Ben Barnett, a junior biomedical sciences major from Warrior, Alabama, has been awarded the Archon of the Year award by Pi Kappa Phi.
This is a national award for Archons, or individuals who serve as presidents of Pi Kappa Phi chapters, that recognizes individuals who excel in leading their chapter.
According to Pi Kappa Phi’s website, the fraternity “was founded on the premise of creating leadership opportunities for our members…Leadership is the very root of our organization, and it is the concept of leadership that shall guide us to our future.”
Barnett is the first recommendation that his adviser, Larry Turrin, has made in the past eight years of serving as the chapter adviser. In addition, he is the first Troy student to receive this award in the last 20 years, according to Turrin.
“It’s such a huge accomplishment and sets the standard for larger schools to maintain and achieve,” Turrin said. “This is a prestigious award; Ben sacrificed a lot of hours and time, and he was well deserving of it.”
Troy University’s Gamma Gamma Chapter of Pi Kappa Phi’s overall GPA has consistently risen over the past years under Barnett’s leadership, according to Turrin. Furthermore, the fraternity placed second last semester out of all Troy campus fraternities for the best overall GPA.
In addition, Barnett raised $6,000 to compete in the Journey of Hope, a cross-country cycling journey that raises funds and awareness for people with disabilities.
The Journey of Hope consisted of the members traveling from San Francisco, California, to Washington, D.C., and stopping in cities along the way to spend time with disabled people.
“Journey of Hope was, I can’t even put into words, how amazing it was…every night you’re spending time with someone who has a disability, getting past all the stereotypes and just get to let loose and have fun, knowing that we made such a difference,” Barnett said.
“You can see on the kids’ faces when we rolled into town that they were so excited. They were sitting out there for two hours, waiting on just us to get there, ’cause they haven’t seen us in a year. Just for us to spend two hours with them is just huge — it just changed their world.”
Turrin also mentioned that the chapter has consistently raised a minimum of $100 per person toward the Ability Experience, the chapter’s philanthropy, which is a nonprofit organization that serves people with disabilities with the sole purpose of enhancing their quality of life through building wheelchair ramps and spending quality time with the children.
“We’re kind of trying to break down that barrier that normal people have versus people with disabilities because we’ve grown up with that barrier our whole life,” Barnett said. “So we focus on what people with disabilities can do rather than what they can’t.”
Furthermore, Barnett, with the help of fraternity members, also helped raise the funds to help Joseph Arnold, a visually impaired Troy adjunct history professor, re-purchase his $15,000 eSight device that was lost in a house fire.
The device improved Arnold’s ability to see his family as well as prepare lesson plans and grade students’ work.
“That was kind of cool to me because we were able to get him his sight back, which was huge for him and his family and his daily life, and we got to directly do something for our community,” Barnett said.
“That was probably the biggest thing for me, being able to give back to our direct community. Not just some national organization that’s so much bigger than us that we don’t see the difference we can be, but the difference here among our people, our family here at Troy.”
Barnett balances a part-time job, serves as president of the fraternity, participates in Troy’s ROTC program, participates in the Journey of Hope, serves in the National Guard and maintains his marriage, all the while maintaining a 3.5 GPA.
“Trying to juggle all of it, it was difficult, but you know, some times you have to be able to multitask and like I said just not sleep,” Barnett said. “But personal sacrifice is definitely worth it in the end — just getting to see the difference we can make whenever we really set ourselves to it.”
The fraternity recognized his work at the 2016 Pi Kappa Phi awards banquet.
Barnett was selected out of Archons all around the country, including fraternity members from Clemson and the University of Alabama.
Five “Outstanding Archon” awards are given out regionally, while only one fraternity member receives the national “Archon of the Year” award.
Barnett’s motivation stems from his brother-in-law, Blake, who has epilepsy. He says seeing him go through so much and still staying strong in faith and in spirit helps him to stay strong, too.