Sigma Chi (ΣΧ) is one of the largest and oldest social fraternities in North America. The fraternity has 244 active chapters across the United States and Canada and has initiated more than 300,000 members. The fraternity was founded on June 28, 1855, at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, by members who split from the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity.
Sigma Chi is divided into six operational entities: the Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Sigma Chi Foundation, the Sigma Chi Canadian Foundation, the Risk Management Foundation, Constantine Capital Inc., and Blue and Gold Travel Services.
Like all fraternities, Sigma Chi has its own colors, insignia, and rituals. According to the fraternity's constitution, "the purpose of this fraternity shall be to cultivate and maintain the high ideals of friendship, justice, and learning upon which Sigma Chi was founded".
Sigma Chi was founded in 1855 by Benjamin Piatt Runkle, Thomas Cowan Bell, William Lewis Lockwood, Isaac M. Jordan, Daniel William Cooper, Franklin Howard Scobey, and James Parks Caldwell as the result of a disagreement over who would be elected Poet in the Erodelphian Literary Society of Miami University in Ohio.
Several members of Miami University's Delta Kappa Epsilon chapter (of which all but one of Sigma Chi's founders were members) were also members of the Erodelphian Literary Society. In the fall of 1854 the literary society was to elect 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 (James Caldwell, Isaac Jordan, Benjamin Runkle, and Franklin Scobey) supported another man who was not a member of the fraternity. Although Thomas Bell and Daniel Cooper were not members of Erodelphian they had aligned themselves with the four dissenting members. The chapter had twelve members total and were evenly divided on the issue. Both sides saw this as a matter of principle and over the next few months their friendships became distanced.
In February 1855 Runkle and his companions planned a dinner for their brothers in an attempt to seal the rift. Whitelaw Reid, one of the other brothers who supported the Delta Kappa Epsilon member as poet, was the only one to arrive. Reid brought a Delta Kappa Epsilon alumnus named Minor Millikin from a nearby town. Reid had told Millikin his side of the dispute and they had arrived to punish the group for not supporting their Delta Kappa Epsilon brother. The leaders of the rebellion, Runkle and Scobey, were to be expelled from the fraternity. The other four would be allowed to stay in the fraternity. Runkle resigned, and after the parent chapter at Yale University was contacted, all six men were formally expelled.
The six men decided to form their own fraternity along with William Lewis Lockwood, a student from New York who had not joined a fraternity. On June 28, 1855, the organization was founded under the name Sigma Phi Fraternity. Lockwood used his business training to help organize the fraternity in its early years. The eventual theft of Sigma Phi's constitution, rituals, seals, and other records from Lockwood's room in Oxford in January 1856 prompted them to change the name of the fraternity to Sigma Chi. It is possible this action could have been forced upon the group as there was already a Sigma Phi Society.
Much of Sigma Chi's heraldry was inspired by the legendary story of the Emperor Constantine from the Battle of Milvian Bridge against Maxentius. The White Cross and the motto "In Hoc Signo Vinces" are examples of the Constantine link. Although many of the symbols of Sigma Chi relate to Christianity, Sigma Chi is not a Christian fraternity.
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,
|“||It was ascertained that a number of the fraternity were in the army of Tennessee under General Joseph E. Johnston during the Atlanta campaign in 1864. It was conceded that the South was forever disunited from the general government, and it was assumed that all chapters throughout the South would cease to exist. Furthermore, it was deemed expedient that we brothers should know each other and our several commands for the purpose of relief in distress, and communication in a case of need, with our Northern brethren. In the ruin at hand my sentiment was to preserve the lofty principles typified by the White Cross. I know that I had no authority to establish a chapter of Sigma Chi outside a college, or at all; but, isolated as we were, I thought I should raise the standard and fix a rallying point. By doing so we should preserve the Order, whether we failed or not in our struggle for independence.||”|
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,
|“||The cabin was in a state of frightful dilapidation. Its rude walls and rafters were covered with soot and cobwebs, and the floor showed evidences of having been the resting place of sundry heaps of sheep.||”|
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.
In 1876, Emerson E. White became president of Purdue University. He required each applicant for admission to sign a pledge "not to join or belong to any so-called Greek society or other college secret society" while attending the school. The Sigma Chi chapter at Purdue, which was already established at the university, sent petitions to the faculty and pleaded their case to the board of trustees, but was unsuccessful in changing the rule.
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 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 was brought to the Indiana Supreme Court, which reversed the decision on June 21, 1882. This victory for Sigma Chi also allowed other fraternities at Purdue and led to the Purdue president's resignation in 1883.
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". Some of the awards created during this time include the Significant Sig Award in 1935 and the Order of Constantine in 1948.
Coming into the beginning of the 20th century, Sigma Chi had installed a total of 74 chapters with 58 still active. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
The badge of Sigma Chi is a white cross with white and black enamel. Two gold chains connect the two upper arms. Crossed keys are in the upper arm, an eagle's head lies in the left arm, and a scroll lies in its right arm. In the bottom arm lie two clasped hands and seven stars.
The seal of Sigma Chi is circular. On the outer edge is "Sigma Chi Fraternity" and at the bottom are the numbers "1855". In the middle lie seven stars and a seven-branched candlestick.
The crest of Sigma Chi is a blue Norman Shield with a white cross in its center. On top of the Norman Shield is a scroll and a crest of an eagle's head holding a key. Below it, the fraternity's public motto, "In Hoc Signo Vinces" is placed on a scroll. It can be translated as, "In this sign, you will conquer."
Officers in undergraduate chapters mostly have titles derived from Imperial Rome. The top officers of each chapter are known as the Consul (president), Pro Consul (vice-president), Annotator (secretary), Quaestor (treasurer), Magister (pledge trainer), Kustos (sergeant-at-arms), Tribune (communications), and Historian. Those titles are the primary officers common to all chapters. Chapters also have other positions, such as Social Chairman, Sports Chairman, Scholarship Chairman, House Manager, Recruitment Chairman, etc., plus other positions and titles varying from chapter to chapter.
Alumni chapter positions and duties may also vary from chapter to chapter. Alumni chapters use the more common office titles such as: president, vice-president, secretary, and treasurer.
The international organization uses similar Roman titles, typically with the prefix of "Grand". The Grand Consul is the international president of Sigma Chi. He presides over the Executive Committee and the Grand Chapter,
Grand Chapter is the supreme legislative body of Sigma Chi and convenes on odd numbered years. It is composed of one delegate from each active undergraduate chapter and alumni chapter, the Grand Consul and Past Grand Consuls, each being entitled to one vote. The Grand Chapter elects the officers of the Fraternity as well as alter or amend the Constitution, Statutes, and Executive Committee Regulations. It may grant or revoke charters as well as discipline any chapter, officer or member. The most recent Sigma Chi Grand Chapter was held in Providence, Rhode Island on June 23–25, 2017.
The Grand Council meets every year when no Grand Chapter is held. The Grand Council consists of the Grand Officers, Past Grand Consuls, members of the Executive Committee, Grand Trustees, Grand Praetors, members of the Leadership Training Board and one undergraduate from each province. It may amend the Statutes or Executive Committee Regulations.
The Executive Committee meets at least four times a year. The Executive Committee consists of 12 members; Grand Consul, Grand Pro Consul, Grand Quaestor, the immediate Past Grand Consul, a Grand Trustee elected by the Board of Grand Trustees, two Grand Praetors elected by the Praetorial College, one alumnus member-at-large, two undergraduate representatives elected by the undergraduate delegates from each chapter, and the two most recent International Balfour Award winners. The committee regulates the budget and expenditures as well as assign duties to the International Headquarters staff.
The Sigma Chi Foundation is a charitable and educational tax-exempt organization, separate and independent from the Fraternity, whose express purpose is to serve as an educational funding resource for the undergraduate and graduate student members of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.
A Board of Governors, headed by Chairman Bob Johnson, governs the Foundation. The Foundation's President and CEO is Ashley Woods and the Foundation's offices are based in Evanston, Ill.
The Sigma Chi Canadian Foundation is the Canadian counterpart of The Sigma Chi Foundation. It serves independently of both the fraternity and the American foundation. It was formed by Canadian Sigma Chi Alumni as a registered charitable foundation to provide a tax-effective way for Canadian Sigma Chi to support the educational pursuits of Canadian undergraduate chapters. The Foundation is guided by a Chair and a Board of Directors of alumni members.
Derby Days is a series of charity events held by many Sigma Chi chapters. Throughout the course of a week, a participating chapter organizes and hosts a series of events and competitions among their campus's sororities. Money is raised through either donations, or through fundraising-type events. Hosting a Derby Days event is not mandatory for any chapter. A common event held across many campuses is the Derby Run, where brothers must wear derbies throughout the day, while sisters in participating sororities attempt to steal them. According to the International Fraternity's official website, the basic mission of Derby Days is to serve the community. According to archival information at Sigma Chi International Headquarters, the first "Derby Day" event was held in 1916 at the University of California-Berkeley. Then known as the "Channing Way Derby" because of the California-Berkeley chapter's location on Channing Way and College Avenue, the event spread to other chapters who created their own Derby Day. The most money raised by any Sigma Chi chapter was the Iota Psi chapter at Rutgers University in the fall of 2016. The brothers of the Iota Psi chapter raised $300,007 with the help of the eight sororities at the University: Zeta Tau Alpha, Phi Sigma Sigma, Sigma Delta Tau, Phi Mu, Delta Gamma, Gamma Phi Beta, Sigma Kappa, and Alpha Gamma Delta. This money is all donated to the Children's Miracle Network right down the street in New Brunswick. $300,007 is the most money raised by any single Greek Organization in the world.
In honor of notable Sigma Chi alumni and NFL Hall of Fame inductee Merlin Olsen September 15 is recognized by the fraternity as the Merlin Olsen Day of Service. On this day, members of the fraternity are encouraged to volunteer to improve their communities.
Children's Miracle Network Hospitals (CMNH) is Sigma Chi's suggested beneficiary. The organization was introduced to the fraternity by Olsen in 1992. Since then Sigma Chi alumni and undergraduate chapters have raised more than 6.9 million for CMNH. Every chapter has a CMNH affiliate within less than 200 miles, with each chapter donating to the nearest affiliated hospital.
The Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI) is another one of Sigma Chi's preferred charitable organizations. It was chosen at Sigma Chi's 150th anniversary celebration in 2005. The Huntsman Cancer Institute today is dedicated to researching the causes, treatments, and preventative methods of cancer. The institute was founded in 1995 by Sigma Chi alumnus, and founder of the Huntsman Corporation, Jon M. Huntsman Sr.. Huntsman has donated more than 350 million dollars to the institute, and has encouraged his fellow brothers to contribute as well.
Sigma Chi gives out two undergraduate awards, The Peterson Significant Chapter Award, which is given to chapters who show a strong performance in all areas of chapter operations, and The International Balfour Award, which is given each year to one graduating senior who excels in four criteria; scholarship, character, Fraternity service and campus leadership.
The fraternity also gives out three alumni awards: The Significant Sig Award is given to a member who has excelled greatly in his field of study or occupation. The first seven Significant Sig awards were given to George Ade, Roy Chapman Andrews, John T. McCutcheon, Chase S. Osborn, James Wallington, F. Dudleigh Vernor, and Samuel P. Cowley. The Order of Constantine is awarded to alumni members who have devoted long and distinguished service to the Fraternity. The Semi-Century Sig Award is given to brothers who have been active in the fraternity for 50 years or more.
Most undergraduate chapters elect a female associated with the chapter as the chapter sweetheart. At each Grand Chapter, the fraternity chooses a Sweetheart from one chapter to be the International Sweetheart of Sigma Chi for two years. The International Sweetheart Award is presented based on personality, character, campus involvement, Sigma Chi activities, general accomplishments, poise, and grace. Each nominee must be the sweetheart of an undergraduate chapter for the year nominated and a student at the nominating chapter's university. Judy Garland was a Sigma Chi Sweetheart from The New York State University chapter.
The Military Service Recognition Pin recognizes honorably discharged veterans or currently serving members of the armed forces who are in good standing with the Sigma Chi Fraternity. The pin consists of a single Norman-style sword thrust upward with a small Sigma Chi Norman Shield with a cross embossed upon it placed upon the lower end of the blade just above the hilt and is to be worn on the brother's lapel. The Military service pin concept and design was created by Life Loyal Sig Anthony Dauer Theta Beta 1993 and was first presented at the 2007 Grand Chapter.
The Magazine of Sigma Chi is the official quarterly publication for undergraduate and alumni brothers of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. First published in 1881 at Gettysburg College, Theta Chapter, as The Sigma Chi, publication eventually moved to Chicago and the name was changed to The Sigma Chi Quarterly. The name was later changed to The Magazine of Sigma Chi
The Norman Shield is the reference manual of the Fraternity. It was authorized by the 24th Grand Consul Herbert C. Arms at the 1924 Grand Chapter. It was first compiled in 1929 by Arthur Vos, Jr. and based on the booklet he prepared for the Beta Mu chapter at the University of Colorado at Boulder which Vos indicated was based on the material contained in the 1922 Manual and Directory. It contained biographies of the founders, significant alumni, a history of the Fraternity, the Constitution and Statutes, and other writings relevant to the fraternity.
Sigma Chi has alumni who are notable in many different industries and fields. In athletics Sigma Chi has 5 MLB all-stars, 6 World Series champions, 7 NFL All-Pro players, 6 Super Bowl champions, 2 NCAA Basketball champions, and 3 Olympic medal holders. Some of these notable Sigs include Mike Ditka, Drew Brees, Joe Gordon, Jay Wright, and Eric Fonoimoana. In politics Sigma Chi has had 24 U.S. Representatives, 11 U.S. Senators, 8 United States Governors, 5 Lieutenant governors, and 1 United States President through the honorary membership of Grover Cleveland to the University of Michigan chapter. Among Sigma Chi's notable actors include 9 Emmy Award winners, 5 Screen Actors Guild Award winners, 4 Golden Globe Award winners, and 3 Academy Award winners. These notable alumni include Brad Pitt, John Wayne, Tom Selleck, David Letterman, and Ty Burrell.