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Mike Dilts named Purdue Distinguished Alumnus with Dan Murphy

Q: Why did you join Fiji Purdue in the first place?

Mike Dilts:  I was introduced to Fiji by Morgan Burke (current Director of Athletics at Purdue) when I worked for him as a lifeguard between my junior and senior years in high school.  Later, when I was enrolled at Purdue, two of my very good friends, Tom Ford and Bill Gettings, who were a year ahead of me (Dan’s pledge brothers) and whom I had high regard for, had joined the fraternity.  Each one of these men wanted me to be in the club with them.

Dan Murphy:  I had been recruited to wrestle at Purdue and was not very familiar with fraternities.  When I got on campus, I received a call from Chris Burke (not related to Morgan Burke) who asked me to come by the house for a rush party.  Chris had actually been at the state championship tournament in Illinois when my twin brother, Don, and I both won championships.  Don attended Auburn, I went to Purdue and Chris hunted me down and asked me to come over.  While I rushed other houses, the Fijis had a great group of brothers who I really got along with.  Chris’ persistence during the rush period was also a factor. 

Q: What’s your favorite memory from your time in the chapter?

Mike: Far too many to count, but working Kappa Phi was like a fraternity within a fraternity.  Home football Saturdays where we welcomed alumni back to the house, those were great fun, especially when the sorority, whom we sat at football games with, would come over and tailgate.

Dan: I agree with Mike, far too many to count.  The best times were when I just hung out with the brothers, playing cards and having a beverage, or at a social function.  My pledge class had six or seven Purdue swimmers and, when we went on our walk out, we went up to South Bend to watch those who were swimming.  That was a great weekend and a great chance to get to know everybody better.

Q: Do you still keep in touch with any of your brothers?

Mike: The words “Phi Gamma Delta is not for college days alone” is spot on.  There is not a week that goes by that I’m not connecting with a Phi Gam from Purdue or another chapter professionally, socially or communally.

Dan:  After college, my wife and I went up to Chicago and I really didn’t see many of my brothers.  After three years in Chicago, we moved to Indianapolis and bought a house.  Within a couple of years, my pledge brother Joe Breen bought a house in the same neighborhood and I began reconnecting with more of the brothers.  Now, with my work at Shiel Sexton, I have had the ability to keep in touch with a number of guys, not only in my class, but in the classes that surrounded the class of ’78.  Mike is one of those guys who are really great about keeping in touch with people and, since we have been working together for the last eight-plus years, I have been able to ride his coattails and re-connect with more of the brothers from 640 Russell.

Mike Dilts (R) and Dan Murphy (L) in front of Indiana University Fiji House

Q: Tell us about your job title and what company you work for.

Mike:  Our construction company started as a small General Contractor in Indianapolis, privately held by two individuals, and has grown to a multi-construction services provider.  We operate all over the United States, have established a Brazilian subsidiary and expect to become a 100% employee owned company (ESOP) by the end of this fiscal year.

Dan:  Mike really doesn’t say enough about how this company grew.  My pledge brother, Joe Breen, introduced Mike to Andy Shiel, whose dad and his partner started Shiel Sexton.  Andy convinced Mike to move to Indianapolis and join Shiel Sexton back in 1985, which Mike did.  Since that time, Shiel Sexton has grown from a local General Contractor with $25 million to $30 million in revenue to a company with revenues in excess of $350 million.  Mike has been instrumental in that growth.

Q: How did your time in Fiji Purdue help to prepare you for that role?

Mike: You learn at Fiji to be “Persistent” and treat others with respect.  Nothing is given, everything is earned.  Fiji also taught me to not be afraid of a bigger stage and to connect with people at all levels of an organization.

Dan: I will always remember “Nothing in the world can take the place of Persistence…..”  That saying that we ingrained into our bodies during pledgeship is so true and has been one of my guiding principles to achieve success, no matter how you measure it.  I know that, whatever the challenges that are thrown at us, either professionally or personally, there is a way to figure out how to address those challenges.  That has been especially true in my professional career and, as I made the move to Shiel Sexton, it has been incredibly gratifying to work with Mike and figure out how to address the business challenges we face and move the company forward.

Q: What have you been up to since graduation?

Mike:  Thirty-six years in the construction industry (5) with a national contractor in St. Louis and Boston and thirty-plus years at Shiel Sexton in Indianapolis.  Personally, my odds of getting married, as voted on by my pledge class, were about 400 to 1. I fortunately convinced a Purdue Kappa, Suzy Sampson, to marry me and 36 years and five daughters later we are still going strong, not to mention a new grandson, who I’m hoping will be in the Class of 2038, if my math is correct.  My son in-law met my daughter in high school and was a Fiji at Indiana University. 

Dan:  After spending another four years at Purdue as an assistant wrestling coach, Marla (a Purdue Phi Mu I married in 1979) and I moved to Chicago, where I spent three years working in for a Public accounting firm.  We then moved to Indianapolis where I spent another five years in public accounting, 16 years with a large public financial services and the last eight-plus with Shiel Sexton.  We have five children (three having gone to Purdue) and three grandchildren.

Q: What would you say is your biggest accomplishment?

Mike:  Friends and family.  I know it sounds cliché, but it’s the only thing that matters to me.

Dan:  Ditto Mike. It’s funny how you get so wrapped up in work and careers and, the next thing you know, retirement is right on the horizon.  Life moves so fast and it’s really hard to slow it down, but I think Mike will agree with me that, when we get a chance to reacquaint ourselves with some of our brothers from 640 Russell, either at a dinner or golf outing, we get to turn back the clock to our college days, and that is awesome.

Mike Dilts (R) and Dan Murphy (L) in front of Indiana University Fiji House.

Q: What advice would you give to future generations of Fiji Purdue members?

Mike:  Stay in touch with your brothers.  Friendships and the relationships created in college are a two-way street that will pay double on down the road…Perge’

Dan:  When you are young and have the chance to meet and live with the quality of young men that comprise Phi Gamma Delta, you really need to work to keep in touch.  It’s easier right out of college to do that, but as careers and families take off, it becomes much harder.  Work at it.  As Mike says, it pays off double down the road, and he is right.  I am incredibly grateful that Mike gave me the opportunity to work with him at Shiel Sexton.  I have to say, working with him is one of the most fulfilling careers I have ever had.

Mike was recently named Distinguished Alumnus in Construction Management Technology of the Purdue Polytechnic College. He has given back so much to Purdue with his time and energy.

Additionally, when the Fijis down at Indiana University were forced from their house by the University, Shiel Sexton was given the opportunity to build their new home. Mike and I recently walked through the house down in Bloomington and it is an incredible house. Shiel Sexton is incredibly grateful for the call to build this beautiful home for these brothers. It would not have happened if it wasn’t for the efforts put forth by Bill Miller and his brothers. All I can say is “Wow, I cannot wait to see the finished house at the end of this year!” 

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