Day 1: Monday, August 4
The attendants traveled to Houston from all over the country to kick off COR 2014. So after arriving Sunday evening, National Advisor Dean Tzobanakis and I were on shuttle duty, picking up a number of brothers and their luggage on Monday morning.
We got off to a good start when Kansas brothers Connor Crist and Trent Sanders physically assaulted Dean upon our arrival. Shortly thereafter, we heard Tennessee brothers Spencer Cochran and Preston Morris coming before we could see them. They also said hello to Dean in a manner that was equal parts intimate and violent. Preston greeted me by asking how I was doing and how long it takes me to fix my hair.
We successfully rounded up the men and got them to the hotel for the kickoff lunch. At lunch they received their gift package, which included an athletic shirt, t-shirt, Nike golf cap, COR notebook and a pair of books. The National Staff wanted to make sure to honor these leaders for their effort and interest in attending COR by hooking them up with quality merch.
Like the inaugural retreat, Texas A&M Founder and BYX Board Member Brett Williams hosted the attendants for the first session in his 30th story conference room near downtown. The majority of sessions revolved around a specific character attribute necessary for successful leaders. Brett spoke on integrity.
On top of the leadership traits, the session leaders spoke on their careers and family life. Though the session leaders have accomplished much in their lives and careers, they still spoke to the attendants with honesty and transparency like any other brothers would.
Following the session with Brett, we headed to Lupe Tortilla, a restaurant near the hotel with a great reputation amongst the staff. I am convinced that their beef fajitas were not affected by the fall of man. They will taste the same in glory as they do now. Yeah, that good. A number of alumni joined us for dinner to meet the COR attendants.
Before calling it a night at the hotel, the men split into four groups of five with the national advisors to recap the day’s sessions. The debriefing groups met each night. The groups wasted little time before opening up and having deep, honest conversations.
Day 2: Tuesday, August 5
Texas BYX alumnus and BYX Board Member Joshua Brown led off Tuesday’s sessions at his office in the Galleria. Joshua works in the corporate real estate industry for Jackson Cooksey and addressed the men on discernment. By sharing a number of stories from his leadership experience in BYX and his career, Joshua conveyed the need for the men to continually grow in discernment.
After a lunch meeting with Texas A&M Alumnus Brian Moore, who spoke on the importance of remaining involved with BYX after graduation, we headed to the Houston Museum of Natural Science to meet with donor George Lindahl. George, who retired after a successful career in the oil and gas industry, serves on the board of the museum, so he was able to hook us up with little purple stickers comparable to the golden tickets in Willy Wonka that gave us access to every exhibit in the museum.
Before turning the group of 20 college students loose on the museum, George spoke on the joy of giving and pouring yourself out for the sake of the kingdom. George admitted that it took a while to learn this lesson for himself, so it was interesting to hear how the Lord has grown him over the last couple of decades.
A group of us took a quick nap in the 3D IMAX documentary on great white sharks. The documentary did a great job of capturing the power of the great white and the stupidity of man given some thought swimming with sharks was a good life choice. We proceeded to look at other things that could, at one point at least, kill us when we walked through the museum’s impressive dinosaur exhibit. Before rolling out, we checked out some dope bling in the mineral exhibit that would even humble Juvenile and Lil Wayne.
Day 3: Wednesday, August 6
We wrapped up our time in my hometown by enjoying sessions at a pair of exciting locations. For the morning session, we braved Houston rush hour traffic and moved at a snail’s pace towards Memorial Hermann Texas Medical Center. Memorial Hermann is located in the heart of Houston’s Medical Center. It is a top-notch hospital, so it takes on the role of the big fish in a pretty big pond.
At Memorial Hermann, we had the privilege of meeting with CEO Craig Cordola, a Texas BYX alumnus who has served on the BYX Board of Directors. We learned quickly that Craig is a pretty big fish himself as he told stories of hiring entire departments from other hospitals a stone’s throw from Memorial Hermann and approving renovations to his hospital costing over a quarter of a billion dollars. Just another day in the life of one of my fraternity brothers.
Like the other session leaders, Craig took time to emphasize the importance of relationships. As we toured the massive hospital, he would stop to converse with a number of his employees, illustrating his priority on relationships. While teaching, he shared a video about a woman who’s life was saved by Memorial Hermann’s recently developed Heart and Vascular Institute, which is already among the elite in the country.
The hospital tour was highlighted by a trip to the helipad, where Life Flight operates. Craig showed us a trailer for an upcoming TNT show about Memorial Hermann’s Life Flight program. The following session leaders were quick to acknowledge that they didn’t have any toys quite as nice as Craig’s $6 million helicopter. I guess we’ll let anyone speak at COR these days.
Session two of the day was with TCU alumnus and former board member Cody Dick. Rather than playing sardines in Cody’s downtown conference room, we opted for a different downtown venue: Minute Maid Park, home of the Houston Astros. Cody provided biblically-backed insights on conflict resolution and had the men talk through different scenarios in small groups.
Before diving into Cody’s session on resolve, Jamie Hildreth, the Astros’
Senior Vice President of Broadcasting and Alumni Relations, stopped by our room to welcome us to Minute Maid Park. Jamie has been with the Astros since the year I was brought into this world, so he had no shortage of baseball knowledge and stories to share in his brief stop. Jamie was kind enough to give a baseball autographed by Lance Berkman to Texas President Alex Mark for answering a trivia question.
Following the session, we were treated to a tour of Minute Maid Park. As a lifelong Astros fan, I wandered the stadium with an awe generally reserved for children at Disney World. Anyone who knows me knows that baseball, and especially the Astros, has a special place in my heart. I look at it in the way artsy fartsy people look at the Mona Lisa. Baseball often creates a sort of transcendent feeling that I struggle to verbalize. So all was right in the world as I stood on the field and rested my forearms on the rail of the dugout as if a game was being played in front of me.
The Houston stretch of COR was a home run. Even though I had heard many of the session leaders speak on these topics before, I found myself taking away new information to apply. Just halfway through the trip I felt like I was bursting at the seams with new information and running on mental fumes after all the sessions. And we still had six sessions ahead of us in Dallas…