have a special Theta moment? Attending Grand Convention as a CDD is very special and a great honor for me. I am always very humbled to be a part of the business, social and ritual aspects of Convention among so many incredible women.
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I'm very passionate about improving the lives of children, especially in Milwaukee where I live. I get to focus on this passion through my work in health education for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
Lissa Luton Bradford, Alpha Eta/Vanderbilt, currently serves Theta as chairman of the Sesquicentennial Celebration Committee and the Alpha Eta Chapter as Panhellenic advisor. Her volunteer career is an illustrious one, including eight years on Theta's Grand Council, followed by two terms as Fraternity president and Theta Foundation trustee. She was a member of Theta's delegation to the National Panhellenic Conference (NPC) for 25 years; while serving as NPC chairman, she was widely praised for her tireless efforts on behalf of alcohol-free housing. Numerous awards—from organizations as varied as Phi Delta Theta and the Fraternity Executives Association—recognize Lissa's profound effect on the Fraternity movement.
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? I was initiated more than 60 years ago, and half of the Vanderbilt student body was from Nashville. Half of my Alpha Eta pledge class consisted of Nashville residents. It had been that way for years. We knew almost all of the Nashville alumnae. They were on the advisory board or the house corporation board, or active with the Nashville alumnae chapter or the Bal d'Hiver, the very successful alumnae fundraising event. As college members, we knew that there were opportunities with the Nashville Alumnae Chapter to serve the Fraternity in a variety of different ways. We knew that we were expected to serve in some capacity, and (this is most important) we were eager to find our niche and become an active, participating alumnae member.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? I wanted to become a volunteer because many of the alumnae I knew and admired held volunteer positions. My Theta experience as a college member was a dominant part of my four years in college. I believed, and still believe, that giving to Theta as a volunteer would keep that good feeling about the Fraternity alive. Additionally, I wanted to give back. I wanted the opportunity to influence college members in a positive way. I knew many of the members through teaching school and swim-team coaching and felt that already having established a relationship would be a benefit as an advisor.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? My first official volunteer position with the Fraternity was in 1967, when I became a college district president. I had been an advisor at Alpha Eta for a few years prior to that. So it looks like I'm closing in on 50 years.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? I most certainly had a Theta mentor! It was Ellen Bowers Hofstead. Ellen had been Grand President from '52 - '56 and continued her service to Theta as NPC delegate for 21 years. There was not a fact of Theta history that Ellen did not know, nor a story from her 30-plus years of service she could not remember. She was an inspiration, a sounding board, and a cheerleader. I will always remember our relationship with great fondness and gratitude for all she did to ground me in Theta.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? The friends and the occasional opportunities for mentoring! The years of traveling for meetings or visiting chapters or campuses have rewarded me with more friends than anyone should be allowed to have in one lifetime. I look forward to the next Grand Convention the day I get home from the last one. Now, serving on the Alpha Eta Advisory Board provides me with continuing occasions for providing guidance, more friends, and learning opportunities. In addition to the hundreds of Theta friends made, I have garnered even more friendships from my years as NPC delegate. In fact, the four women with whom I served on the Executive Committee (a Delta Gamma, a Gamma Phi Beta, a Kappa Kappa Gamma and a Pi Phi) and I have been taking a trip together each year since we were in office. This year will be our 19th trip.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? This is the hardest question to answer. There have been so many special moments throughout my Theta career, but I will choose one - not necessarily the most special but one from the category of unforgettables. It took place 40 years ago and was celebrated by a large reunion this past fall. The moment was the installation of Epsilon Epsilon Chapter at Baylor University. It was very meaningful for me since I had attended their recruitment as Theta's vice-president college. Having been a local sorority, Delta Alpha Pi (DAP), Epsilon Epsilon was recruiting as Kappa Alpha Theta for the very first time. They were so proud to be almost Thetas, and it showed. Not only did we initiate 53 college members, but we also welcomed all DAP alumnae, and many of them came to Waco for the occasion. The 40-year reunion, which I was unable to attend, was a huge success. And, I got a "play by play" from the chapter president a few weeks later when I was visiting with my daughter in Richardson, Texas. I still have friends that I met 40 years ago at the Epsilon Epsilon installation.
Another moment occurred in 1984; Grand Convention was being held at the Opryland Hotel in Nashville. I was finishing up my second and last term as Grand President. Although I was not involved with the decision to hold Convention in Nashville, here it was in my hometown as I was retiring. The Nashville Alumnae Chapter had held nothing back to demonstrate Nashville hospitality at its best. There were a few snags, such as the kite fly that had to be held in the parking lot in 90 degree weather, 90% humidity and zero wind. Making up for that was Amy Grant's appearance at dinner with impromptu songfest at the piano. But, the moment that took my breath away was the banquet processional with close to 100 Nashville alumnae entering the banquet hall where the head table was bedecked with the most beautiful floral display I have ever seen, all from their gardens. I took my place at the front of the room, wearing the wreath of orchids former Grand President Marty White had hand-carried from Hawaii and kept refrigerated for four days. I did my best to hide the tears that were streaming down my face and held it all together until the end of the banquet.
Do you know a Theta who's made a difference in her local Theta chapter? Let us know!