The word “philanthropy” is, according to Google, derived from the Greek word “philanthropos,” meaning “man-loving.” Man-loving, in this sense, is the focus on feeling compassion and high regard of your fellow man; all of mankind as a whole is deserving of respect, regard, and, of course, assistance when needed. It only makes sense, then, that the connection between a word whose origins can be traced to Greece and college Greek life share such a close connection.
For many people, though, love of your fellow man isn’t what the first thing that comes to mind when they think about college fraternities.
So what is the first thing that comes to mind when I say the phrase “Greek life?” What about “fraternities” or “sororities?” If you pictured wild parties, hazing rituals, red solo cups and togas made of bedsheets, chances are your view of fraternities and sororities are more governed by what you’ve seen in movies and heard about during your time in college. If, on the other hand, you pictured well-organized, philanthropic events, year-round fundraising and a strong sense of compassion and the willingness to help others, you’ve hit the nail on the head.
Depending on where you went to college and your level of involvement in Greek life, you may have a very different opinion of the entire scenario. While many people who never pledged a fraternity or sorority who attended a larger schools like Arizona State or Penn State may know the groups best for their weekend antics, the foundation of a fraternity isn’t in the parties they throw, it’s in the philanthropy they engage in.
Every fraternity and sorority on just about every campus across America carefully and meticulously plans out a series of fundraising events that benefit a charity–whether it’s local or national. These charities and philanthropic causes become the backbone for the fraternity or sorority’s event planning and fundraising each year. In 2011 at the University of Michigan, the University’s Greek life helped to raise over $75,000 to donate to charities–in a single week.
Perhaps the biggest and best in Greek life fundraising is the annual event THON, which started at Penn State University in 1973 as a dance marathon to benefit charity. Since its onset, THON has partnered with the Four Diamonds Fund, which supports pediatric cancer research. The partnership, along with increased coverage of the event and a rate of participation from students both in and outside of Greek life has increased its charitable reach to epic proportions, recently raising over $14 million dollars in 2014 and over $9 million in 2016.
It’s time to break the mold of thinking when it comes to Greek life and the “party” culture that surrounds it. Often, Greek like winds up making strong changes of lives in people all over the glove.