The stories below illustrate the difference Tekes are making with the help of Foundation scholarships and grants, and why Fraters and friends choose to donate to the Foundation. Want to share your story too?
Many times, the Foundation has shared the impact that a scholarship award can have in the life of an undergraduate Teke. We thought you would like to hear about the meaning of the TEF scholarship program to Viraga Perera, the 2013-14 winner of the Charles R. Walgreen, Jr. Scholarship Award.
Hailing from the Theta-Lambda Chapter at Widener University, Perera shares his inspiring story:
As an international student, college in the U.S. was a fresh start – as fresh as could be. I decided to forgo an opportunity to attend college in Sri Lanka in order to fly halfway across the world to Widener University. I knew that I wanted to immerse myself in this new culture, and make deep and fulfilling friendships during my four years at Widener University.
When I decided to forgo the unique and rare opportunity to attend college in Sri Lanka, I knew that I had put my parents in a tough situation. The prestige associated with and the lack of financial strain imposed by the free education provided within Sri Lankan universities meant that my parents never wanted me to attend school anywhere else. However, led by the hope of gaining a more liberal education, I decided to drop the opportunity and apply to U.S. colleges and enrolled at Widener University in the fall of 2011.
Many financial difficulties remained unresolved and the burden was primarily on the shoulders of my parents. In order to ease this financial stress, I decided to move off-campus and work 15 hours each week – the maximum allowed for international students. This cut the costs drastically, yet not enough for it to fall comfortably within my family’s financial means.
I decided to share the above to indicate to you how much of an impact your gift has had in alleviating much of my family’s financial burden for the coming semester. My experience at Widener, and in Tau Kappa Epsilon, has been absolutely wonderful so far, and your generosity has helped better ensure that I could sustain it until my graduation in 2015.
Since coming to Widener, I had only one opportunity to go back to Sri Lanka. However, sitting here now watching some brothers play video games, I feel like I am not so far away from home after all.
To contribute to the Annual Fund and enrich the undergraduate experience of other Tekes like Viraga, click here.
I’VE ALWAYS SEEN POTENTIAL FOR GREATNESS in the people, situations and things around me. That’s part of the TKE mindset, as you know. Of course, the key to making a difference in this life is knowing how to turn that potential into reality.
So when I first heard about the Better Men for a Better World Courtyard planned for our new international headquarters, I immediately knew I wanted to donate funds toward its completion. What better way to celebrate our Fraternity’s values and ideals than to create an inspirational space where members can view our most cherished symbols and reflect on their true meaning?
I purchased a brick for the Courtyard floor, then made an additional commitment to sponsor the Esteem Column (one of three in the room). Indeed, I felt so strongly about the project, I actively sought the support of other Tekes – notably from my own chapter, Epsilon-Omicron.
To date, one Frater has generously matched my gift by investing in the Charity Column, and still others have purchased 14 bricks in the “Triangle Club” section of the floor, which will be grouped together to show the rich heritage of brotherhood passed down from founders and fathers to their sons and even grandsons.
I didn’t have to "sell" them on participating. When I made them aware of the opportunity, they shared my enthusiasm and signed up right away because they, too, understand the significant impact the Courtyard will have on our members for generations to come.
Since my initiation nearly 45 years ago, I have proudly embraced our Fraternity’s mission and Declaration of Principles – words every true Teke strives to live by. Still, in this fast-paced, high-tech world, it can be easy to forget the incredible power of the ideals we have pledged to uphold and promote. The Better Men for a Better World Courtyard helps bring them to life – with tangible symbols that are as solid and real as the foundation our new headquarters now stands on.
Over the years, and especially since founding an alliance of family-owned food-service distributors a decade ago (with a total of $14 billion in sales this year alone), I've felt enormously privileged that my professional success has permitted me to give back by contributing to a number of worthy philanthropic causes, including leadership programming, faculty stipends and collegiate scholarships benefiting TKE as well as my alma mater, the University of Houston. I was also honored to be a founding member of the Life Loyal Teke program, established during my tenure as Grand Prytanis (2001-2003).
This Courtyard ranks high among the legacy projects I've invested in during my lifetime. Best of all, and thoroughly consistent with TKE's time-honored traditions, there are options that fit every Frater's budget, starting as low as $100. This way, Tekes worldwide - even those who may never have the opportunity to visit headquarters – can be a part of our history, part of our permanent home.
I therefore urge every Frater reading this, as well as family and friends of members in our beloved organization, to consider contributing to the Courtyard today. Encourage other members to do the same. There are a limited number of opportunities to participate – so it's only a matter of time before this project's potential for greatness is fully realized.
I look forward to that day: to visiting the Courtyard and reading the names of all those who, like us, share the vision that TKE truly does create Better Men for a Better World.
ROBERT “BOB” PLANCK
Epsilon-Omicron 101, University of Houston
Past Grand Prytanis, President of Independent Marketing Alliance and noted philanthropist
"Tau Kappa Epsilon offered me, and continues to offer me, so many opportunities, from friendship to service to leadership. TKE has given me role models and the opportunity to be a role model, it’s given me a network of friends across the world, and it’s given me the chance and the tools to succeed, and a support net to help me get back up again when I’ve failed.
The older I get, the more clearly I see how my TKE experience has benefited me in so many other settings-in my relationships, in business, as a teacher and coach, in community involvement-and how it’s enriched my life. Because I’ve gained so much, I feel obligated to give something back, no matter how big or small the donation.
My involvement with the Charles R. Walgreen Jr. TKE Leadership Academy has been especially transformative. Serving as a facilitator has challenged me, helped me mature as a leader, forged life-long friendships, and enabled me to impact and support hundreds of fraters. But most of all, it’s stoked my optimism for the future of our fraternity-each time, I leave the Academy hopeful and re-energized. That’s why I give to the Academy: because I’ve been fortunate enough to see first-hand what a difference that program makes, and I know it’s worthy of my financial support.
I also give to my home chapter, because I want those fraters to know they’re supported, and because I want them to have opportunities I never had. Sometimes my donation feels like a drop in the bucket, but I know that one drop is better than no drop, and I know the Foundation pools those drops and puts them to their best use. I also like knowing my name will be listed in the donor section of The Teke Magazine, because I know if it is, there’s a chance one of my friends will see it and say, 'You know what? If he can give something, so can I.'"
Yours in the Bond,
Eric Ratinoff (Founders Society)
Washington University in St. Louis
"Receiving a scholarship through the Foundation helped me realize what kind of impact the Fraternity has had on others – when they made it a priority to give back and impact my life."
Frater Peter said he had little interaction with members outside his chapter, but receiving this scholarship made him realize the scope of the Fraternity. "Many times we see our fellow chapter members so much, we forget we are a part of the TKE Nation," said Holland. "The recognition of my hard work and this reminder were much more important than the amount of money."
And the acknowledgment was well deserved. Frater Peter has posted a 3.85 Grade Point Average in a double major (Economics and Management), been the Chapter Crysophylos, and been involved with several other organizations while on campus. He will graduate in May 2008 and has already secured a position at KPMG – Detroit, one of the nation’s leading accounting firms. Frater Peter said TKE has played an important role in getting him to the next phase of his life.
"I will miss college and the Fraternity, but TKE has taught me some very important lessons in leadership. One of the best, I believe, is how to interact and communicate with a diverse group of people. I feel fully prepared and confident walking into my first job."
2006 Kenneth L. Duke, Sr. Memorial Scholarship Winner