Sigma Phi Epsilon
|Sigma Phi Epsilon|
|Founded||November 1, 1901
Richmond College, Virginia
|Mission statement||Building Balanced Men|
|Colors||Purple and Red|
|Symbol||Skull and Crossbones within a Black Heart|
|Flower||Violet and Dark Red Rose|
|Philanthropy||Big Brothers Big Sisters|
|Founding Principles||Virtue, Diligence, & Brotherly Love|
|Headquarters||Zollinger House, 310 S. Boulevard, P.O. Box 1901
Richmond, Virginia, USA
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,and has a first year retention rate of 75%.
- 1 Founding history
- 2 Balanced Man Program
- 3 Philanthropy
- 4 Notable members
- 5 Chapters
- 6 References
- 7 External links
Founder Carter Ashton Jenkens
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. 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. 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.
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. 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. Jenkens and his friends therefore founded their own fraternity.
Original name and meeting with the faculty
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. 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.
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, 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. 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.
Badge and colors
Under Jenkens' inspiration and leadership, the new fraternity was formed around a spiritual philosophy of brotherly love, a philosophy that Jenkens referred to as the "rock" of the fraternity. Specifically, the founder described these words of Jesus: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37-39) as "the greatest truth the world has ever known." The colors dark red and royal purple were chosen to represent the fraternity while the golden heart was chosen as the fraternity's symbol. Finally, the principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love, known to members as "The Three Cardinal Principles", were woven by Jenkens into the very fabric of the new fraternity. Jenkens also designed the fraternity's distinctive badge. The badge of Sigma Phi Epsilon was designed as a golden heart surmounted by a black enameled heart-shaped shield. Upon the shield are inscribed, in gold, the Greek-letters of the fraternity, ΣΦΕ, and below these letters, a skull and crossbones. The meaning of these symbols is divulged during the initiation ritual and known to members only. The founders' badges, bordered by alternating garnets and rubies, were designed and ordered before the addition of "Epsilon" to the fraternity's name. Thus, they had only a "Sigma" and a "Phi" inscribed on the lobes of the heart, with the now-familiar skull and crossbones below. A last minute telegraph sent to the jeweler in Goldsboro, North Carolina requested that an "Epsilon" be added "somewhere" on the already-complete badges. The resourceful jeweler removed the bottom-most gemstones from the founders' badges and put, in their place, a black enameled "Epsilon." The badges of founders William Hugh Carter and Thomas Vaden McCaul, illustrating this unique piece of the fraternity's founding, are on display at the Sigma Phi Epsilon headquarters at Zollinger House.
Balanced Man Program
In 1991 Sigma Phi Epsilon implemented a continuous development 'Balanced Man' program that abolished pledging altogether, instituted year-round recruitment, encourages lifestyles based on the three Cardinal Principles, and includes a number of tasks geared towards creating diverse experiences that promote the ideals of "a Sound Mind in a Sound Body." First adopted at the New Hampshire Alpha chapter at Dartmouth College, the program has been adopted by approximately 85% of Sigma Phi Epsilon chapters. SigEp headquarters credits the Balanced Man Program as the driving force behind the continued growth and success of the fraternity. Some of these accomplishments include a major improvement in the national average SigEp GPA (3.10, Fall 2010), and SigEp's status as the nation's largest fraternity by undergraduate membership. Other fraternities have since chosen to adopt similar programs, such as Lambda Chi Alpha's "True Brother Initiative," Beta Theta Pi's "Men of Principle," Sigma Alpha Epsilon's "True Gentleman" Intitative, Kappa Alpha Order's "Crusade", and Pi Kappa Alpha's "True Pike."
The Balanced Man Program consists of four challenges labeled Sigma, Phi, Epsilon, and Brother Mentor. Each challenge consists of tasks defined by their experiences that progressively develop a member as a balanced man with a Sound Mind in a Sound Body and a balanced servant leader. These tasks show the member how to apply SigEp's Cardinal Principles of Virtue, Diligence, and Brotherly Love into his daily life.
A new SigEp brother is welcomed and integrated into the chapter with the introductory phase of the program, the Sigma Challenge. He must complete a program based on self-discovery, chapter activities, and service-learning. After completing the Sigma Challenge, he enters the Phi Challenge, which is centered on understanding the benefits of fraternalism, building balance, and cultivating the values and knowledge that a man needs to excel at college, SigEp, and life. Here, more advanced efforts await him that include becoming a member of other on-campus organizations and taking a leadership role in the chapter. The third challenge in the Balanced Man Program is the Epsilon Challenge, centered on brothers as leaders by exploring the issues a servant leader faces. Only upon reaching this challenge does the brother gain full knowledge of the Fraternity's ritual, and so become a fully initiated life member. The brother is also expected to hold an executive or chairman position in both the chapter and at least one outside organization. The Brother Mentor challenge challenges the brother to develop and utilize the skills of a servant leader, especially as a mentor. These include a service-learning undertaking and tasks that involve the brother in improving the chapter as a whole, in particular as a mentor for the less experienced chapter members.
All challenges in the Balanced Man program are self-paced. Although the tasks of each challenge are set, the specific actions that achieve those tasks can be tailored to suit the chapter's and the individual Brother's needs. Each of the challenges engages the member with the rest of the chapter, building a stronger brotherhood through doing important, meaningful things together.
Chapters are accepted into the Balanced Man Program only after an overwhelming majority of the chapter votes to convert from pledging model to Balance Man Project Chapter. New Sigma Phi Epsilon chapters are started as Balanced Man Program Chapters. Once a chapter becomes a Balanced Man Program chapter they are not permitted to return to the pledging model of member development.
Every new and re-chartered chapter must adhere to the Balanced Man Program. Currently over 85% of SigEp chapters use the program. The Fraternity has a goal nationally that 90% of the undergraduate chapters will use the Balanced Man Program for member development by 2011.
EDGE New Member Camp
The fraternity offers its own innovative program for first-year members, EDGE. EDGE is about making healthy choices that match your personal values and those of Sigma Phi Epsilon. Participants build greater self-awareness about the consequences of their actions and those around them through interactive discussions and reflective activities. Participants have fun through challenging experiences such as ropes courses, physical challenges, and activities based upon camaraderie. Participants choose the lifestyle they wish to lead and receive training on overcoming obstacles with regard to alcohol and drug abuse, personal wellness, and goal achievement. The program involves a highly regarded faculty of senior undergraduates, distinguished alumni, and renowned guest speakers.
Carlson Leadership Academy
The Carlson Leadership Academy (CLA) provides interactive officer training to over 2,600 undergraduates and volunteers annually. Many undergraduates run for executive board positions because they have great goals and visions for their chapter. Attending a CLA ensures an officer will have the skills to manage a committee and follow through on those goals. The program also helps executive boards work together to ensure they all have goals consistent with a unified vision for the chapter.
The Academies are held in February, soon after most officer elections, and chapters are encouraged to bring all new officers, rising chapter leaders and engaged volunteers.
CLA provides education for each specific officer position, as well as strategic planning and goal setting, and chapter leadership. The program emphasizes the use of each officer’s individual strengths to build a complete team. Participants spend time on chapter analysis, large and small group sessions and informal interactions with other chapters. Participants will enhance their skill sets and leadership abilities to help them as chapter officers, in other leadership roles, in group projects and eventually in the work force for the rest of their lives.
Chapter officers will return to campus with a better understanding of their position, as well as a holistic strategy for moving their chapter forward. More than 150 seasoned volunteers from across the country share their experiences as facilitators during the program.
Ruck Leadership Institute
The Frank J. Ruck Leadership Institute is an intense five-day event for SigEp’s top rising leaders. The Fraternity’s best and brightest gather in Richmond, Virginia over the summer for a program focused on personal leadership skills and the Balanced Man Ideal. Prominent SigEp alumni serve as mentors and guide Ruck scholars through competitive challenges and lessons in leadership.
Participants are stretched both mentally and physically, and pushed to explore their potential. The result is that Ruck scholars learn about their leadership styles, and how to apply them to different situations. The program’s mission is “Teaching the few to impact the many,” and Ruck scholars all return to their campus ready to utilize their new skills to impact their campus and community.
Ruck scholars are selected for their leadership experience on campus and in the community, as well as a commitment to Sound Mind and Sound Body. Ruck scholars must be strong students and physically active.
The Ruck Leadership Institute was conceived in 1998, with a curriculum based on the world-renowned book, The Leadership Challenge, co-authored by Brother Barry Posner.
Tragos Quest to Greece
The Tragos Quest to Greece is a powerful overseas experience that is unmatched in the fraternity world. Participants are stretched mentally and physically during a 10-day journey through Greece in mid-June. Each scholar prepares for the trip with multiple books, and various classic writings and plays. Once there, they get to see the very mountains and seas that serve as settings for these stories.
The undergraduates are joined by alumni mentors and a professor who help lead scholastic discussions. In addition to the readings, other topics of discussion focus on personal experiences relating to SigEp’s core values. With a diverse pool of backgrounds, the group’s members challenge each other to think about their world differently.
Inspired by the ancient Greek ideals of Sound Mind and Sound Body, the Tragos Quest to Greece provides an opportunity for undergraduates, mentors and professors to experience Greek culture and contemplate the origins of Sigma Phi Epsilon. The idea that a balanced man requires a sound mind and sound body goes back to the time of Aristotle 2,600 years ago.
Scholarships will be awarded to the most deserving current sophomore and junior brothers. Scholarships are partially funded through the generosity of Brother Bill Tragos and his wife, Lilli. Although chapter leadership positions are important to the application, no specific SigEp, campus or community involvement is required.
Tragos Quest to Greece scholars are announced every February at their respective regional Carlson Leadership Academy.
All SigEp chapters are encouraged to raise funds to donate to their local charities through events and awareness programs. Following Hurricane Katrina, SigEp national headquarters encouraged individual chapters nationwide to donate to a relief fund. For every dollar donated by a chapter, Nationals, partnered with several businesses, donated to relief efforts. Together, the fraternity raised $16 million for the cause. At the 2013 Grand Chapter Conclave in Dallas, chapter delegates voted to approve Big Brothers Big Sisters of America to become to new national philanthropy.
- Year-End Report
- "About SigEp". Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- "Fraternity Facts - The National Fraternity". Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. Retrieved 2010-03-23.
- "The History of Sigma Phi Epsilon - The first 50 Years > Sigma Phi Epsilon Founded". Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- "The History of Sigma Phi Epsilon - The first 50 years >The First Meeting". Retrieved 2006-11-13.
- "The History of Sigma Phi Epsilon - The First 50 Years > Fraternity Recognized". Retrieved 2006-11-13.