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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.
Undergraduate officer positions held: Risk management chairman (now chief operating officer), member development committee class representative, and nominating committee class representative
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? I learned about advising through chapter advisors during my undergraduate years. I wanted to stay involved after I graduated, and fortunately, I started working full-time at a university with a chapter that had open positions.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? I knew that volunteering would keep me connected to the Fraternity in a different way than simply joining an alumnae chapter. I'd get to work with college members to enhance and tailor their own undergraduate experiences. One of my biggest takeaways when I graduated was the level of personal growth that I achieved during my years as a collegian. So, helping foster that personal growth is one of my favorite parts of being an advisor.
How long have you been a Theta volunteer? I started advising at the beginning of the 2013 term, so about 3 1/2 years.
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? I didn't have a specific Theta mentor but there were older sisters I always looked up to while I was an undergraduate. They helped make my Theta experience extremely rewarding, because I got to see and observe them in their time leading to graduation: how they conducted themselves in certain situations, kept up with their coursework, and how they prepared for their careers. And, fortunately, the learning still continues when I meet fellow Thetas today.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? Being a member provides me with opportunities in every aspect of my life - personal and professional. If I want to meet new people and form new friendships, Theta is there to connect me to incredible women. If I'm looking for opportunities for professional growth, I have a built-in network of women who can provide advice and insight into possible career steps. It's been a comfort to have that network wherever I go, but at the same time, it's put me out of my comfort zone.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? I just witnessed my first freshman class graduate. These women, who I remember as potential new members, have gone through 3-4 years of their own Theta experience, and it's an amazing feeling to look back and see how they progressed from new members to seniors who mentored their own little sisters.
Do you have a special Theta moment? One of my favorite Theta memories was my senior preference night. At my chapter, we send the graduating seniors off by holding a pref night for them, just like during recruitment. It was special because it felt like I was coming full circle. It helped me close out my time as college member by reminding me of why I joined in the first place. It also gave me the chance to reflect on three years of memories.
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I currently work in the business/finance group of an athletics department, which is exciting because it's a very interesting and unique industry. I'm very interested in helping people manage their own personal finances in order to help them get what they want. As much as we'd like to think otherwise, money controls many aspects of our lives and I think there's so much potential to help others achieve some kind of financial success so they can plan for things or experiences that they enjoy. I've still got a lot of learning and developing to do before I get to that point, but right now I'm definitely happy where I am.
Lynne McCaul Miller, Mu/Allegheny, served as the Fraternity's wellness committee chairman from 2012-2015. She has also held positions as program specialist on the education committee (2011-2012) and as an administrative district director (2008-2011).
Undergraduate officer positions held: I was the social events chairman and also vice president of recruitment programming for our Panhellenic Council.
How did you learn about the opportunity to become a Theta volunteer? While attending a national conference for a professional organization I belonged to, I networked with other Thetas and discovered the many opportunities for Theta volunteerism. At the time, I was living in an area where there was no local college chapter for me to serve. Given my background in working on a college campus as a fraternity & sorority life advisor, the opportunity to serve on a district level was very appealing to me. Several months later, Amy Kates (then vice president college), contacted me to talk to me about the administrative district director position.
What made you want to become a Theta volunteer? As an undergraduate student, my involvement with Theta had a huge impact on my leadership and personal development. I had both successes and failures as a leader in the chapter, and grew so much from both. My chapter was my support system through everything I did. I see volunteering for Theta as a way to give back to an organization that has become such a huge part of who I am. I hope that I can play at least a small part in impacting the Theta experience for our current undergraduates so that they can feel the same support and love from the Fraternity as I did (and still do!).
Do you, or did you have, a Theta mentor? Ellen Kauffmann Nolan, Zeta Sigma/Ohio Northern, was my campus Greek advisor when I was an undergraduate student. Watching Ellen interact with students and the impact she had on our campus inspired me to consider the field of higher education and student affairs. Ellen also was so encouraging of me in my role on Panhellenic Council and helped me to realize the bigger picture of Greek life and our values.
In more recent years, Mandy Burgett Wushinske, Zeta Sigma/Ohio Northern, has played a huge role in my development as a Theta volunteer. She was a great partner and leader on our district team and saw the potential in me to advance wellness education for the Fraternity, which has been an overwhelmingly rewarding experience.
I would be remiss if I did not also give a shout-out to Jaime Hall Wilson (my big sister), Paige Bendel Ellerman, Gamma Iota/Kentucky, and Amy Hayner Kates, Alpha Phi/Tulane—all women who have inspired me with their strength and vision.
Why do you stay involved with Theta? Theta has become such a huge part of who I am. My love for Theta has only deepened over the years as I have had the opportunity to meet an abundance of such loving, intelligent, and strong leading women. Having been fortunate enough to attend Grand Convention several times, the pride I feel of seeing so many women come together for a common reason—an organization created to support women to their highest aspirations—it can be very intense. Knowing that I have been able to play a role in advancing this organization is a very humbling feeling. Ultimately, I guess it also boils down to living the promise I made so many years ago on my initiation night.
Do you have a special volunteering moment? When I was selected as the Fraternity's wellness committee chairman. Without a doubt, it was such an honor to be trusted with such an important endeavor as Sisters Supporting Sisters. Watching this program grow over the years has been one of the biggest highlights of my Theta experience.
Do you have a special Theta moment? Too many to count! Other than my very special moments with initiation and my Theta family, I would say that the most special to me is participating in the Procession Line-up before the Convention Banquet at Grand Convention. I am fortunate to have initiated into one of the older chapters, so being able to walk through the procession from almost the beginning and seeing the growth of the Fraternity over the years creates such an indescribable moment of pride. It never fails to make me teary-eyed.
Do you have a profession or personal passion? I currently work at the University of Pittsburgh as the coordinator for commuter and transfer student programs. Working in student affairs has allowed me the opportunity to help today's student find their niche on their campus—just as I did with Theta. Outside of work, my husband, Jason and I have two daughters, Cadence (7) and Jacelyn (3). I love to read, travel, go to the movies and spend lots of time with my family!
Do you know a Theta who's made a difference in her local Theta chapter? Let us know!