In an effort to highlight the people who are leading graduate chapters across the nation, we at Watch The Yard reached out to the brothers of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc.’s Lambda Delta Delta Chapter in Aurora, CO and did an interview with Al Gardner the Basileus of the chapter.
The position of Basileus/president of a Black fraternity chapter is a highly respected role and there is a special pride that one takes. Al Gardner, who works as a technology executive in the healthcare industry, has been in the position of Basileus for 2 years.
We interviewed Gardner, who is a Spring 2011 (Chi Phi Chapter / Denver, CO) initiate of his fraternity and talked to him about his position, goals, future and what it means to hold this type of leadership position in the digital age.
Read the full interview below.
What motivated you to take on the role of alumni chapter president?
I eagerly embraced the role of Alumni Chapter President due to a profound motivation rooted in my desire to make a meaningful contribution to our community. Serving my cherished fraternity holds a special place in my heart, as it has provided me with invaluable experiences and connections. This role presents a unique opportunity to give back to an organization that has enriched my life. Moreover, I am driven by the prospect of serving the brotherhood in a capacity that is both challenging and fulfilling. It’s my aspiration to lead with dedication, fostering growth and unity within our alumni network while creating a lasting positive impact.
What specific initiatives is your chapter heading up this year and how do you think they will improve the local community or the broader Black community?
This year, our chapter is embarking on a series of impactful initiatives that demonstrate our commitment to the local community and the broader Black community. One of our flagship efforts is the “Adopt a Class” program, an ongoing student support initiative aimed at nurturing the growth and development of young minds. Through this program, we will engage with a specific class for an entire school year, offering mentorship, career exploration, chaperoning on enriching field trips, and consistent provision of essential school supplies. This initiative not only fosters academic success but also instills a sense of purpose and ambition in the students.
Furthermore, we are excited to partner with United Airlines Black pilots and the Black employees union In Denver Colorado to create a groundbreaking event that introduces students to careers in aviation. This annual event will bring pilots and students together, allowing them to experience flight simulators at United Airlines’ training facility and establish enduring mentoring relationships with our fraternity brothers who are active pilots. This collaboration not only expands horizons but also opens doors to exciting and aspirational career paths.
Lastly, our focus on addressing homelessness and providing nutrition to families facing housing challenges exemplifies our dedication to holistic community betterment. By collaborating with a local food pantry, we aim to make a meaningful difference in the lives of those experiencing short or long-term housing issues. Through these diverse initiatives, we aspire to make a positive impact that reverberates throughout the community, uplifting both local and broader Black communities in profound and lasting ways.
What made you want to pledge Omega Psi Phi?
The purple and gold stand out anywhere, and the enthusiasm that the brothers display when hopping, as a young man you just want to be a part of that energy. What also drew me to pledge Omega Psi Phi was the profound depth of thought that our founding fathers put into crafting the fraternity’s values, which I found to be the true foundation for a prosperous life. While researching various BGLO fraternities, I was particularly intrigued by Omega’s emphasis on friendship. Success takes different forms, and service manifests in diverse ways, but at the core of a fulfilling life lies the essence of meaningful relationships. Additionally, I was enamored by the fraternity’s four cardinal principles: Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift. The inclusive atmosphere within Omega, where authenticity is celebrated and there is no singular mold to fit, deeply resonated with me. This uniqueness, coupled with the fraternity’s principles, made the decision to pledge Omega Psi Phi an easy and meaningful one for me
What is it about your specific chapter that makes it so unique?
Our specific chapter stands out through its unwavering commitment to member well-being and health. Going beyond the traditional fraternity experience, we place a special emphasis on nurturing the holistic wellness of our brothers. Central to our ethos is the importance of family time, and we actively encourage our members to cultivate meaningful connections with their loved ones. We purposefully integrate activities that include families, fostering an environment where both personal and fraternal bonds flourish harmoniously.
As a new chapter, our approach is further distinguished by a strategic focus on forging partnerships with corporate and private entities. By leveraging these collaborations, we amplify the impact of our community programs, effectively extending our reach and capabilities to create a more profound difference. From the outset, we have embedded efficiency in our operations, harnessing our collective strengths to maximize our potential. A distinctive feature of our chapter is the intentional alignment of activities and roles with the professional expertise of our members. This strategic pairing ensures that our local chapter becomes an extension of each brother’s individual skills, resulting in a more meaningful and enriching experience for all. With a shared belief that true collaboration flourishes when individuals are holistically fulfilled, our chapter stands as a testament to the extraordinary power that emerges when dedication to well-being, family, expertise, and community intersect
How is your chapter providing for the undergraduate chapters you support?
Our chapter is currently engaged in the process of reactivating an undergraduate chapter in our local area. This unique situation has allowed us to redirect our attention towards the programmatic aspects of our support to the undergraduate chapter. As we work towards reactivation, we are taking this opportunity to reflect on how we can offer enhanced support throughout their academic journey. This commitment extends beyond their undergraduate years, as we aspire to mentor them as they embark on their professional careers and navigate the transition to graduate chapters. This proactive approach underscores our dedication to creating a continuous and holistic support system that spans the entirety of their growth and development within our fraternity.
How do you approach fostering a sense of unity and camaraderie among alumni members, and what strategies have you found effective?
Fostering a strong sense of unity and camaraderie among our members is a cornerstone of our chapter’s approach. Despite our diverse backgrounds and experiences, we recognize that our shared values are what bind us together. To reinforce this connection, we organize a range of activities, informal gatherings, and retreats that allow us to reconnect with these shared values. By participating in these events, we not only forge new bonds but also rekindle our commitment to the principles that underpin our fraternity. Acknowledging the potential for multi-generational differences to impact a chapter we are placing and emphasis on that dynamic by engaging our seasoned members in co-leadership roles alongside younger members. This approach not only imparts invaluable guidance from our experienced alumni but also places an emphasis on ongoing mentorship.
To ensure a well-rounded perspective, we implement a rotating mentorship structure. This strategy exposes us to a diverse array of viewpoints on achieving our goals and navigating the complexities of working with various personalities and backgrounds. By using this on-going “buddy system” of sorts, we have strengthened communication and created pathways to dialogue that may not have otherwise. Rooted in the principles of Omega Psi Phi, we uphold the unwavering belief that no brother is left behind, irrespective of the life stage they find themselves in. This unwavering support underscores the lasting and steadfast nature of the friendships we share within our fraternity are the driving force behind our unity.
What advice would you give to aspiring leaders within your fraternity/sorority who may aspire to take on roles of leadership within alumni chapters?
To aspiring leaders who aim to step into leadership roles within alumni chapters, I would offer a few key pieces of advice. First and foremost, cultivate a genuine heart to serve. Approach any leadership position as a custodian entrusted with the well-being of the chapter and its members, rather than as a holder of power. Prioritize listening over speaking, recognizing that within an organization characterized by diverse backgrounds and perspectives, attentive listening will inform your decisions and interactions, fostering unity and understanding.
Furthermore, discovering your “why” is essential to sustaining your leadership journey. Understand the core reasons driving your commitment to your fraternity/sorority and the roles you aspire to undertake. This sense of purpose will serve as a steady anchor amidst challenges and uncertainties. Additionally, seek out a mentor who embodies the principles that your fraternity/sorority stands for. A mentor can provide guidance, insights, and support as you navigate the intricacies of leadership, while also helping you stay true to the values that define your organization. Embracing these principles – a heart to serve, a humble approach, active listening, a clear sense of purpose, and a mentorship-driven mindset – will not only make you an effective leader within your alumni chapter but also contribute to the enduring strength of your fraternity/sorority.
How has mentorship helped you get to where you are today? Are there any specific people in your org who have made a significant impact on your life as mentors?
Mentorship has been a major force in shaping my journey to where I stand today, both within my fraternity and in my professional endeavors. The guidance I’ve received has not only facilitated my growth within the fraternity but has also imparted valuable lessons that extend into my broader life and career. A key lesson I’ve learned through mentorship is the importance of challenging biases, whether they stem from context or unconscious assumptions. This invaluable perspective has helped me approach leadership with a more open mind, ensuring that my decisions are grounded in fairness and understanding. Mentorship has also been an essential companion on a journey of self-discovery, aiding me in identifying areas for improvement and personal development. In my fraternity, there have been specific individuals who have had a profound impact on my life through their mentorship. What sets these brothers apart as mentors is not their titles or financial status, but their authentic interactions with their family, friends, and community. It’s these interactions that have informed my choice of mentors, individuals who exemplify values I admire and aspire to uphold. A few names come to mind—brothers who have consistently offered me valuable information, insights, and guidance. Their enduring commitment to the fraternity, their years of dedicated service, and their willingness to uplift and support fellow brothers have left an indelible mark on me, inspiring me to continue growing, learning, and giving back within our fraternity and beyond.
Why do you think Watch The Yard is important to Black greekdom?
Watch The Yard plays a pivotal role in Black Greekdom by providing a platform for us to narrate our own story. This platform skillfully identifies the shared essence of our nine organizations and seamlessly intertwines them into a broader narrative. Watch The yard has become a worthwhile news source by effectively illustrating the enduring relevance and impact of Black Greek Letter Organizations (BGLOs) in contemporary times. It is most important is because I believe that they underscore the continued significance of BGLOs in our communities and beyond, amplifying their purpose and contribution in the present day, just as they have been throughout their storied history.
Looking back at it, why do you love being a member of your org?
Looking back on my journey, my love for being a member of Omega is deeply rooted in the profound growth it has sparked within me intellectually, professionally, and interpersonally. The concept of friendship which I held prior to joining, has undergone a remarkable evolution, maturing into something richer and more meaningful. I firmly attribute this transformation to the relationships and lessons I have gained through Omega. The fraternity has not only broadened my capacity to serve the Black community, but has also enabled me to contribute on a grander scale and with greater frequency than I could have envisioned. At the heart of it all lies the cherished cardinal principles of Manhood, Scholarship, Perseverance, and Uplift which combined reinforce the enduring bonds that define our brotherhood. Omega blesses me with the ability to do things that are larger than myself.
Lastly, what does brotherhood mean to you?
In essence, brotherhood represents a dynamic commitment – a willingness to flex and adapt when needed, while also standing firm when necessary, always underpinned by a foundation of love. It embodies the readiness to make personal sacrifices, be accountable, and extend empathy unconditionally. I believe that true brotherhood involves embracing vulnerability, navigating challenges, and persevering through adversity for the betterment of the whole. It’s an ongoing journey of shared experiences, mutual growth, and unwavering support, reflecting the understanding that by lifting each other up, we elevate ourselves as an empowered community.
We at Watch The Yard would like to commend Al Gardner for his work as the Basileus of the Lambda Delta Delta Chapter which has a legacy that spans back to 2020.
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