Steven A. Starnes, E’01
#4, Epsilon Educational Endowment
“I owe my career to skills and connections I got at Alpha Epsilon.”
“What I remember about the first time I saw the Lodge was seeing a big sign in the front yard that said Chi Psi was having a capital campaign and making improvements on the building,” says Steven A. Starnes, E’01, Epsilon Educational Endowment #4. “I remember thinking to myself, ‘Out of all these fraternities, this is the only one that says that they are getting better. I want to check them out.”
“I walked through that door and met a lot of genuine, interesting people. I found a rich history in the Lodge at Michigan. I found really good things when I walked through that door.”
Starnes was the first in his family to join a fraternity and he didn’t really know what to expect. “I was surprised at the strength of the friendships that I made,” he said.
He was part of a large pledge class—17 new Brothers joining the house when there were only 11 actives in residence—and the group became closely bonded. He remembers evenings where they would put jazz on the radio, pour a nightcap, and ‘solve all the world’s problems.’
He says that his time at Alpha Epsilon was formative. He served as #4 in the Lodge, was on the national executive council, and was the recipient of the Stanley Birge award. “I learned a lot about people. I learned how to lead and how to communicate, which are skills that are helpful in the work environment. I got hands-on experience on how to run a business… rather successfully. I was looking for a career as a financial advisor, and my first internship was with an alumnus at his wealth management firm. I can honestly say that I owe my career to the Lodge and my Chi Psi connections. Anecdotally, I don’t think it’s that surprising that many people in government or in corporate leadership were in fraternities and sororities in college. There is so much opportunity to develop leadership and people skills.”
Chi Psi was such a positive aspect of his life that his brother James, who enrolled at Michigan six years after him, joined the Lodge as well. “It led to really great things for him, too,” Starnes says.
Today Starnes is a Principal and senior financial advisor with Grand Wealth Management and lives in Grand Rapids with his wife and two sons. He serves as #4 of the Epsilon Endowment. He says he gives back to Alpha Epsilon because so many paved the way for him. “I had a great experience at the Lodge,” he says. “Others gave money and time over the decades, and their dedication gave me some of my best friends in life. I owe a lot to that experience. I want to pave the way for others to have that same good fortune. That doesn’t come from nowhere — it takes a lot of time and money to create that experience and to be able to give back to Chi Psi feels good.”
“We’ve always tried to do things a little differently, a little better. It’s not the biggest party — it’s the most meaningful. We’ve always created a great atmosphere so meaningful things happen. We want to set ourselves apart on campus and show the next generation the future that they could have. We want to help them understand what is good.”
Without Chi Psi, I wouldn’t have the rich social relationships that I do, and I wouldn’t have had such a meaningful college experience.