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Sigma Phi Epsilon (ΣΦΕ), commonly abbreviated SigEp or SPE, is a social college fraternity for male college students in the United States. It was founded on November 1, 1901, at Richmond College (now the University of Richmond), and its national headquarters remains in Richmond, Virginia. It was founded on three principles: Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love (often abbreviated as "VDBL"). Sigma Phi Epsilon is the largest social fraternity in the United States in terms of current undergraduate membership,[2]and has a first year retention rate of 75%.[3]

Founding history Edit

Founder Carter Ashton Jenkens Edit

Carter Ashton Jenkens, the son of a Baptist minister, was an 18-year-old divinity student when, in the fall of 1900, he transferred from Rutgers College of New Jersey to Richmond College, a Baptist institution in the Virginia capital.[4] In the year that Jenkens had spent at Rutgers, he had been initiated into the Chi Phi Fraternity. At Richmond, Jenkens was quickly drawn in to a close-knit group of friends which included Benjamin "Ben" Gaw, William "Billy" Wallace and Thomas "Thos" Wright.[4] By the fall of 1901, the four friends were meeting regularly in the third-floor room in Ryland Hall shared by Gaw and Wallace. They called their unofficial group the Saturday Night Club. Soon, two others were asked to join the group: William Carter and Billy Phillips.[5]

Origin Edit

By early October, 1901, Jenkens had persuaded his friends to join him in trying to establish a chapter of Chi Phi at Richmond. The group of friends, which by mid-October had grown to twelve men, was composed largely of students who were spurned by the existing fraternities on campus for their high sense of morality (seven of the twelve were studying for the ordained ministry) and for their rural, middle-class backgrounds.[4] Jenkens had convinced the others that their chapter could be different from the other fraternities on campus and assured them that Chi Phi's principles were in line with their own. The group's request for a charter, however, was met with refusal as the national fraternity felt that Richmond College was too small to host a Chi Phi chapter.[4] Jenkens and his friends therefore founded their own fraternity.

Original name and meeting with the faculty Edit

After several secret meetings throughout October 1901, the new fraternity took shape and on November 1, 1901, the fraternity's first membership roster was publicly posted at the school, listing the twelve founders in this order: Carter Ashton Jenkens, Benjamin Donald Gaw, William Hugh Carter, William Andrew Wallace, Thomas Temple Wright, William Lazelle Phillips, Lucian Baum Cox, Richard Spurgeon Owens, Edgar Lee Allen, Robert Alfred McFarland, Franklin Webb Kerfoot and Thomas Vaden McCaul. After much discussion, the group settled on a secret motto and called their fraternity Sigma Phi.[5] Soon thereafter, Jenkens, Gaw and Phillips met with a faculty committee to seek official recognition for their new fraternity. The faculty members were reluctant to recognize Sigma Phi for the following reasons: 1) there were already five fraternity chapters on the Richmond campus, drawing members from a base of less than 300 students, 2) more than half the new fraternity's members were seniors whose graduation would leave the group with only five members and, 3) another national fraternity already existed using the name Sigma Phi.[6]

The three founders responded to the faculty's points one by one: 1) although there were already fraternities at Richmond, this new fraternity would be different; it would be founded not upon false notions of social hierarchy and snobbery but, rather, upon biblical notions of God's love and the principle of peace through brotherhood,[6] 2) new members would quickly be taken in from the undergraduate classes to increase the new fraternity's size and strength and, 3) the name of the fraternity was still under debate within the group, so since the name Sigma Phi was already taken by a national fraternity, the name would be changed. Right after, the Fraternity committee borrowed William Hugh Carter's Greek-English Lexicon and convinced themselves that Epsilon had a desirable meaning and was worthy enough to be a part of the Fraternity's name.[7] With these assurances from the founders, the faculty committee approved the new fraternity's request for official recognition. Shortly afterwards, the founders met and decided to rename the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon.[6]

MembersEdit

See Category:Sigma Phi Epsilon members.

References Edit

External links Edit

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