Wednesday, July 13, 2011

A Tribute to My Greek Advisor: Brian Breittholz

I hope you will allow me a very personal post this week.

I attended Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.  That’s where I became a Theta Chi in the Spring of 1995.  My Greek Advisor for all my years at Miami was Brian Breittholz.  Those who have been around the fraternal movement for a while know Brian very well.  He has always been a big personality, a loveable friend, and a brilliant thinker on fraternity issues.  He has won many awards, including the NIC Award of Distinction.

Brian hasn’t been the Greek Advisor at Miami for a while now, but he has always remained a fixture at Miami and in Miami’s Greek community.  Brian advised chapters, including the alpha of Beta Theta Pi, and mentored other professionals who came to Oxford.  He was someone I could visit when I went back to see my alma mater.  For many outside of Oxford, especially those involved with fraternity life, Brian was the face of Miami.  As an alum, I was very proud of that.

Brian announced this week that that he will be leaving Miami to take a new job at Indiana University.  The red bricks are shedding a tear.

Brian and I became friends 17 years ago when I worked as a student receptionist in the student activities office.  From there, he mentored me as a chapter president and as IFC president.  We were an unlikely pair.  A transplanted New Yorker with an affinity for cigarettes, biting sarcasm, and the occasional curse word advising an innocent plaid-shirted country boy from the Midwest.  He lost the cigarettes and I lost the plaid, but the rest of us remains.  Brian will always be a mentor and a friend. 

On that note, I wanted to quickly share some of the many things I learned from Brian Breittholz:
  •  Nothing can make you as memorable as a distinct laugh.  You could have a third eye and still be forgotten more easily than someone with a laugh that forces others to laugh back.
  • Good advisors, like most good parents, limit the times they scold or express anger.  However, there is no question when you disappoint them.
  •  If you’re going to do an awards ceremony or formal event, go all out.  A good production matters.  The Academy Awards had nothing on Brian’s Greek Awards night!
  • There is at least one person on earth who thinks Chaka Kahn is one of the greatest singers ever.
  • You can teach values and stress character, and do so with colorful language.
  • Treat students with the respect of a colleague and the care of a family member.
  • ALWAYS leave action-oriented messages.
  • Always listen to chapter advisors.
  • Once in a rare while, something good comes out of Ohio University.
  • Come prepared to meetings.  Be ready to answer tough questions.
  • When you have a sense of humor, others want to be around you.
  • You can like things the way you like them, and want things the way you want them, and not have to be considered “high maintenance.”
  • Sometimes an “I love you kid” is all you need to keep going.
Brian – Miami will miss you.  But, Miami will never forget you.  That’s what happens when a person leaves a legacy of significance.  Now, It’s Indiana’s turn.   

Congrats on the new job my friend.  You’re welcome for dinner anytime.
 

5 comments:

  1. I know Dr. Shriver was the face of Miami for a long time, but I can't imagine anybody else who had more of an impact on students and greeks than Brian did over the last 2 decades. His support and guidance of new chapters in our established and historic greek system when he was greek advisor, including our group that eventually became Sigma Pi, was above and beyond anything I could have imagined or asked for. I can never thank him enough.

    Ben Smith
    Miami '95
    Sigma Pi

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  2. John, what a great tribute to a true Greek - and student - champion. He will indeed be missed in Oxford.

    Of the many "BB Lessons" I'll always live by:

    "When in doubt or overwhelmed with tasks or someday maybes, throw it in a red folder. It'll turn up sometime." (the folder has to be red)

    And thanks for posting the pic of Brian receiving the NIC Award of Distinction. (That's me on the right!) It was such a great evening.

    -Kye Hittle
    Director of IT, Beta Theta Pi

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  3. Wow, I worked with Brian for 6 years in University Advancement. His laugh was what made him so memorable. He is such a great guy and Miami's loss is IU's gain. Good luck Brian.

    Liz Walker

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  4. One of the things Brian is known for is his ability to welcome developing professionals and Friends of Beta into his home for ice cream and cookies during Beta's leadership events. Those "ice cream at BB's" events allowed new fraternity/sorority and student affairs professionals a chance to connect and get to know each other a little better. I remember sitting on his couch during my first visit, and looking around the room - there were seasoned professionals and people new to the field talking about the fraternity movement, the Bachelorette, and college basketball.

    It's a small thing, but some of the most interesting, hilarious, and relaxing evenings have been spent in his home. I often thought to myself "If these walls had memories...."

    I just brought the final group of FOB's to his house this week. I know BB will return to Oxford to see his friends (who have become family) - but he provided an avenue for fraternity professionals to be authentic and feel welcomed.

    That's something we definitely need more of. Good luck, BB! Great things are just around the bend.

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  5. I was on the faculty at Miami University for 40 years and served as a chapter/faculty/academic/housing corp advisor for 38 of those. I worked with 11 different individuals in Greek Affairs (with various titles). Brian, without question, was the finest of them.

    We immediately hit it off as we were both raised on Long Island and from a Jewish background. Our similar propensity to sarcasm was immediately apparent. Very quickly, we developed a mutual respect for each other. We were able to exploit each of our own comparative advantages, with Brian excelling in interpersonal skills, programming (!) and his willingness to reinvent the wheel each and every year for the "new kids on the block."

    His apparent easy-going demeanor was deceiving. Beneath his contagious laugh and smile lay a sharp mind and tongue, ready to challenge you. You were either prepared to defend your point of view or suffer the consequences. 1992-99 were the consummate years of the Greek system at Miami.

    There are three specific calls I remember from Brian. The first dealt with a concern that Brian had with my fraternity. His call was simple. "Jerry, we have a problem." That is all I needed to hear. The problem was solved within three hours. The second one was Brian notifying me that he was leaving the position of Director of Greek Affairs. I was devastated; I was concerned for the system. Fortunately, Brian, an initiated brother of Phi Kappa Tau, would remain part of the system as the Chapter Counselor to the Alpha Chapter of Beta Theta Pi. That chapter had just returned, and, with Brian's guidance and leadership, it has remained "on top" for over ten years.

    And, of course, there was the third call--just recently--when Brian announced his departure from Miami. From Miami's standpoint, he will be missed. Ameliorating those feelings is the knowledge of his influence on thousands of Greeks at Miami...and the Greek system. From a personal standpoint, I will miss him--as a friend, colleague, fellow advisor and fellow lover of Chinese food at the Chinese Lantern in Hamilton. For Brian, the move is a win/win for him and Indiana.

    Brian...thank you for years of friendship, service, guidance and sagacious advice.


    Jerry Miller
    Professor Emeritus, Economics
    Chapter and Faculty Advisor, Mu Psi Chapter of Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity
    Academic Advisor, Delta Gamma Chapter of Pi Kappa Alpha Fraternity
    National Scholarship Chairman, Sigma Alpha Mu Fraternity
    Director, 206 Mu Psi Corp

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