If you want to print out all the awards and accolades won over the years by the Eta Nu chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two-year colleges, be sure to bring plenty of paper; the single-spaced record spans 10 pages of regional, national and international recognition for excellence in many categories.
There are five PTK chapters at SPC, but Eta Nu – the 61-year-old chapter on the St. Petersburg/Gibbs Campus – is the oldest and, arguably, the most successful.Most members would be quick to trace the chapter’s record of regular success to its advisor, Steve Meier.
Meier, an economics instructor at SPC for the past 35 years, plans to retire at the end of June. When he does, a remarkable 32-year record of spirited involvement with the Eta Nu chapter will come to an end.
His enthusiastic mentoring comes from his belief that Phi Theta Kappa is more than just an honor society; it is a platform for teaching the basic skills of success, skills that can stay with members long after they complete their educations.
“You need to have goals, and set up a plan to achieve those goals,” Meier said. “Those are the objectives of the society itself.”
Phi Theta Kappa encourages a belief in four basic hallmarks, Meier said – scholarship, leadership, service and fellowship. Members live by those hallmarks, and learn them through community-based projects. Working together on those projects, Meier said, can instill habits and commitments that can last a lifetime.
“These are the leaders of tomorrow, and the things they do in PTK can establish patterns of behavior that never change,” he said. “Things like Ronald McDonald House, and Junior Achievement, and going out and helping build a house for a low-income family – they get a great deal of gratification out of that. More than likely, they will stay involved in their communities.”
A couple of years ago, Meier realized that his career, and his involvement with Eta Nu, was nearing an end. He began searching for a successor. He found Jessica Magnani, an English instructor at St. Petersburg/Gibbs. Magnani has been Meier’s assistant advisor for the past two years. When he retires, she will assume the advisor role. (Communications instructor Margie Wikoff will serve as co-advisor.)
She knows they won’t be easy shoes to fill.
“He’s been the epitome of a student advisor and mentor,” Magnani said. “Over the last 32 years, he’s devoted himself to providing students with a myriad of opportunities for growth. His work has been the quiet, selfless work that often goes unrecognized – Steve’s content to see his students bask in the spotlight. He’s made an incredible impact on the lives of his students, and it’s the reason they all love him.
“His commitment to Eta Nu has made it one of the most, if not the most, successful chapters in the organization. Eta Nu has been the No. 1 chapter internationally five times in the last 20 years, something no other chapter in the organization has been able to accomplish. Among other advisors and those who work for Phi Theta Kappa International, Steve is well respected and much admired for the successes in which has lead the chapter.
“We’re all going to miss him terribly,” Magnani said.
If Meier has tried to operate as much as possible in the shadows, he knows how important the role of advisor is, and he realizes his lengthy tenure has paid some benefits.
“It helps to have an advisor who been there for a while and knows what it all about,” he said. “If you have high turnover in the advisor role, the chapter may not be as successful.”
Magnani has designed a full agenda for the coming year to keep Eta Nu in the forefront of PTK chapters.
“We’ll continue the celebration of National American Indian Heritage month in November,” she said. “We’re also working on a project that centers on improving college completion rates, as well as service projects and an Honors in Action project that the students design every year.
“We will certainly continue to be a Five-Star Chapter.”
Here are the awards that Eta Nu Chapter won at the most recent Phi Theta Kappa international gathering in Seattle last month:
- Beta Alpha Continued Excellence Award (20th consecutive year)
- Eighth Finalist for Most Distinguished Chapter (No. 9 ranking)
- Distinguished College Project Award
- Distinguished Honors in Action Project Award
- Distinguished Honors in Action Issue Award – History and the Future
- Distinguished Chapter Officer Award – Josh Ervin
- Distinguished Chapter Member Award – Kathy Sands
- Paragon Award for New Advisors – Jessica Magnani
- Continued Excellence Award for Advisors – Steve Meie
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