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History of the Burns Institute


The Fraternity's Award Winning Leadership Program

On September 25, 1993, Ralph F. Burns, Ohio Wesleyan '32, passed into the Omega Chapter. Even though Ralph is no longer with us, the legacy he left will remain as long as one man reaches out to another and calls him brother. It is said that every organization needs a conscience. In many ways, Ralph F. Burns was Alpha Sigma Phi's conscience, heart and soul. Alpha Sigma Phi was Ralph Burns, and Ralph Burns was Alpha Sigma Phi.

For 61 years, Ralph F. Burns pledged his life to the principles and ideals that bind us as a fraternity. His life exemplified what is good about the fraternal movement in our nation. His commitment to Alpha Sigma Phi was deep, his love of our Fraternity broad and his belief in our credo complete. You could see it in his smile, feel it in his touch, and experience it, as thousands of undergraduates did at a score of conventions and leadership conferences. Most say of Ralph, that given the chance, he would rather meet with undergraduates than participate in Grand Council meetings. Ralph loved to interact with the undergraduates. That is why a program for undergraduates named in his honor made so much sense.

Shortly after Ralph's passing, the Grand Council's Chapter Services Task Force met in late 1993 to discuss the creation of the Ralph F. Burns New Member Program. The basic concept was to provide every new member of the Fraternity with a positive shared experience. A program with such scope and vision had never been attempted by any national fraternity or sorority. To this day, only a small handful provides a similar experience, but nothing matches the scale or number of participants our Fraternity hosts each year.

The first Ralph F. Burns New Member Program was held in a hotel in 1997. The program was a success, but due to limited funding, no more than 80 - 90 Members could participate each year. From 2001-2011 the Fraternity decided to move the Institute to regional camps across the country. The Burns Institute returned to a hotel in 2012. In 2006, the Fraternity received the Laurel Wreath Award from the North American Interfraternity Conference (NIC) for the Institute and its exceptional curriculum. The Laurel Wreath Award is the highest award given by the NIC to fraternities for educational programming.


"Learning more about the Fraternity and being able to take valuable information back to my chapter. I also enjoyed learning about what other chapters do and hearing from alumni facilitators... I basically enjoyed everything." - Meng-Hsiu Chan, Elmhurst '06

"Getting to spend a weekend surrounded by brothers and getting to learn more about ourselves and our Fraternity's values - priceless." - Rudy Mistovich, Michigan '08

"I enjoyed how well everyone communicated and expressed their thoughts as a group and worked together to complete goals. The weekend was very valuable." - Brian Benjamin, Virginia Tech. '07

"I really liked meeting brothers from different schools because for the first time, I felt like I was truly part of a national organization. Their stories and ideas made a lasting impression on me." - Daniel Stoecker, Washington '07

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