In 2013, Sigma Pi purchased and acquired The Mitchell House, a historically registered property located in Lebanon, TN, from Cracker Barrel for $1,000,000. The intent of the property was to serve as the Fraternity’s Executive Office. Since that time, funding to support the annual cost of the building has been based on the fees and dues of the undergraduate chapters, as inadequate planning was done for deferred maintenance and capital acquisition to support those efforts. Therefore, the Grand Council voted to sell the Mitchell House and utilize the proceeds to enhance the education and consultation services expected, and in some cases necessary, for chapters, advisory boards, alumni clubs, and housing corporations. Below will outline some brief context into the rationale and process involved during this decision.
After the departure of then-CEO Mike Ayalon (Buffalo ‘94) in September of 2015, a memo was sent to the Grand Council from the now-former Director of Finance indicating a shortage of funds to be able to properly operate the organization. Since that time, the men who served, and those who continue to serve on the Grand Council, had to make difficult decisions managing the finances and operations of Sigma Pi so we achieve our goal of providing a world-class fraternal experience for members.
Beginning in August of 2016, the Grand Council chaired by PGS Steve Lawler (Iowa ‘82) established the Strategic Finance Review Committee Chaired by PGS Ed Panconi (Loyola Marymount ‘82). The report of that committee highlighted various financial decisions undertaken since 2000. Due to the work of that committee and its report submitted in July 2017, in addition to looking at the future of Sigma Pi, the Grand Council conducted a CEO search in which CEO Jonathan M. Frost (UMSL ‘99) was hired to not only improve the financial condition of Sigma Pi but also to maximize the membership experience.
After months of discussion and continued analysis (including informal discussions in September 2018 with Sigma Pi Educational Foundation Chairman Ricky Marshall (Arkansas State ‘88) involving the potential for the SPEF to purchase the property) Grand Sage Joe Palazzolo (Monmouth ‘00) named PGS Lawler as Chairman of the Mitchell House review committee in December of 2018. This committee was created to verify the impact of the property on the Fraternity’s ability to provide the resources necessary for educating and supporting our chapters, advisory boards, alumni clubs, and housing corporations.
Part of this research has shown that discussions taking place amongst the Grand Council members at the time, prior to the acquisition of the property and their concerns then, are the same concerns today – the property consumes a great deal of annual capital that greatly depletes the Fraternity’s resources and limits the value-added experience of the organization. Based on this research, on April 6, 2019, the Grand Council authorized CEO Frost to sell the Mitchell House. CEO Frost successfully negotiated a sale to the City of Lebanon and on May 17, 2019, the parties signed a contract for $1,150,000. This decision will allow for the re-allocation of nearly $70,000 annually to be used for educational programming and services, in addition, to build the long-term operating reserve to a minimum of six months.
One aspect of concern throughout this process for the Grand Council and CEO Frost was the Veterans Memorial that was funded and built by over 50 alumni and friends of Sigma Pi. Thanks to the execution of a Memorandum of Understanding, the Veterans Memorial will be allowed to remain and be cared for on the Mitchell House property, until a new location is determined. Discussions are being led with Vincennes University by alumnus Brian Alley (Vincennes ‘01) who has strong relationships with the leadership at Vincennes, to seek to relocate the memorial to and place it next to the Sigma Pi Clocktower already established on their campus.
In order to allow time for improvements in the capital position and educational services, the Fraternity will be leasing office space for a minimum of five years. During this time leadership of Sigma Pi will conduct research to determine the best location for a headquarters that will meet current and future needs of Sigma Pi.
The focal point of the discussions revolved around maximizing membership value. This value-added experience is based on the services provided, which empowers local leadership and advisors to be effective and efficient in ensuring a strong local chapter. We are positioning ourselves to have the resources necessary to enhance our organizational value and invest in the development of our members. Sigma Pi is stronger when its chapters, Advisory Boards, Alumni Clubs, and Housing Corporations are operating at maximum efficiency and ensuring a positive experience for their members. For additional information that was used for this decision please visit mysigmapi.org, log in and find a more detailed report and the financial statements to understand this decision.
The new address of the Executive Office will be 1101 Kermit Drive, Suite 730, Nashville, TN 37217. This location is less than 15 minutes from both downtown Nashville, and the Nashville International Airport (BNA). The move will be effective on August 15th.