Story by Erik Potter

Jack Schimpf smiles at the camera.
Jack Schimpf, former president of Beta Theta Pi, won the 2018 North-American Interfraternity Conference Award of Distinction. Photo courtesy of Jack Schimpf

Jack Schimpf didn’t grasp all he was getting into when he was elected president of Beta Theta Pi fraternity.

“There were more groups to please than any role I’d ever had before,” Schimpf says. He had to keep good relationships with the fraternity’s student members, alumni board and national office, as well as with Mizzou’s administration.

The biggest challenge came when he and his executive board made the decision, unpopular with members at the time, to ban alcohol and become a substance-free house.

“That was probably the most backlash or criticism I’ve ever received for anything I’ve done in my life,” Schimpf says.

The housing corporation, Schimpf and his leadership team made the decision as a way to be proactive. They had the best interests of their fellow students — and their community — in mind. “It might not seem great now,” he told his members, “but the consequences of not doing it are greater.”

Skepticism faded with time. “Now, a year and a half removed, they’re still enjoying their experience and wouldn’t change it for the world,” Schimpf says.

The episode taught Schimpf a few lessons.

First, he learned the importance of process in making organizational change. Namely, if he were to do it over again, he’d involve the membership in the conversation much earlier, rather than announcing an already-made decision.

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Another key lesson was that pleasing everyone all the time is impossible. The job was too big. Once Schimpf realized that, he felt free to simply do the best he could. He leaned on his team for help and made sure he communicated clearly to everyone what he could and couldn’t do.

“That was the best thing I learned and will carry with me,” Schimpf says. “You can’t do it all, and you won’t be perfect. Just be the best you can be — and be ready to clean up any messes.”

For his effort, Schimpf was recognized with the 2018 North-American Interfraternity Conference Award of Distinction, which was given to only 11 undergraduate fraternity leaders in the nation.

Schimpf graduated in May 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in business. He accepted a job in sales with General Mills in Minneapolis and is starting a business management training program with the company this summer.