Beta Sigma Psi National Lutheran Fraternity (ΒΣΨ) is a United States based fraternity, and the oldest Christian fraternity globally. Founded at the University of Illinois in 1925, ΒΣΨ has more than 7,500 initiated members. With 10 chapters and colonies in 7 states, there are currently over 300 undergraduate members. Beta Sigma Psi is centered on three S's: Spiritual, Scholastic, and Social.
The Purpose of Beta Sigma Psi Fraternity:
To provide an environment in which the Lutheran college man can grow spiritually, scholastically, and socially. To that end Beta Sigma Psi undertakes programs designed to develop leaders and to aid the individual in assuming a satisfying and useful role in society. Through its alumni and undergraduate leadership Beta Sigma Psi endeavors to assist each member:
Beta Sigma Psi was founded as a national fraternity for Lutheran male students on April 17, 1925. The Fraternity had its origins for students at the University of Illinois and has since spread across the United States, primarily in the mid-west.
The Rev. Frederick William Gustav Stiegemeyer, the son of a pastor, was born on January 16, 1878, in a parsonage in Dubuque, Iowa. Early in his life, he decided to follow his father's footsteps and serve the Lord. He received his college education at Concordia College in Ft. Wayne, Indiana, and prepared for the ministry at Concordia Seminary in St. Louis, Missouri.
The Rev. Stiegemeyer served his congregations faithfully, serving churches in Ohio, West Virginia, and Illinois. In 1911, he accepted a call to St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church in Champaign, Illinois. As part of his ministry, he was to serve the students at the University of Illinois.
In the fall of 1919, he organized the Lutheran Illini League with a combination of ten students. At that time their intentions were to do no more than meet once or twice a week for religious instruction and discussion on contemporary issues. In the fall of 1920, now with twenty members, the Lutheran Illini League rented a house, and in early 1921 was reorganized as the Concordia Club.
By 1923 the group regularly participated in campus activities; so much so that they began being referred to as the "Concordia Fraternity." This was among the circumstances that encouraged some of the members to give serious thought to once again reorganizing and making it part of the university's fraternity system. Meetings were held, and plans were laid to organize as a new national fraternity.
Those men who worked on these plans were convinced that they would create a National fraternity that would maintain all the noble aspirations of the early Concordia Club founders. Those who shared this conviction were:
These men, considered the founding fathers of Beta Sigma Psi, decided to act in the spring of 1925. Incorporation papers were filed for Beta Sigma Psi National Fraternity on April 17, 1925, in Springfield, Illinois.
The Concordia Club at Champaign had been in correspondence with the Rev. Paul Schmidt, who had formed a similar organization at Purdue University for students. One month after incorporation papers were filed in Springfield, Illinois, members of Alpha Chapter drove to Purdue to help organize Beta Chapter. Within months, the first National Council of Beta Sigma Psi was elected.
In the 1920s, Beta Sigma Psi experienced a prosperous early growth. Gamma Chapter at the University of Michigan (1928) and Delta Chapter at the University of Nebraska (1929) soon joined Alpha and Beta chapters. By this time, guests from other Concordia Clubs from all around were attending National Council meetings, and Alpha Chapter was busy building a new house.
When the depression of the 1930s hit, fraternity financing became very difficult, and Gamma Chapter was forced to close in 1933. Alpha Chapter closed in 1940. During World War II, Beta Sigma Psi had only two chapters, Beta and Delta, with a combined membership of fourteen men. At this time, an undergraduate member named Delmar Lienemann from Delta Chapter stepped forward and was elected Secretary-Treasurer. He started his job with nothing more than the National Constitution and a great determination to keep the fraternity alive. Del served Beta Sigma Psi loyally as a volunteer for 22 years, and now the fraternity's highest honor is named for him.
Through hard work and determination, Beta Sigma Psi survived World War II, and in 1949, Epsilon Chapter was established at Iowa State University. Expansion continued over the next few years as Zeta Chapter was organized at Kansas State University in 1951, and Eta Chapter followed at the University of Missouri–Rolla in 1952. That year at the National Council meeting in Ames, Iowa, the fraternity found another leader who would work with Del for many years. John Hingst, an alumnus of Beta Chapter, was elected National President and went on to serve for 14 years in that position. Then in 1955, Alpha Chapter was reactivated, and in 1962 Iota Chapter was chartered at the University of Missouri – Columbia.
Beta Sigma Psi continued to prosper in the 1960s due to its growing membership, its common faith principles, and the strong leadership of alumni such as John Hingst of Beta Chapter and Larry Edwards of Zeta Chapter. Throughout the decade, new chapters were formed at several new campuses, including Western Michigan University, Eastern Illinois University, and the University of Minnesota. Growth was so rapid that the fraternity decided to add a full-time staff person. Although Del Lienemann had served faithfully as a loyal volunteer in the role of Secretary-Treasurer, the National Council decided in 1965 that in order for Beta Sigma Psi to become a strong national fraternity, it needed to have a full-time employee. Dick Weiss, an alumnus of Epsilon Chapter, was named the fraternity's first salaried Secretary-Treasurer, and the National Headquarters office was moved from Omaha, Nebraska, to St. Louis, Missouri.
In 1969, Beta Sigma Psi became a full member of the National Interfraternity Conference. The NIC had long been dominated by large national fraternities with 100 or more chapters. Hence, Beta Sigma Psi became the first "niche" fraternity to be recognized as a full member of NIC. Soon afterward, other groups representing Latino, African-American, and other religious fraternities sought membership in NIC as well.
The Rev. Walter E. Rose, the campus pastor at Eastern Illinois University and pastoral adviser to Mu Chapter, moved to St. Louis in 1971 to succeed Dick Weiss as Executive Director. At the suggestion of several parents, Rev. Rose helped to form Phi Beta Chi Lutheran Sorority at the University of Illinois. For a time, he served as the executive director of both organizations and is recognized today as a founder of Phi Beta Chi. Phi Beta Chi has since formed several chapters and become a national sorority.
Beta Sigma Psi faced major difficulties from the 1970s through the early 1990s. Around two-thirds of Beta Sig chapters closed during those years. Some closed as a result of the general decline in Greek communities throughout the country. Others closed due to pressures facing many fraternities at that time, including hazing or poor grades. Many closed because the chapter has lost a commitment to the principles of Beta Sigma Psi. The greatest challenge to the fraternity came when Delta Chapter, which had the most initiated members of any Beta Sig chapter, was forced to close in 1994.
New leadership came from Craig Varner of Iota Chapter, who was elected national president in 1996. Under his leadership, Beta Sigma Psi created an annual Membership Education Forum and revived its Leadership Academy. Expansion focus shifted from large universities to smaller colleges. With these changes, Beta Sigma Psi led all national fraternities in 1999 with a 97% increase in associate members from the previous academic year.
During the first part of the 21st century, Beta Sigma Psi has continued to grow even as the Greek population continues to decline. Delta Chapter was rechartered in 2006. The National Fraternity has hired full-time staff members to better serve its collegiate and alumni members. Commitment to the principles of Beta Sigma Psi has been emphasized among the chapters.
The future of the fraternity is in the hands of its members. Edgar Friedrichs, Beta Sigma Psi's first national president, once observed that "Beta Sigma Psi was organized as a means of serving the Church – as a means to the end. Let us, therefore, be vigilant lest the means become an end in itself."
The following are the principles every member of Beta Sigma Psi strives to live up to:
With God's help I will strive to:
With the support and encouragement of the brotherhood within Beta Sigma Psi.
Luther's Emblem – Luther's Emblem or seal consists of a black cross inside of a red heart inside of a rose and represents the Lutheran faith that is represented strongly in the men of Beta Sigma Psi. It is incorporated into the coat of arms and the badge.
The Badge The Badge of Beta Sigma Psi consists of black cross contained in a heart which is superimposed on a gold rose (Luther's Emblem). The emblem is placed on a shield with the Greek letters Beta Sigma Psi in an arc above the rose. The variation of the badge includes eighteen pearls bordering the shield. The badge is worn by activated members of Beta Sigma Psi.
The Flag – The Flag of Beta Sigma Psi consists of the Coat of Arms set upon a field of Cardinal red and white with the letters in the upper left quadrant.
The Banner – The Banner of Beta Sigma Psi consists of the Coat of Arms set upon a field of Cardinal red and white.
The Gold Rose – The Gold Rose is the official flower of Beta Sigma Psi. The fraternity's national publication and yearly national formal are also named after the flower.
The organization of Beta Sigma Psi National Fraternity is unique. In order to divide the duties and services, three separate corporations or entities were formed, each with a specific mission, purpose, and Board of Directors. The three corporations are the National Fraternity, the Education Foundation, and the Housing Foundation.