Mr. University: what makes a man?


Gordon smiles as he accepts his awards of “Mr. University” and “Mr. Phi Mu.” He wears a mask featuring many of his best moments at UNA, including SOAR, LaGrange and SGA.

Brooke J. Freundschuh, A&E Editor

 What does it take to be a good leader? 

These are the questions that members of the fraternity Alpha Tau Omega (ATO) are challenged to ask themselves.

Mr. University is a title given to one man in an event sponsored by the Panhellenic council. This year’s Mr. University is none other than the one and only Charlie Gordon. 

Gordon is a well known figure on the University of North Alabama campus as he is very involved on-campus and a member of many organizations. Nearing the end of his first semester of his senior year of college, Gordon has enough connections and a resume to wow anyone he meets on campus; however, things have not always been so easy for him. 

As a high school student, when Gordon thought of college, he pictured himself anywhere but UNA. He did not want to go to the same school that his parents and his older sister had gone to. He wanted to be his own man and start over somewhere completely new. 

On this journey, he faced a whirlwind of college applications and interviews. He was a finalist for a Coca-Cola scholarship, but when he did not win, he had to choose the most financially sensible option. UNA was the only school to offer him a full scholarship, so he took the road he had refused to go down for so long. 

“I got to campus at SOAR and I broke down crying,” Gordon said, reflecting on his early days at UNA. 

He had a tumultuous yet isolated first semester of his freshman year. He did not get a bid the first time he rushed. He did not make Freshman Forum. He spent many days in his single dorm room feeling confused and alone. 

“I didn’t know a single person on campus,” Gordon said. “I didn’t have a single friend.”

However, those at the university who were in Gordon’s corner from the very beginning continued to persuade him to try new things and be his best. The lead SOAR counselor at the time continually encouraged him to try out to be a counselor for the following summer.

Gordon was one of the few, rare students to make SOAR counselor as a freshman. At first, he continued to doubt himself as he went through training and was constantly reminded by those around him that he was worthy and valuable.

“[I thought to myself], ‘I’m not going to make it,’” Gordon said, “‘Nothing about me is special. How can I lead these freshmen and welcome them into a school that I don’t even feel like I belong at?’” 

Despite not making Freshman Forum, he still joined Senate in his second semester of freshman year. He also joined ATO, the nation’s leading leadership development fraternity, in the spring semester. It was in this fraternity that he truly started to feel a connection and sense of brotherhood with other men on campus. Things were starting to look up for him, and then the summer of 2018 changed his life forever. 

He thrived as a SOAR counselor and truly found a passion for helping freshmen who were coming to Florence just as scared and lonely as he had been only months prior.

Going into his sophomore year, he had a newfound confidence in himself and a determination to help others. He became more involved in ATO, making it a seemingly perfect fit for Gordon who would continue to take on more leadership roles around campus. 

As for his time in ATO, Gordon is extremely grateful and reflects positively on his experiences.

“Our main focus is engaging with our men and building our men up to be leaders,” Gordon said. “We do a lot of work with what it means to be a man, what it means to have true merit to respecting one another.”

ATO gives him a place to focus on taking care of and building himself as a person. 

“One of the greatest things in our life is in our chapter we have such a very open and honest relationship with our brothers,” Gordon said. “I’m challenged every day with a new perspective and new understanding and what it means to be a man. In ATO we have real, honest conversations about mental health and the struggles that men go through.”

Gordon said that a lot of times, especially in men, mental health is not discussed because it is not man enough to have those tough conversations. 

“ATO has provided me an opportunity to find my best friends,” Gordon said. 

He has found friends that he now considers family, not only in his own fraternity, but in Greek life in general. 

“The Greek community is so supportive and loving,” Gordon said. “We have a lot of healthy competition but at the end of the day, we’re so connected and we support one another across the 27 chapters over four councils. I have friends in nearly all of them. I know that my Greek letters don’t define my relationship with another organization. I have best friends in other fraternities on campus.”

Gordon serves ATO by informing new members about the history and traditions of the fraternity. He also continuously provides support for his little brothers.

“I know that when I get married one day, the men who stand next to me as my groomsmen will all be ATO,” Gordon said. 

In his sophomore year, Gordon also joined the LaGrange society, furthering his passion for helping incoming freshmen find their way at UNA. Currently, Gordon is the captain of the LaGrange society. He said that one of his favorite things about being involved in both SOAR and LaGrange is seeing his “kids” from SOAR make LaGrange and Freshman Forum. 

His current co-captain, Macy McKeever, was in one of his first year SOAR groups. It is for reasons like these that he is lovingly called the “SOAR Dad.”

At the end of his sophomore year, Gordon ran for the office of secretary in the Student Government Association. He ended up running unopposed and therefore winning. However, governing the 2019-2020 school year was met with great challenges, when COVID-19 surfaced in the spring of this year. Gordon had to make the tough realization that the rest of his time at UNA would not be the same as it was before the coronavirus, going forward into his senior year.

“My senior year was different,” Gordon said. “But I was so fortunate that I was able to have three amazing years, and I’m willing to give up one year of fun stuff if next year we can go back to what I got to experience. So, I do not feel like my senior year was limited in any way.

As it has shown so far in his time at UNA, his concern is solely for others. His heart goes out to the freshmen who did not get to complete their senior year of high school or have extracurricular activities or proms or proper graduation ceremonies and for the sophomore class who did not get to properly finish their freshman year with spring break or their spring concert. 

“I’m just so thankful that we’re here,” Gordon said. “That we’re alive, that we’re okay, that this university is taking this pandemic seriously.”

Perhaps it is this loving heart and concern for others that granted Gordon his newest titles of “Mr. University” and “Mr. Phi Mu.”

For the Mr. University contest, each student organization, whether they are Greek or not, are allowed to nominate a candidate for Mr. University. 

Gordon was nominated by Phi Mu sorority. These candidates participate in a male beauty pageant and a winner is chosen. All proceeds from this event are donated to charity. This year’s selected programs were Florence-Lauderdale Animal Services and Shelter and the UNA period project, which works to provide every woman on campus with the necessary menstrual hygiene products they need to live comfortably.

Gordon laments that he did not think he was going to win this year’s title, he simply did it for a good cause, but he is very grateful for the experience.

Moving forward, as he prepares to graduate, Gordon plans to pursue a masters degree to move towards his goal of working on UNA’s administration in the Office of Student Affairs where he has worked for the last three years. 

“My dream job is to be the vice president of student affairs at UNA,” Gordon said. 

He is very much inspired by Dr. Kimberly Greenway, the current VP.

No matter where he ends up in life, Gordon knows that he will work to help Freshmen facing the same struggles he did nearly four years ago.

Being a senior, he has impacted every class at UNA currently through SOAR, and his impact is seen all over campus. 

“This campus gave me a second chance,” He said. “Every single day that I get an opportunity or have an experience my heart is still freshman year Charlie.”