All In the Family
As a father, Kurt Gibson, Bradley ’88, is always proud of his children. That’s what dads are supposed to do.
Countless moments of pride have come through the years, but on Nov. 5, 2017, something was different. Yes, you could call it a proud father moment. You could also call it a proud brother moment. You could call it both.
Kurt watched as his youngest son, Christopher, was initiated into Delta Upsilon. Standing next to Kurt was his middle son, Benjamin, who is also a DU. As a regular father, he is proud knowing his boys have committed themselves to organization with high ideals. As a DU dad, this moment—as Rite II of the Initiation Ceremony is going on around them—is gratifying, surreal and exciting.
The journey from biological family to fraternity brothers began organically. Kurt initiated into Delta Upsilon’s Bradley Chapter in 1985, the first of anyone in his family to join a fraternity. He was a “typical college student,” and unbeknownst to him when he joined, Delta Upsilon would provide an outlet to help him grow as a person.
“I have no doubt that I am a better person, a better man, today because of my DU involvement,” Kurt said. “It helped me transition not only from high school into college, but it really gave me the opportunity to develop leadership skills that I’ve used later on in my life.”
Following graduation, Kurt kept DU close to his heart as he went on to start his family and career as a high school teacher, and now associate executive director of the Illinois High School Association. However, he didn’t really talk about his DU experience. He doesn’t know why he didn’t mention DU, and he’s sure there were times his sons would have interacted with his DU brothers, but his Fraternity experience never quite found its way into conversation.
In fact, when Ben, Bradley ’19, began looking at colleges, he didn’t even realize his dad had been in a fraternity. His oldest brother, Nick, had chosen a school without a fraternity system, so fraternities hadn’t come up before. It wasn’t until Ben chose Bradley, his father’s alma mater, that Kurt began to talk about Delta Upsilon.
“I told him both Ben and Chris they didn’t need to join a fraternity, but it was a great experience to go through if, for no other reason, you get to meet a bunch of people,” Kurt said.
Ben wasn’t planning to join a fraternity but took his father’s advice to give recruitment a chance and see if there was a chapter that fit him.
“He never pressured me to pick DU,” Ben said. “But after the first weekend of formal rounds, I knew DU was the best fit.”
DU felt like home.
Growing up, Ben and Chris may not have heard Kurt talk about his Delta Upsilon experience, but they were still shaped by it. After learning about the Fraternity’s Four Founding Principles during their time as associate members, Ben and Chris were able to draw many comparisons between the Fraternity and the values they were raised on.
“I could go into how each of the Four Founding Principles impacted us as kids,” Ben said.
Like many fathers, Kurt constantly encouraged his sons to spend time getting to know other kids outside of their friend groups, make new friends, be actively involved in anything they did, and treat others like they would want to be treated. While the Four Founding Principles’ connection to his parenting style may not have been a conscious decision, Kurt is glad they had an influence.
“The Principles DU was founded on are really rooted in a good way to live your life,” Kurt said. “We tried to expose the kids to as much diversity as we could so they accept others from different viewpoints, backgrounds and cultures. It makes sense when you start to think of it in the concept of the Four Founding Principles. It’s just a good way to lead your life.”
Kurt has often made the conscious effort to let his children figure things out on their own. He didn’t want to pressure them into going to Bradley or join DU. However, he is not surprised Ben and Chris ended up choosing Delta Upsilon on their own.
“I think what the Fraternity stands for resonates with each of them,” Kurt said.
For Ben and Chris, it’s reassuring to know that they share the same belief system as their father. Not every child is so lucky, and it makes the Gibsons’ bond as a family even stronger.
“It’s special knowing I’m not only going to be brothers with my brother, I get to be brothers with my dad,” Chris said. “It’s comforting to know we all have the same idea on values.”
While the Gibsons are still trying to find ways to enjoy their DU brotherhood together, the Fraternity is playing a big role in their lives individually. Ben just finished his term as the Bradley Chapter President, an experience he says has taught himself a lot about who he is. Chris is the Western Illinois Chapter’s new Vice President of Academic Excellence and looking for other ways to continue his involvement. Kurt is now a Chapter Advisor for the Illinois State Colony.
In their own ways, Delta Upsilon is building each of the Gibsons into better men. It is also giving new meaning to their father/son bond. As Kurt watches his sons go through their own DU experience, his fatherly pride bubbles more than ever.
“It is gratifying as a father to know they are going to be able to experience a lot of the great things I did,” Kurt said. “When I see the influence that the Fraternity is having on my sons, that just adds to the ‘How lucky am I?’ feeling I get when I think about sharing DU with my boys.”