We return to Tri Delta’s popular 3 for You series with a very special guest, Rae Ann Gruver of the Max Gruver Foundation, shedding light on her family’s story and the fight to put an end to hazing. She reflects on her son Max, provides perspective on creating good out of a tragic situation and offers three insights into how each of us can play a part in saving lives. Read more below, watch the full video or listen to her on our Let’s Talk Tri Delta podcast.
Content warning: this story contains content dealing with the realities of hazing, abuse, death and grief. For information on Tri Delta’s mental health programming, please refer to our Behind Happy Faces resources available to members on the Resource Library.
In Sept. 2017, Rae Ann Gruver and her husband Stephen lost their son Max to a hazing incident at Louisiana State University. Following this horrible tragedy, they have been instrumental in forming a coalition of parents who have lost children to hazing to provide education and advocacy designed to put an end to hazing once and for all.
Max Gruver, Gentle Giant
“Max was just a really good kid,” according to his mother. “He wasn’t perfect, like all kids, but Max was very gentle, down to Earth, and really laid back.” Known among friends as the “Gentle Giant,” he was the kind of young man who took care of everyone around him, often reaching out and connecting with outsiders or newcomers. A great conversationalist, he made people feel welcome in any situation.
Max found his college home at LSU in Baton Rouge and, shortly after moving to campus, pledged Phi Delta Theta Fraternity. Within weeks, he was called with his pledge brothers to an event dubbed “Bible Study” by older members. The events of that evening, including physical abuse, intimidation and the forced drinking of 190-proof grain alcohol, led to the tragic death of Max at the hands of young men he looked to as brothers.
In the painful days and weeks following Max’s death, the Gruver family chose to honor his life and help keep other families from feeling this kind of loss by founding the Max Gruver Foundation. As part of their vital work, they strive to create awareness, education, policy and laws to prevent hazing—primarily through seminars and presentations at high schools, universities, student organizations, conferences and meetings with students and fraternity and sorority leaders across the nation.
Through her profound loss, Rae Ann works to remind us all that not one of our Greek organizations was founded on the principles of hazing and abuse. They were created to build better young men and women, inspiring them to go into the world and make a difference. And she charges us each to take personal responsibility in the fight to #stopthehazing through three simple, key actions:
Action #1: Take care of each other
Sisters are here to take care of each other and lift each other up.
Action #2: Feel empowered
Young women are particularly aware of what is happening in brother organizations. The hazers—and the victims—are your brother, your boyfriend, your best friend. Use your voices to be a catalyst for change.
Action #3: Be kind
It’s all about kindness. And hazing is the absolute opposite of kindness.
Learn more about Max, the Gruver family and how you can support the critical, life-saving work of the Max Gruver Foundation.
Want more? Connect with other Tri Delta mothers on CONNECTDDD to continue this important conversation.