The true gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.

-- John Walter Wayland

The alumni board of the New York Alpha Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is pleased to honor these True Gentleman Award winners:

Bob Dean '49
2004 winner

Anthony Treadwell '65
2005 winner

Furman South III '43
2006 winner

Harris Palmer '62
2007 winner

Hal Sieling '62
2007 winner

Lance Peters '89
2008 winner

Ron Demer '59
2009 winner

Jake Crossley '48
2010 winner

Bill Perez '69
2014 winner

Gus Noojin '69
2014 winner

Peter Heylin '65
2015 winner

James P. Beckett '85
2015 winner

Michael A. Slusar '86
2015 winner

Kevin T. Merriman '88
2017 winner

2017 True Gentleman

Kevin T. Merriman '88: 2017 True Gentleman of New York Alpha
Most of you probably read the last NY Alpha News front-page column written by Kevin Merriman ’88 about his tenure as president of the New York Alpha Alumni Association and board member for the last 15 years. He describes what he remembers most and best about the experience as being merely and all about fellowship!

When we increased the size of the board years ago, Kevin was one of the first to volunteer to serve. We were at a point where it was important for the board to do more to serve the chapter and Cornell than was possible with just the small handful of alumni involved who had run things for years. It was a time for transition.

Out of this effort emerged a full “working board” of around 20 alumni. In the beginning, as treasurer Kevin did a good job keeping our finances in order. After a very few years, we asked Kevin to become president. Although reluctant at first, he agreed.

Not surprisingly, for the next several years, committee activities and accomplishments all increased. More money was raised because we had a strong fundraising team headed by Mike Slusar. More facilities work was done because we had a strong team headed by Jim Beckett. And the programs/outreach committee took on more programming because that team was strong and motivated as well.

But the fact is that all three teams and the cadre of board officers were under the steadfast leadership of Kevin as president. Without his guidance and management skills, so much of what we accomplished would not have been possible.

Because of Kevin’s commitment to results, Hillcrest has evolved into a facility that has the potential to be competitive with the best the Cornell fraternity system has to offer. In addition, the strength and quality of the board has never been better. Those were his goals: goals we in turn made our goals—and that is where we are today. That is the true substance of Kevin Merriman’s rich legacy.

Noteworthy was that Kevin led the organization during times of significant change and significant difficulty. Kevin’s professional and focused leadership made all the difference as we greeted growth and change and met challenges.

Inspired by this and as a testament to the fellowship he relished, most members of the NY Alpha board continued their board service well beyond what they might have originally envisioned. This proved essential to our organizational strength and endurance in recent years.

As Kevin concluded in his article in the spring 2017 issue of the New York Alpha News, it has been quite a run! And we all should thank him for that.

We are pleased to recognize Kevin T. Merriman ‘88 as the 2017 True Gentleman of New York Alpha. As is customary, the award was presented at our Reunion celebration in June.

2015 True Gentlemen (awarded in 2015 and 2016)

James P. Beckett '85 (presented in June 2016)
It seemed too good to be true: a NY Alpha alumnus with 20 years of experience in building maintenance and reconstruction ... a person who, despite living in Italy at the time, was the first to respond to our call to action. Yet that is exactly what happened in 2001 when we formed a new board designed for multi tasking, not just fundraising.

Jim Beckett was that guy!

His name was first on the list. And, lo and behold, he let us know that he would soon be moving to San Diego County's Camp Pendleton with the Navy and would welcome getting involved. Hoorah!

Suddenly we had a true professional in our midst. Jim had on-the-job training with Hillcrest, too, as a house manager when he was an active in the early '80s. We heard he was legendary at wielding a mop or broom.

Jim's first job on the board was to take over from Harris Palmer and Hal Sieling to serve as fund chairman. He did a great job, bringing some new ideas and a new face after 16 years. He was eager to get involved with facilities, though, so after Mike Slusar came on board, the switch was made.

Working with volunteers who all have their own ideas about how to do things is difficult for someone who has spent 25 years in the Navy. As a matter of fact, that is difficult for anyone put in charge of volunteers. But Jim figured out a way to get things done despite these and other obstacles. Most of the brothers on his committee are independent thinkers, so we can only assume he scratches his head wondering where he will get help from each time a project comes up. Rest assured, Jim, that is the case with all volunteer organizations ... not just the NY Alpha Alumni Association. Of course the flip side, friend, is that it is not that easy for independent thinkers to work for someone who has such disciplined and structured processes.

Look around Hillcrest next time you are in Ithaca and see for yourself how good it looks. Jim Beckett is a large part of why that is so.

Please welcome James P. Beckett '85 as a True Gentleman of New York Alpha after nearly 15 years on the board and as head of our impressive facilities work. Hoorah!!!

Michael A. Slusar '86 (presented in June 2016)
Mike Slusar has made a profound impact on the success of the NY Alpha Alumni Association in general and on our fundraising activities in particular. Throughout his 12-year tenure at the helm of fundraising, he devoted countless hours, added a creative flair, and spearheaded a process we can continue to use for years to come. He devoted himself to stewardship of NY Alpha's communications and alumni relations with commitment, integrity, and zeal, as well as just a touch of levity.

It was clear from the beginning that Mike was dedicated to success. He built a solid team, worked to ensure that it was productive, and was a good "check and balance" for every element of the NY Alpha communications plan. Mike also built strong bonds with numerous alumni who were key to the success of his plan. His spirit was ever present—yet so was his humility.

Many of you know from attending Homecoming or Reunion events that Mike was always there to meet and greet and do a little arm-twisting as well. He did all this with passion and commitment that are difficult to duplicate and impossible to beat.

Mike was consistently at the forefront of making and keeping strong relationships with Cornell contacts who one day could help in the work we are doing. Whether it was OFSA or Alumni Affairs, or brothers in the active chapter, everyone knew and respected Mike for what he was doing.

Also known as "Slu," he always had a knack for thinking up a new way to ask for the same old thing: "He ain't heavy, he's my brother"……… "The Phoenix Rises…And So Must We"………"The Time Is Now!" ………"Thanks for the Memories" ………"It's all about leadership," to mention just a few. This was clearly inspirational, and the results were amazing, even in difficult times.

In all of these efforts, Mike set high standards for himself and others. He excels both at mentoring new people and motivating others. He is also good at recruiting alumni to join the board. He does this with enthusiasm and loyalty that all can appreciate.

Mike’s time as an active was both a difficult time and one of important learning. As most of you know, membership was low in the mid-'80s, and that required more from those who were brothers. Mike refers to it as a time when brothers could demonstrate leadership and build the future from within. He has frequently reached back to that experience in communicating the opportunities NY Alpha’s members face with reinstatement.

Slu had a long view of his responsibilities but a wide one, too. He understands better than most that all things NY Alpha are related and that everything counts. Nowhere is this more obvious than in the pieces he wrote for the NY Alpha News or in the fund-raising letters he wrote. He was always aware of what was going on with facilities or programming.

In addition, Mike was a key member of the committee to develop the Strategic Plan for NY Alpha. He was sure to make all the meetings and contribute to making the result more effective and meaningful.

Above all, Mike was the best team player imaginable. He built a team. He assigned tasks and followed up. He expanded beyond his team when the opportunity presented itself. Teamwork was his thing. Through it all, he always gave others credit, taking none for himself.

We are sure you will agree that the standard Mike set for himself, for others, and for the NY Alpha Alumni Association is one that must be sustained as we look to and plan for the future. Of course, we are counting on him to continue his mentoring and his motivating leadership as we journey down that "long and winding road."

The difference between ordinary and extraordinary is that little "extra"!—indeed, the precise "extra" that Mike gives.

Since becoming an SAE brother, Mike Slusar '86 has always lived by the creed of the True Gentleman. Now he becomes a True Gentleman of New York Alpha, an honor he richly deserves.

Peter G. Heylin '65 (presented in April & June 2015)
Peter was the first and only unsolicited addition to the original board formed after Hillcrest was turned over to Cornell University in the 1980s.

Our primary responsibilities at the time were raising money to pay off the debt and communicating with alumni about what was going on through the NY Alpha News to encourage donations. Bob Dean '49 had resigned as chapter adviser and had no intention of staying on in any capacity after the transfer of Hillcrest was completed.

In his longtime service to NY Alpha, Peter has focused primarily on specific projects. He's a man who gets things done, so it's best to get out of his way. Through it all, Peter's ideas and his ambition are fueled by his enduring passion for NY Alpha.

Peter is responsible for the Robert Crosby '65 memorial that graces the wall in the dining room when the chapter is in residence. He geared up for that because he felt it was long overdue. Bob was killed during the Vietnam war, and Peter felt that the story of his classmate and brother deserved to be told. Peter continues to work on this project and has other ideas about enhancing its presentation.

At the time of Peter's 40th reunion, he raised nearly $50K for the Development Fund, primarily from his classmates. No class had ever raised that much for a single reunion year. He also helped pay for and then arranged to move a new piano to the house because of his love of music and the tradition of brothers singing, a tradition he wants to rekindle.

A few years later, in 2010, Peter and his wife, Linda, purchased new lion statues (which he affectionately named "Harris" and "Hal") to replace the ones that had been destroyed by vandals a few years earlier. Not wanting that to happen again, he had these built with aluminum and filled solid with cement. Growing frustrated waiting for a formalized purchase that was going nowhere fast, Peter simply bought them outright and had them shipped to Ithaca and installed at Hillcrest's front door.

After the lions were installed, his daughter, Tera, went to Ithaca while on an East Coast trip and made sure to have her picture taken sitting on one. You might have seen this in the NY Alpha News or on the website.

As a board member, Peter Heylin served on the Strategic Plan team, working closely with Gus Noojin '69 and others planning for reinstatement. He has every intention to work on the campaign team when the time comes for our major fundraising effort to finish renovating Hillcrest. Be prepared to step up when Peter asks for your participation!

Peter has also been active on both the facilities and fundraising committees. He is deeply committed to both.

One of our 2015 True Gentlemen, Peter Heylin set an excellent example for NY Alpha brothers by investing in NY Alpha through his many gifts, decades of service, and lifelong commitment. It is as simple as that!

If you look through the website, you will see lots written about Peter's efforts over the years. We would love to have him come back to Ithaca for his 50th reunion in June 2015. Of course, he has been helping to organize the event for his class, so count on a good group for the occasion—and related funds to be raised!

One simply cannot have a better friend and a more devoted brother than Peter Heylin. Peter G. Heylin '65, a True Gentleman of New York Alpha.

On the Establishment of the True Gentleman of New York Alpha Award

This award, called "The True Gentleman of New York Alpha," is to be the highest order bestowed by our chapter alumni, which provides us with a forum by which the brotherhood can recognize our own. It allows us to highlight individuals who have made worthy accomplishments or performed significant service to society and/or the fraternity, and which exemplify characteristics nobly described in John Walter Wayland '46's "The True Gentleman." This award will be given annually at the discretion of the alumni board president. Furthermore, a memento of this honor will be given to the recipient or his family. During Reunion Weekend 2004, Brother Kevin Merriman, president of the alumni board, announced his selection for the charter members of this award. Thereafter, future alumni board presidents, in consultation with the alumni board leadership, will be given the privilege of selecting a recipient, in keeping with these high ideals, from among those who have been inducted into our chapter, whether still among us or in the "chapter eternal."