Sigma Nu

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Sigma Nu
Coat of arms
Founded January 1, 1869; 146 years ago (1869-01-01)
Virginia Military Institute
Type Secret, Social
Scope United States
Mission statement
  • To develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of Love, Honor and Truth.
  • To foster the personal growth of each man’s mind, heart and character.
  • To perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the Fraternity.[3]
Vision statement Excelling with Honor
Slogan Love, Honor, Truth
Colors      Black      White      Gold
Flag Sigma Nu flag.png
Flower White Rose (The Classic Five-Petaled, wild, white English Floribunda)
Publication The Delta
Philanthropy Helping Hand Initiative
Chapters 279[2]
Members Over 230,000[1] collegiate
Founding Principles Love, Truth, Honor, and No Hazing
Headquarters Lexington, Virginia, USA

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

Sigma Nu prides itself on its anti-hazing principles, upon which the organization was founded and continues to uphold through its anti-hazing initiative.[5] 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.[6]


James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley enrolled at the Virginia Military Institute in 1866. Hopkins entered the institute at the age of 21 and was, at the time, one of the oldest cadets entering the institute. Both Hopkins and Quarles had served in the American Civil War as Confederate soldiers.[7][8][9]

At this time, many secret societies were being formed on the VMI campus. In Hopkins' third year at VMI, he joined the Masonic Lodge in Lexington. The masons inspired him to create a similar organization at VMI.[10] Hopkins shared his ideas with Quarles and Riley, and in October 1868, the three came together on a limestone rock on the edge of the VMI parade ground to form the Legion of Honor.[11] 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.[11][12]

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. [13] Early members, Edward Arthur and Linton Buck, both wrote the original Constitution and Law, respectively. Some conflict arose because 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.[13][14] This first chapter of Sigma Nu chose as its motto nulli secundus, a Latin phrase meaning “second to none.”[13]

There were many efforts in the beginning years to establish chapters at other schools. By 1883, Alpha chapter attempted to establish 11 additional chapters, of which only 3 survived.[15] One of the many factors was the anti-fraternity sentiment during this time period.[16][17] 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.[15] 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.[15] 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.[18][19]

The fraternity had begun debating allowing non-white and Jewish members shortly after the U.S. Supreme Court desegregated schools in 1954.[20] In 1964, following a failed civil rights amendment to the Sigma Nu's constitution, the Dartmouth College chapter seceded from the fraternity in protest. The organization did not allow non-white members until the late 1960s.[21][22] The Dartmouth chapter rejoined in 1983.[23]

Governance Structure[edit]

Grand Chapter[edit]

The Grand Chapter of Sigma Nu is a four-day legislative convention where representatives of the fraternity’s collegiate and alumni chapters and Grand Officers meet to determine new legislation and operational direction of the Fraternity for the next biennium. The Grand Chapter meets every two years. The Grand Chapter body is composed of two voting representatives from each collegiate chapter of Sigma Nu Fraternity. Laws are discussed and voted on by the collegiate representatives in a Robert's Rules of Order style business meeting conducted by the National Reagent of the Fraternity.

The Law of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.[edit]

The Law is a three-part document (Constitution, Statutes and Trial Code), which governs Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. The Law sets membership requirements, standards of conduct, and the framework for the operation of all entities of the Fraternity, including collegiate chapters. The Law is designed to allow for autonomy and self-governance in collegiate chapters. The Law may be amended by the Grand Chapter to accommodate changing needs of Sigma Nu’s membership.[24] The first edition of the Law was formally adopted at Sigma Nu’s first convention in 1884.[24][25]

High Council[edit]

The High Council serves as the board of directors of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. and is elected by the Grand Chapter. It serves as the governing arm of the General Fraternity during the period between Grand Chapters. Governance of the High Council is relegated to those duties especially prescribed by The Law. In cases where The Law prescribes no especial duty, the High Council shall act on those situations through interpretation of The Law.[24] There are five roles on the High Council: the Regent, who acts as the national president and chairman of the board of Sigma Nu for a term of two years; the Regent-Elect, who ascends to the role of Regent at the end of the prior Regent's term; the Grand Treasurer, who is responsible for the financial condition of the fraternity; the Vice-Regents, appointed members of the board; and the Collegiate Grand Councilmen, who serve as collegiate representatives to the High Council.[24]

Membership Development[edit]

The fraternity sponsors various programming including ethical leadership development through its LEAD program[26] and philanthropic events through its Helping Hand Initiative.[27] It recruits new members using its Values Based Recruitment method.[28]

College of Chapters[edit]

The Sigma Nu College of Chapters is a three-day training program held annually. College of Chapters is designed for collegiate chapter Commanders, and the program emphasizes chapter management, leadership, core competencies, and networking. The curriculum focuses on best practices and is presented by fraternity staff, alumni volunteers, and advisers.[29]


The LEAD (Leadership, Ethics, Achievement, Development) Program is designed to be a four year educational and development curriculum for its collegiate members. In 1988, Sigma Nu created the LEAD Program.[26][30] The program is divided into five separate sections: Phase I, Phase II, Phase III, Phase IV, and All Chapter. The different sections directly tie in with the year in school of a member of each phase, with All Chapter designed to teach members life skills that are not taught in traditional classrooms. Phase I: The Way of Honor establishes a foundation of knowledge for all new members including Sigma Nu's history, mission, why it exists and its structures and policies. As participants progress through each of the sessions, they will begin to understand who they are as men, leaders and brothers. Phase II: The Life of Love continues the development of ethical leaders that began in Phase I. Participants in Phase II will begin to develop and refine the skills necessary to become and remain successful leaders in society. Phase III: The Light of Truth offers an opportunity to put into practice the knowledge and skills developed throughout Phases I and II. This phase takes a "Leadership Lab" approach that drives participants to refine their skills while benefiting their university, Greek and local community. Phase IV: The end...The Beginning provides an opportunity for graduating members to refine specific skills to be successful in the years immediately following their graduation, as well as an opportunity to continue their committed involvement in the collegiate chapter. Since its launch in 1988 the Program has been updated twice, once in 1997 and again in 2008. The 2008 updates included the online version of the LEAD Program that currently exists today.[31]


Univ. Colorado - Gamma Kappa Chapter 100yr anniversary (2002)

Sigma Nu consists of 278 chapters and colonies in colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada.[2] Since the founding of Sigma Nu, over 230,000 members have been initiated.[1]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Sigma Nu About
  2. ^ a b c d Sigma Nu Undergraduate Chapters Listing
  3. ^ Sigma Nu Strategic Plan
  4. ^ "A Sigma Nu Cavalcade". The Delta of Sigma Nu (Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.) 116: 2–3. 1999. 
  5. ^ "Anti-Hazing Initiative". 
  6. ^ Foundation History
  7. ^ Capps, p. 27–29
  8. ^ "History". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. 
  9. ^ LEAD: Phase I. Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Publishing. 2008. p. 31. 
  10. ^ Scott, p. 25–26
  11. ^ a b Capps, p. 28–31
  12. ^ Scott, p. 28
  13. ^ a b c Capps, p. 34
  14. ^ Scott, p. 34–36
  15. ^ a b c Scott, p. 118–121
  16. ^ Capps, p. 44
  17. ^ "19th Century University of Georgia Presidential Papers". Gilbert-Head. 2010. 
  18. ^ Capps, p. 56
  19. ^ Scott, p. 143–145
  20. ^ Silver, William (5 October 1954). "Sigma Nu Vote Shows Large Anti-Bias Gain". Columbia Spectator. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  21. ^ Sweet, Kimberly (18 December 2002). "Duke frat alumni recall taking anti-segregation stand Sen. Lott's role renews interest in '64 Sigma Nu vote". The Durham Herald Sun. 
  22. ^ Tumulty, Karen (December 12, 2002). "Trent Lott's Segregationist College Days". Time. 
  23. ^ "History". Sigma Nu Dartmouth. Retrieved 30 January 2014. 
  24. ^ a b c d LEAD: Phase I. Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Publishing. 2008. pp. 56–57. 
  25. ^ Scott, p. 149
  26. ^ a b "Developing Ethical Leaders". 
  27. ^ "Helping Our Communities". 
  28. ^ "Recruiting Our Next Members". 
  29. ^ 2013 College of Chapters General Information
  30. ^ "The LEAD Program: Embracing Technology for Membership Development". The Delta of Sigma Nu (Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.). Fall 2008: 24–25. 2008. 
  31. ^


This section lists printed references used for this article. For inline citations, see citations above.
  • 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]