Sigma Phi Epsilon

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Sigma Phi Epsilon
ΣΦΕ
The official coat of arms of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Founded November 1, 1901; 112 years ago (1901-11-01)
Richmond College, Virginia
Type Social
Scope National
Mission statement Building Balanced Men
Colors Purple, Red, and Gold
Symbol Skull and Crossbones within a Black Heart
Flower Violet and Dark Red Rose
Philanthropy Big Brothers Big Sisters
Chapters 342[1]
Members 15,200[1] collegiate
300,000+ lifetime
Founding Principles Virtue, Diligence, & Brotherly Love
Headquarters Zollinger House
310 S. Boulevard

Richmond, Virginia, USA
Homepage http://www.sigep.org/
Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity House at Ohio University.

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 founded not upon 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]

Badge and colors[edit]

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 the fraternity's founding, are on display at the Sigma Phi Epsilon headquarters at Zollinger House.

Balanced Man Program[edit]

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 America'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[edit]

The fraternity offers its own program for first-year members, EDGE. EDGE participants take part in ropes courses, physical challenges, and activities based upon camaraderie, and receive training about alcohol and drug abuse, personal wellness, and goal achievement. The program involves a faculty of senior undergraduates, alumni, and guest speakers.

Carlson Leadership Academy[edit]

The Carlson Leadership Academy (CLA) provides interactive officer training to over 2,600 undergraduates and volunteers annually.

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.

Ruck Leadership Institute[edit]

The Frank J. Ruck Leadership Institute is a five-day event in Richmond, Virginia, focused on personal leadership skills and the Balanced Man Ideal. SigEp alumni serve as mentors.

The Ruck Leadership Institute was conceived in 1998, with a curriculum based on The Leadership Challenge, co-authored by Barry Z. Posner (former member of SigEp).

Tragos Quest to Greece[edit]

The Tragos Quest to Greece is 10-day journey through Greece in mid-June. Participants prepare for the trip with multiple books, and various classic writings and plays, and in Greece, visit the 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. Tragos Quest to Greece scholars are announced every February at their respective regional Carlson Leadership Academy.

Philanthropy[edit]

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 the new national philanthropy.

Controversies[edit]

In 2014, the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter of the University of Mississippi was closed after three of its members allegedly draped a noose around the statue of James Meredith, the first black student to attend the university.[8]

Notable members[edit]

Chapters[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]