Destined to be the change, senior Devin Wilham is an influential part of the Greek life and Biology department at Franklin College.
Starting his freshman year, a devastating house fire rendered his home unlivable. Being a Franklin native, word traveled fast to the college.
“I received a message/email from Alioto, at the time, asking if there was anything that the college can do for myself or my family. The college allowed me to move in early to the dorm that I was going to be placed in,” Wilham said. “This was very helpful because my family did not have to worry.”
Although the only other students were football players, none of whom he previously knew, Wilham’s feeling of home was only amplified. Graduating from Franklin Community High School, the college was always near yet unexplored.
“As a Franklin native, I always passed by the college but never took the opportunity to walk through the campus,” Wilham said. “As I finally took a walk through campus, I instantly fell in love with the science department.”
He declared to be a biochemistry major, switched to biology, and ended up deciding on the newly constructed neuroscience degree.
“Having classes in neuroscience, learning about the neuroscience degree that was freshly new back in 2020, 2021, I was one of the first people to actually go into it. Before me it was just a Frankenstein major,” Wilham said. “I didn’t just like biology and chemistry – it’s why I wanted to be a biochem major, I liked biology and chemistry; it finally felt perfect for me.”
Not only is Wilham a part of the first group to graduate with an actual Neuroscience degree, but he also brought the Phi Delta Theta chapter back to life on Franklin College’s campus. Originally not wanting to go into Greek life, when the General Headquarters came to visit, Wilham took advantage of being able to build something that wasn’t already on the campus.
“I had the idea of a fraternity of the old stigma; that being that all they do is drink and party, did not care about academics, and engaged in hazing. This was, of course, ensued by the Hollywood idea via movies and TV for entertainment. While going through the recruitment rush process, Phi Delt was the only fraternity to give me a chance,” Wilham said. “I ended up doing it because I saw a cause that seemed great to me, a once in a lifetime opportunity to build something different than what is currently at Franklin. I also did further research in the Phi Delta Theta fraternity, and I loved the mission, vision, and image of the national organization.”
Once decided, Wilham got to work creating new bylaws and reaching out to alumni for old ones. After attending multiple conferences on the national level, researching past chapter’s and other school’s bylaws, and reading of the national code, Wilham Frankensteined together what is now the governing bylaws.
“Honestly what impacted me the most was my freshman and sophomore year because… I basically had to start from nothing and build it up. [I had] to learn on the fly and go with my best judgment, sometimes having to lead blindly,” Wilham said. “As a freshman, I would never have expected to write bylaws for a fraternity. The year after that, going to presidency and during that presidency, becoming a fully chartered chapter was amazing.”
The chapter has grown from about eight people to almost 20. The group outgrew their original meeting spot, a classroom in Johnson Center for Fine Arts, and even has their own house on campus now.
Wilham immersed himself into his passion and came out on top. The fraternity was not the only thing that Wilham brought to campus though. Coming from a bourbon and whiskey family, combined with his passion for how things work, Wilham’s senior project is brewing beer.
“At first, I just wanted to do it as a research project. Do it, learn the foundation, learn the true chemistry behind the process so I talked to Dr. [Arbin] Thapaliya, who was very interested in it,” Wilham said. “I was talking to Dr. [Bill] Eiler one day, who is my academic advisor, and he goes ‘You know, you are using principals of psychopharmacology, so that would relate to a senior project.’”
Admitting he could not have been successful alone, Wilham attributes part of his success to the support of faculty and staff at the college. His professors have guided him both academically, professionally, and personally. No matter what he has needed, no matter who he has asked, he has always got timely help.
“Everybody is easily accessible… you can at least send an email and get a timely response. As long as you put your mind to it, whether that is academically or sports-wise, you can have a successful career at Franklin,” Wilham said. “Franklin is a college of opportunity.”