While finishing up his electrical engineering degree at Tennessee Tech, Todd Arrants ('84) and his father Bill started Utility Sales Agency, a manufacturer's representative of products for electric utility companies in Tennessee and Kentucky. Today, Todd is Principal Owner of the firm, supporting Nashville-area utility consultants, TVA, and managing the daily operations of the business.
Outside of work, Todd enjoys pretty much anything related to water and water sports and can be found on Lake Chickamauga most weekends during the summer with friends and family. He uses his passion for water skiing in supporting SPARCs (Chattanooga chapter of Disable Sports USA) during their annual water skiing day and also gets to keep his scuba diving skills honed as a volunteer diver at the Chattanooga Aquarium. Todd is married and has 3 children, Baylor (BSME from TTU), Christopher (BSEE from UTC), and Amanda, a Junior at TTU . We managed to catch-up with him during his busy work travel schedule to talk about his Theta Tau experience.
What was it about Phi Gamma Delta that appealed to you?
I was in the first pledge class of Fiji back in the fall of ‘79. I went to Tech not knowing anyone from high school and was looking for ways to plug into school, so I visited a lot of different groups and several fraternities. I found the guys at Fiji to be people I liked being around. They were new, and they did things differently. A lot of fraternity rush in those days centered around kegs and drinking (the legal drinking age was 18 then). I like a good party, of course, but I was looking for more than that for my years in school.
As an undergraduate, what sort of impact did your fraternity membership have on you?
It probably kept me in school! I wasn’t the most focused of students, especially in the first couple of years, and college was significantly harder than anything I had in high school. Being in a group with a lot of engineers was very helpful in getting through the engineering part of college.
But I feel the fraternity offered much more than academic support. It offered the chance to meet and work with people from completely different backgrounds, interests, goals, and beliefs. We typically come from ‘home’ being around people like us — our bubble, whatever that bubble is. Going to school with people from other places and beliefs I still feel was vital for moving into the real world. When you screw up or offend someone in college, you learn. In the working world, it can cost you a job. Better to be stupid around brothers (where you can learn and be forgiven) than your new boss!
Has Phi Gamma Delta been a meaningful part of your life as a graduate?
Being attached to something back at Tech has been very meaningful for my post school days; which there are a lot more of than school days for sure! Not only do I have a brotherhood with guys I went to school with, I have found that I often meet other Phi Gams in different places. I also interface with TTU Fijis in the work world that have come along after me. But it gives you something in common, a touch point so to speak when you meet a fellow Fiji. It also gives me an excuse to go back to Cookeville each spring for Pig Dinner!
Why do you think Theta Tau remains an important part of Greek/campus life today?
The Greek system and Greek life has changed dramatically over the decades (as has all of college life I guess). Somehow Theta Tau has been able to adapt and thrive with the changes and requirements that come along. And they seem to do it consistently and do it well. I think we have had good leadership and some consistency, too. We’ve had some good PL’s, a great faculty advisor for many, many years (Tony!), and we’ve had great presence within the international fraternity with section chiefs and even an Archon President. I believe that is a great influence on the current undergrad chapter.
What prompted you to support the effort to build a new house? Why is a new house important for the chapter and/or for graduates?
Because we need one desperately! I’ve made all but about two or three Pig Dinners since our chapter started hosting that event in 1980, and several homecomings, as well. Theta Tau is too successful a chapter not to have an up-to-date house for the brothers that live there and those of us that visit. And when I say brothers, I mean
brothers, both undergraduate and graduate; I’ve always said, a new house is for us grads as much or more than the undergrads. Having a hub to meet and gather during events such as Pig Dinner is vital and has been missing in recent years. We need the house for us graduates and we’ll let the undergrads use it when we aren’t! No offense to the undergrads, but trust me - you'll be one of us much sooner than you think.
Any general comments or thoughts that you’d like to share?
I’m very proud to be a very small part of this house campaign. I’ve gotten a chance to meet some brothers I didn’t know and to become reacquainted with brothers I do know. Our chapter has produced some really fine men who have been successful both personally and professionally. You have men that have started businesses, men who have had wonderful corporate careers, men who worked in the Peace Corps and do tons of charity work. They have had successful marriages, and raised terrific children.
Many of us are further along in those journeys than others. I’ve got a son that graduated from TTU in 2016 and is a Phi Gam. It has been so much fun watching his group move into the next phase of life with jobs, family, and friendships. They are managing and thriving outside of school. While the fraternity isn’t responsible for all of that, I believe it plays a large role in the life of each man who has the privilege of calling himself a Theta Tau member!