Sigma Nu (ΣΝ) is an undergraduate college fraternity that was founded by James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles and James McIlvaine Riley at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia shortly after Hopkins witnessed what he considered a hazing ritual by upperclassmen at the Virginia Military Institute. Sigma Nu's existence remained secret until the founders publicly announced their new society on January 1, 1869, which is the fraternity's recognized birth date.[4] The fraternity has 279 (active and inactive) chapters and colonies throughout the United States and Canada and has initiated over 227,000 members.[1][2] Sigma Nu, Kappa Alpha Order and Alpha Tau Omega make up the Lexington Triad.

The fraternity sponsors various programming including ethical leadership development through its LEAD program[5] and philanthropic events through its Helping Hand Initiative.[6] It recruits new members using its Values Based Recruitment method.[7] Sigma Nu prides itself on its anti-hazing principles, upon which the organization was founded and continues to uphold through its anti-hazing initiative.[8] The fraternity's values are summarized as an adherence to the principles of love, honor, and truth. Because of its military heritage, Sigma Nu retains many military trappings in its chapter ranks and traditions, and places importance on the concept of personal honor. In 1945, William Yates (University of Pennsylvania) inspired the formation of the "Sigma Nu Inc., Educational Foundation". Its name was changed to the "Sigma Nu Educational Foundation, Inc." The foundation assists collegiate members with financial aid supplements, and the fraternity in the development of a leadership program.[9]

History[edit | edit source]

Template:Multiple image The origins of Sigma Nu coincide with the enrollment of Hopkins, Quarles, and Riley at Virginia Military Institute in 1866. James F. Hopkins entered VMI at age 21 and was older than many of the cadets entering the institute. Hopkins (as well as Greenfield Quarles) had served in the American Civil War as a Confederate soldier.[10][11][12]

At this time, many secret societies were being formed on the VMI campus. In Hopkins third year at VMI, he joined in the Masonic Lodge in Lexington. The masons inspired him to create a similar organization at VMI to preserve his friendships and create a long lasting brotherhood.[13] Hopkins confided in both Quarles and Riley the idea of brotherhood. One night in October of 1868, the three came together on a limestone rock on the edge of the VMI parade ground to form the Legion of Honor.[14] The three founders would go on to bring others into the Legion of Honor over the rest of the year. On January 1, 1869, the founders along with the rest of the members of the Legion of Honor held their first official meeting as Sigma Nu.[14][15]

The first year of Sigma Nu also saw the creation of the Badge, the original Constitution and the Law. The Badge designed by Hopkins stands mostly unchanged from its original form. The badges were first introduced in the spring of 1869, and were worn with a sky-blue ribbon to notify that there was to be a secret meeting. This led some to think that it was one of the colors of the fraternity but it was nothing more than a marker.[16] Early members Edward Arthur and Linton Buck both wrote the original Constitution and Law respectively. Some conflict arose because Edward Arthur had been a member of the Honduras Emigrant Society and had included some influences from that organization in the constitution. Linton Buck felt these influences should be removed. His revision became the first Law of Sigma Nu.[16][17] This first chapter of Sigma Nu chose as its motto nulli secundus, a Latin phrase meaning “second to none.”[16]

There were many efforts in the beginning years to establish chapters at other schools. By 1883, Alpha chapter attempted to establish 11 chapters, and only 3 had survived as chapters.[18] One of the many factors was the anti-fraternity sentiment during this time period.[19][20] Kappa chapter established in 1881, at North Georgia College & State University, gave the fraternity an important member, John Alexander Howard. Howard suggested that the fraternity drop the use of roman numerals for chapter designation in favor of using a Greek letter designation.[18] He is also responsible for the creation of ‘The Delta’ Sigma Nu’s fraternity magazine. The name ‘The Delta’ originated from the location of the 3 active chapters of Sigma Nu forming a Delta.[18] Howard’s editorials in ‘The Delta’ inspired Isaac P. Robison, founder of Lambda chapter, to propose having a convention for the whole fraternity. On July 10, 1884, Sigma Nu’s first convention was held in the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.[21][22] This first convention, which would become the Grand Chapter, marked the first time many members had interacted with each other beyond their home campus.[23]

Citations[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  • Scott, John C; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.. 
  • Capps, Randall (1978). Sigma Nu: A Heritage History. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89459-036-7. 

External links[edit | edit source]

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