Department: Cover Story
The True Gentleman of the Year
Carnegie Mellon ’10
Among the more than 10,000 collegiate members at our more than 240 chapters, only one gets to hold a title that sets him apart for his actions, behavior, accomplishments and ability that coin him the ultimate gentleman. Each year the awards committee reviews top-notch applications for the coveted True Gentleman of the Year Award, which comes with a scholarship endowed by Warren Poslusny (Kettering ’69).
Noah Levin grew up with Carnegie Mellon University in his backyard, so he knew what to expect from a college education. He came to CMU with a portfolio of talent. From rowing crew to appearing in musicals, from tinkering with computers to completing freelance work for clients who discovered his talent, Levin soaked up as much knowledge as he could. He interacted in lots of social circles and found mentors who could help him succeed in his endeavors. He continually challenged himself through an eclectic mix of courses ranging from design theory to cognitive psychology to business-systems programming.
But he arrived on campus with no concept of fraternity life. And what he did know he did not find appealing. The stereotypical images of binge drinking, disrespect and overindulgence did not fit with his personality. Like scores of men before him who said they’d never join a fraternity, Levin’s fate changed when he befriended several brothers from Pennsylvania Phi.
When the local chapter offered Levin a bid, he nearly did not sign the offer. He expressed concern about the time commitment involved with joining a fraternity. Yet he came to realize that the decision to join yielded positive results that allowed him to expand his leadership abilities. Levin started to realize that all the members of smaller chapters must share in the workload to help the group excel – not just the officers. He says the secret to Pennsylvania Phi’s success is a great effort, one that allowed them to work as a cohesive unit and figure out the ropes themselves.
What advice, then, does our True Gentleman of the Year offer about being a modern gentleman? The first thing that comes to mind, he says, is respect. Levin believes men should be careful not to make judgments or jump to conclusions before they get to know someone. “Treat others as you would like to be treated,” he says. “You cannot be so involved with yourself that you lose awareness of your surroundings. Being able to understand and empathize with others is critical.”
Even Levin has role models to help influence his behavior. For example, he says he will never forget one of his supervisors at a summer job. “He was very involved with his work and family life, yet he always took the time to hear about my experience and offer his guidance.” Levin also watched his supervisor’s behavior, especially during frustrating moments when he continuously displayed a calm, collected manner despite the obstacles. Those moments left a lasting impression on him.
Although he owns a well-rounded set of morals and behavior, Levin learned a few traits from SAE about being a gentleman that he didn’t already know. He says most of those lessons unfolded in the drama of handling the chapter’s business. “I learned from my brothers’ manners,” he says. Plus, he says he holds respect as a keystone to success. “Coming to the table with an open mind is important to me,” he says. “Having doubt or skepticism is okay, but don’t be afraid to reach out to people who you think will not take the time, and you may be surprised at how well they respond.”
Levin also encourages members to stand up against traditions that have no place in Sigma Alpha Epsilon. One of the easiest words to mutter, ironically, is also one of the hardest for fraternity men to speak, he says. “We need to stand up and say ‘no’ when we know a behavior is unacceptable.” Levin says he has more success speaking with brothers individually to impress ideas and values upon them – rather than a group mentality that acts as a wall and a deterrent.
He leaves Carnegie Mellon with a degree in human computer interaction and information systems. Those skills, coupled with his personality, zeal and ambition, make him one of the most promising hires for Google. He’s headed there to start the next chapter of his life right after graduation, where he joins a crop of bright minds and talent. The opportunity, he says, is almost surreal.
“I’ve always thought you need to be around people smarter than you or else you’re not going to grow,” he says. “Learning as much as I can from my peers will be both challenging and rewarding.” Levin will have the title of interaction designer on the User Experience group. In that role, he’ll improve the design of new and existing Google products by making them more useful and easier to use.
Levin says all brothers should remember one lesson as they venture out into the world beyond the chapter walls. “You should feel comfortable enough to raise your hand in a situation and discuss a topic or bring up an issue,” he says. “That’s what SAE taught me, and that’s a skill I’ll need the rest of my life.”