Department: Portrait of a Gentleman
One award earns the envy of our collegiate brothers every year when it’s announced at the John O. Moseley Leadership School besides the Zeal Award. The True Gentleman of the Year serves as our role model of what a Sigma Alpha Epsilon brother should embody. He should personify our creed and epitomize its definition. Plus, the honor comes with a nice financial reward, made possible by Warren Poslusy from Kettering University. Nicholas Kreifels (Loyola ’11) took a short reprieve from his work in the Chicago Loop to discuss his perceptions of fraternity life, leadership and his home state’s obsession with the Huskers.
How did you find out you had earned our top honor for collegiate members?
I was sitting at my desk of my new job when my phone buzzed with a text message. Jeff Hall, our Regional Director, appeared on the screen. The message said “Congratulations on TG of the Year!” I thought he was pulling a prank until a stream of texts and e-mails flooded my phone with congratulations from my chapter brothers on the Leadership School cruise. I was shocked and humbled.
Some people may think that the True Gentleman of the Year Award is a nerdy honor that goes to someone who is Mr. SAE. How would you describe why that is not the case?
I never saw it as a nerdy award. I believe it typifies what being a fraternity man means: a leader, hard worker, sociable, communicator and a role model and face for the chapter. It embodies a goal for us all: to leave our chapter, community and Fraternity better than we found it; to inspire and impact others in a positive way; and to build a foundation for others to lead after you depart. It is an honor to be recommended for the award since it rewards brothers for their cumulative hard work during their years as undergraduates.
The award comes with a $5,000 scholarship made possible by Warren Poslusny (Kettering ’69). How are you planning to use that financial reward?
I plan to repay student debt, buy an iPad for work and then place the rest in savings.
What is one of the greatest things that your membership in Sigma Alpha Epsilon has given you?
Sigma Alpha Epsilon brought me into the fold of a brotherhood. Being from a small family with no brothers, I appreciate greatly the bonds that I formed and continue to form in our Fraternity. It is an inexhaustible source of support, friendship and education that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.
What made you decide to pledge the chapter at Loyola University?
I assumed leadership roles throughout my whole life in college and yearned to expand, deepen and hone those skills in college. I befriended many brothers in the chapter and, after the first rush event, it became obvious SAE provided more opportunities than I could imagine. I knew SAE was the best on campus and the best nationally. It was an easy decision to sign once I received the bid.
Some collegiate brothers aspire to be good leaders but battle apathetic members or brothers who are in the Fraternity for the wrong reason. What would you say to inspire those potential leaders?
Inspire those potential leaders in the chapter to participate and assume leadership roles. Do not waste time catering to brothers who will always bring apathy and pessimism into the chapter. Change the culture. Nurturing leaders in the chapter is the most important contribution you can make. It builds a strong foundation and direction for success.
Is there anything you wish you had done differently when you were a collegiate member?
I wish I had pushed brothers to think of innovative ideas and take risks outside of our normal community service, social and brotherhood events.
Will fraternities exist 50 years from now? Why or why not?
Yes. 156 years of tradition, alumni, staff and undergraduate membership does not die. Fraternities offer an experience second-to-none for undergraduates and a lifelong bond that carries us for the rest of our lives. It falls to Fraternity men to preserve our organizations to ensure brothers in the future have the same opportunity to live the Fraternity experience.
With which part of “The True Gentleman” do you identify the most? And explain why.
“…A man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe…” Integrity and character provide confidence and purpose in my life. Without them, I think a man loses his reputation and direction.
As the True Gentleman of the Year, you serve as a mentor and as a role model for our members. Who is one of your biggest role models?
My father. He lives for his family, goes above and beyond for the community, and is adored by those he manages at work. He embodies the values, character, respect and integrity I strive for every day.
Tell us about some of the other awards and recognition you received through the years, whether or not it’s related to Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
Receiving the Eagle Scout Award was one of my proudest accomplishments. For my Eagle Scout project, I organized a complete reconstruction of my high school’s grotto of Mary, which is our patron Saint. The donors, volunteers and my troop members were invaluable in the process, and it took months to complete. Laying bricks is not the most fun task, but the reward of seeing it to fruition and the happiness it provided my alma mater rewarded me more than I could have imagined.
What’s your definition of a gentleman?
It is difficult to top Mr. Wayland’s eloquent definition. If I had to put it in a few words: confident, sociable, sincere, trustworthy and philanthropic.
You graduated from Leadership School and Inner Circle and served as a Leadership School ambassador. What did those opportunities provide you?
They provided me drive to keep my passion for the Fraternity long after I graduated as an undergraduate. Listening to men in their 60s speak fondly of their years in the Fraternity and the Supreme Council engaging us in dialogue on the future of our organization enkindled a passion to continue being active in roles to better the Fraternity after graduation. It helped me realize the undergraduate experience is the first step in a lifelong experience.
What’s some of the best advice you could offer our collegiate officers?
I will borrow a quote from Brad Cohen that stuck with me from Inner Circle: “Perception is reality.” Drive down to the root of problems from that perspective, and work to change how brothers, the administration or the community perceive the chapter, and turn it around. I use that perspective as a guide when making unpopular decisions or analyzing situations and discovering how to turn the negatives into positives.
Just one last question. You’re originally from Nebraska. Why does the state seem to “shut down” on Saturdays when the Cornhuskers play football?
For as long as I can remember growing up in Nebraska, the state revolves around Husker football. The tradition of the program, tailgating the games in the extreme temperatures and filling the stadium to capacity every weekend to cheer the Huskers pulls in every fan. A sense of loyalty and community envelopes the entire state each Saturday. Professional sports? Don’t need them when you have the Huskers.