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John Bohlinger, ’60, shares how his character was formed at Sigma Chi

John Bohlinger defines a man by his character. As a dedicated family man, business man, and former government official, John admits that character wasn’t always as important to him, or at least he didn’t realize it until his years at Sigma Chi. “During that time of my life, I hadn’t thought much about character, other than if a person was friendly or not or fun to with,” he explains. “Through my membership in Sigma Chi and the friendships formed there, I learned that character is the measure of a man, as found in his moral strength, self-discipline and fortitude. These are also all qualities found in friendships that are lasting and true.”

Sigma Chi was not the only fraternity that offered John a Bid in the fall of 1956, but it was the only one that John wanted to be part of. “Sigma Chi was the BEST HOUSE on campus!” he exclaims. “It was a perfect fit for me because of the men in the house. They were a blend of scholars, athletes, and ordinary guys like myself who were interested in getting an education.”

While for many, living in a fraternity house may seem counterproductive to focusing on studies, but for John, it was a place where his education was supported in more ways than one. “I graduated with a degree from the Business School, but my heart was in the Humanities,” he recalls. “One of the benefits of the house was the opportunity to study with the Brothers. Often straying from the subject that brought us to the table, it also helped form our character and life goals.” Throughout his time in the house, John learned how to live with dozens of people of all backgrounds, preparing him for life after college, both in business and personal.

While John knew that school was important, he certainly didn’t miss out on the social aspect of fraternity living, knowing those years spent together created lifelong bonds between Brothers. “That is where the lifelong friendships are formed. We studied together, played together, and spent long hours just talking about life and our hope for the future,” he recalls. “It was through this interaction that I learned how to be a good listener, respect others’ opinions, and present my own arguments. It was also through this interaction that the Brotherhood was truly formed.”

Throughout the years, John maintains that special connection with many of his Sigma Chi Brothers. Even through the busy times of career and family, his Sigma Chi family was still there. “As my six children were growing up, I remember introducing them to my Brothers.  Jim Thompson and I were in the same pledge class and he remains my best friend and was best man at my wedding. I also speak regularly with Brothers Steve Fenter and Skip Aleksich,” he shares. John spends each summer with 30-40 Sigs on the shores of Whitefish Lake and he fondly recalls the 10th Annual Sigma Chi Reunions where John used to meet with 30 or more Sigs from the ‘50s, reminiscing the good old days. “We golfed, told stories, and recalled the good times at the University and life in the Sigma Chi house.”

Today, John is retired after a successful career in both business and government. “After graduation and my Marine Corps enlistment, I joined my family business, a women’s apparel store called Aileen’s. I spent 33 years working there and along the way, made some good investments and retired at the age of 56,” he says. With his children grown, John decided to get into politics. “I had always been interested in politics, but knew I could never run for office, while I still had 6 children at home and a business.  When I retired, I ran for Montana’s House of Representatives and was elected to three terms, then ran for the Montana Senate and elected to two terms.  I was then invited by Brian Schweitzer to be his running mate, and we were elected Governor and Lt. Governor for 2 terms, from 2004 to 2012.”

In 1963, John married Bette Cobetto, who was divorced and the mother of four children. “We shared the same faith and values. I married her and adopted her four children,” he says. During their first year of marriage, they expanded their family and added two boys to the mix. Unfortunately, Bette passed away of leukemia in 2006. John is now engaged to marry Nancy Cooper, who happens to be the 1959 Sweetheart of Sigma Chi’s Beta Delta Chapter.

As he starts a new chapter in his personal life, John will always keep Sigma Chi an integral part of it. In fact, he returns to Missoula and the House each year for Homecoming. “I must say, I can hardly wait to see the Brothers and the House!  The Spirit of Sigma Chi lives on, even in those of us who are in our 80s, especially when we sing our songs…. hark through the night comes the sound of voices, raised by a loyal and lusty crew, the Sigs are marching and shouting praises of friendships loyal and hearts so true.”

Core Values, Vision, and Mission

Core Values
Sigma Chi’s core values are Friendship, Justice and Learning. Our vision is to become the preeminent collegiate leadership development organization — aligned, focused and living our core values. Our mission is to develop values-based leaders committed to the betterment of character, campus and community.

The fundamental purpose of the Sigma Chi Fraternity is the cultivation, maintenance and promotion of the core values of Friendship, Justice and Learning.

In the pursuit of these high ideals, the Sigma Chi Fraternity is able to offer tremendous value in augmenting the collegiate experience and supporting the lifelong journey of each of its members. We hope to assist brothers in becoming men of character, caring husbands, compassionate fathers and community leaders.