Paul Habernig

SUNY Oneonta '04

Four years of college and my biggest personal accomplishment most people still don’t understand.  It is true what they say, from the outside looking in you can’t understand it, and from the inside looking out you can’t explain it. Being Greek is not something that I ever thought I would be, but to this day, I can’t imagine my life without my best friends, my brothers, and my fraternity. 

It was the spring semester of my junior year in college, when my suitemate, friends and I were sitting on this ugly green couch in the common area of my suite at SUNY Oneonta, and we had a conversation about starting our own fraternity on campus.  Now I don’t remember how the actual conversation started, but what I do remember is coming to the realization that I was missing something.  I was going to be a senior in the fall, moving off campus, and I still felt like everything else I had accomplished in college was not enough.  My best friend Richardo and I had hours and hours of conversations of this master plan that we had to become a fraternity.  Sure, we could have done it the easy way and just pledged a current unrecognized fraternity and called it quits.  But that wasn’t enough.  What those men stood for and represented wasn’t for me.  I wanted a group of men who stood for leadership, brotherhood and service; an organization which I could relate too and be proud of.

After much research and plenty of conversations with the Administration at the college, we had invited a national fraternity to our campus later that spring.  To no avail, they canceled on us.  I thought, perhaps this is not meant to be, maybe we aren’t the right guys for this.  My involvement in Student Association at the time, and my ability to not keep secrets, was the answer to my dilemma.  A friend had told us about this fraternity that his cousin just joined, called Phi Kappa Psi.  I couldn’t believe it, everything about this fraternity exemplified what we were looking for.  In the summer of 2003, the national headquarters was contacted and we were on track for a visit in early September.  Within three months the national headquarters was so impressed with our determination and drive, that we became a colony of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. Basically we were accepted on a trial basis, an audition.  We had to prove to the national organization that the men in our organization were what they looked for in new members.    We were the second recognized fraternity on campus in over ten years.   Within that time frame, we had to prove too many about our understanding of the fraternity and the values and principles that the men of this organization represent not only as a social fraternity but the joy of serving others. 

I had no idea the amount of work ahead to become an official chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.  An application process included member recruitment questions, reference letters, community service hours, an explanation of leadership, campus involvement and a future business plan. This had to be completed in order for our colony to become a chapter.  It wasn’t until a few weeks before graduation, our group received a letter stating that our application was approved and we would become the 146th chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.  Due to the timing and size of our group, we faced several obstacles, including the location and date of our chartering ceremony.  Our overwhelming sense of determination and eagerness to be a part of such a group, impressed several national alumni that they offered to assist us in the chartering process.  All of our founding fathers and brothers were flown out to San Diego in July of 2004, to the biannual governing conference known as the Grand Arch Council. All expenses were paid.  My vision and plan to become a fraternity was coming true! Here, we were charted and introduced as the first national chapter to be a colony and a charted chapter in under a year, an accomplishment that set us apart from every other chapter. 

Upon our return from San Diego, we had a celebration on our campus inviting family, friends and the national headquarters staff to honor our accomplishment and new journey as a chapter known as the New York Kappa Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity. 

Sure, maybe my biggest accomplishment in college happened after I graduated, but the journey itself was an experience of a lifetime.  Every year I am able to see the bonds of brotherhood grow, the level of community service increase and the chance to form everlasting relationships.  Every September we celebrate that first September in 2003 when Phi Kappa Psi said yes to us.  Every February we celebrate our Founder’s Day in honor of the two men who represent the great joy of serving others.

I cannot say that there has been one event in my life that has made such an impact that I wanted to share with everyone.   I cannot say that I came close to death or that I have saved a life of a child.  But I can say that Phi Kappa Psi has changed my life, and to this day, I will never forget the effort and dedication it took to make something like this happen.  I proved too many that it is never too late to get involved and it’s never too late to form such a bond of brotherhood. So I leave you with this, never give up on what you want, and never get discouraged just because it didn’t work out the first time.  Today, more than ever, am I proud to be the founding father of the NY Kappa Chapter of the Phi Kappa Psi Fraternity.  I am proud to be a PHI PSI.