Sigma Chi (ΣΧ) is one of the largest Greek-letter social fraternities in North America with more than 240 active chapters in the United States and Canada and more than 300,000 initiates.[1] Sigma Chi was founded on June 28, 1855 at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio when members split from Delta Kappa Epsilon. The founding members were: Benjamin Piatt Runkle, Thomas Cowan Bell, William Lewis Lockwood, Isaac M. Jordan, Daniel William Cooper, Franklin Howard Scobey, and James Parks Caldwell. Sigma Chi is a part of the Miami Triad, along with Beta Theta Pi and Phi Delta Theta.[2]

According to the fraternity's constitution, "the purpose of the fraternity shall be to cultivate and maintain the high ideals of friendship, justice, and learning upon which Sigma Chi was founded."[3][4]

The fraternity's official colors are blue and old gold, and its badge is a cross with emblems on each of its arms: crossed keys on the upper arm, an eagle's head on the left arm, seven gold stars and a pair of clasped hands on the lower arm, and a scroll on the right arm. In the center of the cross, on a black background, are the gold symbols for the Greek letters Sigma (Σ) and Chi (Χ). The left and right arms are connected.

History[edit | edit source]

Founding[edit | edit source]

File:Sigma Chi House, South State Street, Ann Arbor, Michigan. A postcard by the Hugh C. Leighton Co., of Portland, Maine. No. 26216..jpg

Postcard of Sigma Chi House in Ann Arbor, Michigan, c. 1906 – 1909

The founding of Sigma Chi began as the result of a disagreement over who would be elected Poet in the Erodelphian Literary Society of Miami University in Ohio.[5]

Several members of Miami University's Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter (of which all but two of Sigma Chi's founders were members) were also members of the Erodelphian Literary Society. In the fall of 1854 this society was to pick its Poet, and a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon was nominated for the position. He was supported by five of his brothers, but four others (Caldwell, Jordan, Runkle, and Scobey) felt that he lacked the required poetic talent. These men instead chose to give their support to another man who was not a member of the fraternity. Bell and Cooper were not members of Erodelphian, but their support for the dissenting four was unequivocal. The chapter had twelve members and so was evenly divided. Other differences might have been forgotten, but both sides saw this conflict as a matter of principle and over the next few months there came a distancing of their friendship.[5]

The matter came to a head in February 1855, when, in an attempt to seal the rift, Runkle and his companions planned a dinner for their brothers. The feast was prepared, and the table was set. However, only one of the other brothers who supported the Delta Kappa Epsilon member as poet arrived, Whitelaw Reid. With him, Reid brought a stranger. The six learned that the stranger was an alumnus of Delta Kappa Epsilon from a nearby town.[5]

"My name is Minor Millikin; I live in Hamilton", said the man. "I am a man of few words." Reid had told Millikin his side of the dispute, and the two were present to lay down punishment on Runkle, Scobey, and the rest. The leaders of the rebellion (Runkle and Scobey) were to be expelled from the fraternity. The other four, after being properly chastised, would be allowed to stay a part of the group.[5]

At the announcement of the punishment, Runkle stepped forward. He pulled off his Deke pin, tossed it to the table, and said, "I didn't join this fraternity to be anyone's tool! And that, sir", addressing Millikin, "is my answer!" Runkle stalked from the room and his five brothers followed. One final chapter meeting was held, at which the chapter was six-to-six divided on the issue of expulsion. The parent chapter at Yale University was contacted, and all six men were formally expelled.[5]

The six men soon associated themselves with William Lewis Lockwood, a student from New York who had not joined a fraternity. Lockwood's business acumen helped to organize the fraternity in its early years.[6] On June 28, 1855 (Commencement at Old Miami), the Sigma Phi Fraternity was founded.[7]

The theft of the Constitution, Ritual, Seals, and other records from Lockwood's room in Oxford in January 1856 necessitated the change of the name of the fraternity to Sigma Chi. Eventually, this action could have been forced upon the group as there was already a Sigma Phi Society in the collegiate world.

Much of Sigma Chi's heraldry is inspired by the legendary story of the Emperor Constantine from the Battle of Milvian Bridge against Maxentius. Notably, the White Cross and the motto "In Hoc Signo Vinces" are evidence of the Constantine link. Although many of the symbols of Sigma Chi relate to Christianity, Sigma Chi is not a Christian fraternity.[8]

Early years[edit | edit source]

Constantine Chapter[edit | edit source]


Harry St. John Dixon

Harry St. John Dixon, a brother from the Psi Chapter at the University of Virginia who fought for the Confederacy, kept a record of all Sigma Chis within his vicinity on the flyleaf of his diary during the American Civil War. He began planning a Confederate Army chapter of Sigma Chi with this information. On September 17, 1864 Dixon founded the Constantine Chapter of Sigma Chi during the Atlanta campaign with Harry Yerger, a brother from Mississippi who was in Dixon's division. Dixon stated the reasons for which the war-time chapter was created saying, Template:Cquote

Dixon and Yerger contacted all brothers listed in the diary who could come to the meeting. They met at night in a deserted log cabin a few miles southwest of Atlanta. Dixon later wrote, Template:Quotation Dixon was elected "Sigma" (president) and Yerger was elected "Chi" (vice president); the chapter also initiated two men. The only badge in the chapter was one Dixon had made from a silver half-dollar.

The last meeting was held New Year's Day 1865. The men at that meeting passed a resolution to pay a "tribute of respect" to the four brothers from the chapter who had died during the war. In May 1939 the Constantine Chapter Memorial was erected by Sigma Chi in memory of the Constantine Chapter and its members. The memorial is located on U.S. 41 in Clayton County, Georgia.[9]

Purdue case[edit | edit source]

In 1876, Emerson E. White became president of Purdue University. He declared that each applicant for admission must sign a pledge binding him "not to join or belong to any so-called Greek society or other college secret society" while attending Purdue. The Sigma Chi chapter, Delta Delta, was already established at the university and tried to convince the authorities that the rule was unjust. They sent petitions to the faculty and pleaded their case to the board of trustees, but they were unsuccessful.

In the fall of 1881, Thomas P. Hawley applied for admission to the university. Having already been initiated into Sigma Chi, Hawley refused to sign the pledge and was denied admission. Hawley took Purdue to court, but the judge, D.P. Vinton, ruled in favor of the faculty's decision. He also ruled, however, that the faculty had no right to deny Hawley from his classes based on the fraternity issue. The case soon found its way to the Indiana Supreme Court and on June 21, 1882 reversed Vinton's decision. This victory for Sigma Chi also allowed fraternities at Purdue and led to the Purdue president's resignation in 1883.[10]

First half of the 20th century[edit | edit source]

File:Infirmary and Sigma Chi Chapter House, University of Mississippi..jpg

Infirmary and Sigma Chi Chapter House, University of Mississippi

During the first half of the 20th century the General Fraternity expanded in many places. In 1899 the Fraternity adopted the flag design created by Henry V. Vinton. In 1901 the Grand Chapter approved the Fraternity's pledge pin. In 1903 at the Grand Chapter in Detroit the Board of Grand Trustees was established. In 1922 the Alpha Beta chapter at University of California, Berkeley held the "Channingway Derby" which led to the creation of the "Sigma Chi Derby Days."[11][12] Some of the awards created during this time include the Significant Sig Award in 1935 and the Order of Constantine in 1948.[13]

Coming into the beginning of the 20th Century Sigma Chi had installed a total of 74 chapters with 58 still active.[14] Having only established a centralized form of government in 1922, Sigma Chi was installing new chapters at a rate of about one chapter per year. On April 22, 1922 the Beta Omega chapter was installed at the University of Toronto in Toronto, Ontario thus making Sigma Chi an international fraternity.[15]

The Sigma Chi Foundation was created on November 9, 1939 when the Sigma Chi Endowment Foundation was incorporated in Colorado. This educational endowment was first discussed in 1898 by alumni who wanted to assist undergraduates financially so they could finish their undergraduate studies.[15]

The world wars of the 20th century took the lives of 103 Sigs in World War I and 738 in World War II. A great resurgence in undergraduate activity followed World War II due to an increase in chapter memberships. This increase was caused by the men returning from military service who went back to school as well as the usual addition of new brothers.[15]

During World War II it became apparent to the General Fraternity officers that a few alumni as well as a few undergraduate chapters believed some of the prerequisites for membership in Sigma Chi were outdated and should be changed or eliminated. This led to the first discussions about membership within the fraternity that continued until early in 1970. Until this time, membership requirements had specified that a potential member must be a "bona fide white male student." After the first discussion in 1948 at the Grand Chapter in Seattle, the committee on Constitutional Amendments tabled the issue pending a further study of the problem to be reported to the 1950 Grand Chapter. The study showed that the issue was "very hot" on 13 campuses with Sigma Chi chapters and only "lukewarm" on a dozen other campuses.[16]

During this time period, the remaining four founders of Sigma Chi (of the original seven) all died; Daniel William Cooper was the last founder to die. Cooper's death led up to the Fraternity gaining one of its most priceless objects, Cooper's Sigma Phi badge. Cooper's body was sent by train to his final resting place in Pittsburgh, and the Beta Theta chapter at the University of Pittsburgh was given the privilege to administer his memorial service. On December 13, 1920, Cooper's body was conveyed to the Beta Theta chapter house where Beta Theta Consul Donald E. Walker removed Cooper's Sigma Phi Badge and replaced it with his own. Beta Theta Pro-Consul, Regis Toomey, sang the hymn "With Sacred Circle Broken" before Cooper was taken to his final resting place.[17]

Members[edit | edit source]

Main article: Category:Sigma Chi members

Footnotes[edit | edit source]

  1. "News | Sigma Chi Fraternity". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  2. "The History of College Fraternities". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  3. "Sigma Chi Principles". Retrieved 2014-01-18. 
  4. The Core values of Sigma Chi [dead link]
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 5.3 5.4 The Founding of Sigma Chi
  6. William Lewis Lockwood Biography at
  7. The Birth of Sigma Chi[dead link]
  8. "Constantine, Heraldry and Roman Heritage" page 39. The Norman Shield, 41st Edition
  9. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named ReferenceA
  10. "The History of Sigma Chi" page 48. The Norman Shield, 41st Edition
  11. "The History of Sigma Chi" page 49. The Norman Shield, 41st Edition
  12. Carlson, op. cit. p. 8-9
  13. "The History of Sigma Chi" page 50-51. The Norman Shield, 41st Edition
  14. Carlson, op. cit. p. 517-518
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Carlson, op. cit. p. 3
  16. Carlson, op. cit. p. 4
  17. Carlson, Douglas R. "Sig History", p. 33 and 72. Sigma Chi Magazine, Winter 1983

References[edit | edit source]

  • Carlson, Douglas Richard (1990). "History of the Sigma Chi Fraternity: 1955–1985". The Sigma Chi Fraternity.

External links[edit | edit source]

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