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Sigma Nu

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Sigma Nu
Coat of arms
FoundedJanuary 1, 1869; 155 years ago (1869-01-01)
Virginia Military Institute
Vision statementExcelling with Honor
SloganLove, Honor, Truth
Colors  Black   White   Gold
FlowerWhite Rose
PublicationThe Delta
PhilanthropyHelping Hand Initiative
Members235,000+ lifetime
NicknamesSig Nu, Snu
Headquarters9 North Lewis Street
P.O. Box 1869

Lexington, Virginia 24450
United States

Sigma Nu (ΣΝ) is an undergraduate college fraternity founded at the Virginia Military Institute in 1869. Since its founding, Sigma Nu has chartered more than 279 chapters across the United States and Canada and has initiated more than 235,000 members.[1] It is part of the Lexington Triad, a trio of national fraternities that were founded at colleges in Lexington, Virginia.

The fraternity's values are summarized by 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. The fraternity's mission statement is:

  • 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.[2]


Sigma Nu chapter house in Eugene, Oregon, 1906
Sigma Nu Gamma Chapter house
University of Colorado chapter house, 2002
Stanford University chapter house
University of Nebraska-Lincoln chapter house

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.

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.[3][4][5]

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.[6] 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.[7] 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.[7][8] The fraternity's existence remained secret until the founders publicly announced their new society on January 1, 1869.[9]

Hopkins designed the fraternity's badge, which stands mostly unchanged from its original form. The badge was introduced in the spring of 1869.[10] 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. Buck felt these influences should be removed. His revision became the first Law of Sigma Nu.[10][11] This first chapter of Sigma Nu chose as its motto nulli secundus, a Latin phrase meaning "second to none."[10]

There were many efforts in the beginning years to establish chapters at other schools. By 1883, Alpha chapter chartered eleven additional chapters, of which only three survived.[12] One of the many factors was the anti-fraternity sentiment during this time.[13][14] Kappa chapter was established in 1881 at North Georgia College & State University, giving 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.[12] He is also responsible for the creation of The Delta, Sigma Nu's fraternity magazine which was first published in April 1883.[15] The name The Delta originated from the location of the three active chapters of Sigma Nu forming a Delta.[12]

Howard's editorials in The Delta inspired Isaac P. Robison, founder of Lambda chapter, to propose a convention for the national fraternity. On July 10, 1884, Sigma Nu's first convention was held in the Maxwell House Hotel in Nashville, Tennessee.[16][17] The first national headquarters for the fraternity was established in Indianapolis in 1915. It relocated to Lexington, Virginia in 1958.[4] Additional wings were added to the headquarters building in 1969 and 1994 for Sigma Nu's 100th and 125th anniversaries.

In 1909, Sigma Nu was a founding member of the North American Interfraternity Conference.[18]

Symbols and traditions[edit]

Sigma Nu's colors are black, white, and gold.[15] Its flower is the white rose, specifically the wild English 'Floribunda.[15] Its song is "The White Star of Sigma Nu".[15]

Its gold badge was designed by Hopkins, one of the fraternity's founders.[15] It has a round center with a golden coiled serpent on a black enamel background.[15] From the center are five arms that feature a pair of crossed swords and a single letter on a background of white enamel; the letters collectively spell the Greek letters ΣΝΕΤΤ.[15] Its pledge pin looks like the center of the member's badge.[15]


Sigma Nu has some 160 active chapters in colleges and universities throughout the United States and Canada.[1]


Since the founding of Sigma Nu, it has initiated over 235,000 members.[1]


The fraternity sponsors various programming including ethical leadership development through its LEAD program[19] and philanthropic events through its Helping Hand Initiative.[20] It recruits new members using its Values Based Recruitment method.[21]

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.[22]


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.[19][23] 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.[23] The program trains candidates in general life skills, with an emphasis on alcohol use disorder awareness.[24]


Sigma Nu has several awards that are presented to chapters. The Rock Chapter Award is the highest award a Sigma Nu chapter can receive.[25] The LEAD Chapter of the Year award is for the LEAD program.[25][26] The Gallaher Cup is awarded to the chapter with the highest GPA.[25]

Following is a list of chapters that have Sigma Nu Awards.

Year Gallaher Cup Lead Chaper of the Year Rock Chapter References
1952-1953 Beta Gamma
1955 Epsilon Theta
1976 Eta Gamma
1982 Gamma Upsilon, Eta Gamma, Epsilon Epsilon
1984 Mu, Eta Gamma
1986 Zeta Lambda Delta Eta, Eta Gamma, Epsilon Epsilon
1988 Eta Tau, Gamma Upsilon, Eta Gamma
1992 Beta Zeta Psi, Lambda Theta
1994 Lambda Theta
1996 Mu, Eta Iota, Lambda Theta
1998 Zeta Phi, Iota Delta, Lambda Theta
2000 Beta Rho Beta Kappa, Delta Omicron, Zeta Omicron, Lambda Theta
2002 Beta Kappa, Gamma Xi, Delta Eta, Delta Alpha, Zeta Phi, Mu Kappa, Epsilon Epsilon
2004 Gamma Eta Phi Delta Alpha, Delta Eta, Zeta Phi, Epsilon Epsilon
2005 Gamma Xi
2006 Delta Beta Mu Iota Delta Eta, Gamma Tau, Zeta Phi, Mu Kappa, Epsilon Epsilon
2007 Delta Beta Epsilon Mu
2008 Gamma Omicron Zeta Kappa Delta Alpha, Mu Psi, Gamma Tau, Epsilon Mu
2009 Delta Beta Zeta Kappa
2010 Eta Mu Alpha Zeta Kappa Mu, Gamma Tau, Iota Pi, Epsilon Mu, Epsilon Epsilon
2011 Gamma Zeta Kappa
2012 Beta Rho Zeta Kappa Mu, Gamma Tau, Epsilon Mu, Zeta Xi, Theta Theta, Iota Beta, Mu Psi, Epsilon Epsilon
2013 Beta Rho Gamma
2014 Gamma Tau Gamma, Lambda, Mu, Gamma Alpha, Gamma Delta, Gamma Tau, Delta Alpha, Delta Gamma, Delta Rho, Epsilon Epsilon, Epsilon Mu, Zeta Xi, Zeta Pi, Eta Omicron, Iota Beta, Iota Delta, Kappa Delta, Kappa Epsilon, Mu Kappa
2016 Mu, Nu, Gamma Alpha, Gamma Mu, Gamma Tau, Delta Alpha, Epsilon Mu, Epsilon Sigma, Theta Kappa, Nu Alpha
2018 Epsilon Epsilon, Lambda Eta
2020 Beta Beta Beta Beta, Kappa Pi, Zeta Upsilon
2022 Gamma Beta, Zeta Upsilon [25]
2023 Mu Kappa Beta, Mu, Nu, Phi, Beta Iota, Beta Theta, Beta Zeta, Delta Epsilon, Epsilon Epsilon, Zeta Xi, Zeta Upsilon, Eta Mu, Eta Omicron, Eta Phi, Gamma Alpha, Iota Pi, Lambda Epsilon, Mu Kappa, Mu Pi, Nu Delta [27][28]


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.[29]

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 Robert's Rules of Order style business meeting conducted by the national regent of the fraternity.

The Law[edit]

The Law gave the fraternity and is a three-part document, including the fraternity's constitution, statutes, and trial code. It 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. It may be amended by the Grand Chapter to accommodate changing needs of Sigma Nu's membership.[30] The first edition of the Law was formally adopted at Sigma Nu's first convention in 1884.[30][31]

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 special duty, the High Council shall act on those situations through interpretation of The Law.[30] 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, the grand treasurer; the vice-regents, appointed members of the board; and the collegiate grand councilmen, who serve as collegiate representatives to the High Council.[30]

Mateer at the Sigma Nu frat house at Penn State, following the viral assault.

Scandals and controversies[edit]

  • The fraternity began debating allowing non-white and Jewish members shortly after the Supreme Court of the United States desegregated schools in 1954.[32] 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.[33][34] The Dartmouth chapter rejoined in 1983.[35]
  • Actor Jon Hamm, a member of the Upsilon chapter, was arrested for participating in a violent hazing in November 1990 during which pledge Mark Sanders was beaten with a paddle and a broom, led by Hamm around the fraternity house with the claw of a hammer beneath his genitals, and had his clothes set on fire. The chapter closed and Hamm completed the terms of a deferred adjudication; his charges were dismissed in 1995.[36][37]
  • In 2004, nine members at Fresno State University were arrested for kidnapping after playing a prank on their vice president. Other students witnessed the prank and called the police because they thought it was a real abduction.[38][39]
  • In 2010, a fraternity member at Arizona State University stabbed a fellow member when he tried to throw him into a pool.[40]
  • Sigma Nu suspended all chapter events at University of North Carolina Wilmington after a fight broke out at a party it hosted in February 2014, resulting in an East Carolina University student driving with a US Marine on his hood. The driver hit a tree, killing the Marine, and was arrested for DWI and felony death by vehicle.[41]
  • In May 2014, the fraternity at Emory University was suspended five years following a hazing investigation.[42]
  • In October 2015, during a party held at the Sigma Nu fraternity house at Penn State University, a 19-year-old college student from New York City (later identified as John Mateer) was assaulted by another party-goer after revealing that he was gay.[43] Photographs of the incident were posted on Twitter and gained widespread media attention. Mateer’s assailant was later identified by State College Police as 18-year-old Matthew Chandlee who was not a member of the fraternity. The case was most notable for starting a national conversation surrounding hate crime legislation, as Pennsylvania does not protect members of the LGBT community under their hate crime laws.[44][45]
  • Also in 2015, Sigma Nu suspended its chapter at Old Dominion University pending an investigation after they placed banners with slogans like "Rowdy and Fun, Hope Your Baby Girl is Ready for a Good Time..." and the story went viral.[46][47]
  • In February 2016, the fraternity at University of North Georgia was suspended due to hazing and alcohol violations.[48]
  • In August 2016, a Sigma Nu member at Texas A&M University died of an illegal drug overdose in the fraternity house. Six members were arrested for possession and distribution of illegal drugs on campus such as cocaine, meth, LSD, MDMA, marijuana, heroin, and ecstasy.[49] In October 2017, the deceased member's father, Eugene Gridnev, instituted a wrongful death suit against the fraternity itself, as well as several of the members present during his son's death.[50]
  • In October 2016, the fraternity at College of Charleston was suspended for drug, alcohol, and hazing violations. Sigma Nu was the third fraternity on campus to get suspended that year.[51]
  • Also in October 2016, Sigma Nu suspended its chapter at University of Nevada, Reno when a freshman pledge fell down the stairs and died after a night of excessive drinking in the fraternity house.[52]
  • In October 2017, the fraternity at Indiana University Bloomington was suspended for alcohol and hazing violations. The fraternity was placed on probation by the university a few months prior to the suspension.[53]
  • In May 2018, the fraternity at Cornell University was suspended for three years due to hazing allegations reported to the university. According to university reports, their pledges were blindfolded, dropped off in a wooded area, pressured to excessively drink alcohol, hosed down while in their underwear, and was subject to inappropriate gesturing, physical exercise and homophobic slurs.[54][55]
  • In December 2019, the fraternity at University of Central Florida was suspended for violating the university's code of conduct. A pledge was blindfolded and pressured to consume cocaine. He was also required to stay in the fraternity house for a week before being initiated. The fraternity was already under investigation for threatening to beat up a man after he confronted them for randomly throwing drinks on him and others at a local bar.[56]
  • In October 2021, the fraternity at University of Southern California was suspended following allegations of sexual assault against at least seven women.[57]
  • In 2021, the fraternity at University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) was suspended after a second-year fraternity member died on an unsanctioned fraternity trip.[58] In September 2022, the fraternity chapter at UCSB closed down following financial delinquency, alcohol violations, and dishonesty with the university and national organization.[59]


  1. ^ a b c "About Us - General Information". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  2. ^ Sigma Nu Strategic Plan Archived 2013-07-31 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Capps, Randall (1978). Sigma Nu: A Heritage History. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89459-036-7., 27-29
  4. ^ a b "History". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.
  5. ^ LEAD: Phase I. Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Publishing. 2008. p. 31.
  6. ^ Scott, John C.; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., p. 25-26.
  7. ^ a b Capps, Randall (1978). Sigma Nu: A Heritage History. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89459-036-7., pp. 28-31
  8. ^ Scott, John C.; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., p. 28
  9. ^ "A Sigma Nu Cavalcade" (PDF). The Delta of Sigma Nu. 116. Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.: 2–3 1999. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2013-07-31.
  10. ^ a b c Capps, Randall (1978). Sigma Nu: A Heritage History. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89459-036-7., p. 34
  11. ^ Scott, John C.; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., pp. 34-36.
  12. ^ a b c Scott, John C.; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., pp. 118-121
  13. ^ Capps, Randall (1978). Sigma Nu: A Heritage History. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89459-036-7., p. 44
  14. ^ "19th Century University of Georgia Presidential Papers". Gilbert-Head. 2010.
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Shepard, Francis W., ed. (1927). Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities (11th ed.). Menasha, Wisconsin: George Banta Publishing Company. p. 190 – via Google Books.
  16. ^ Capps, Randall (1978). Sigma Nu: A Heritage History. Winston-Salem: Hunter Publishing Company. ISBN 0-89459-036-7., 56
  17. ^ Scott, John C.; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., 143-145
  18. ^ "About Us - Interfraternal Involvement - Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc". www.sigmanu.org. Retrieved 2021-11-28.
  19. ^ a b "Developing Ethical Leaders". sigmanu.org.
  20. ^ "Helping Our Communities". sigmanu.org.
  21. ^ "Recruiting Our Next Members". sigmanu.org.
  22. ^ "User Login - Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc". www.sigmanu.org. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  23. ^ a b "The LEAD Program: Embracing Technology for Membership Development". The Delta of Sigma Nu. Fall 2008. Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc.: 24–25 2008.
  24. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2014-10-08. Retrieved 2014-09-12.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  25. ^ a b c d "Collegiate Members - Collegiate & Chapter Awards". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  26. ^ "Collegiate Members - Collegiate & Chapter Awards - LEAD Program Awards -". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Retrieved 2023-08-08.
  27. ^ "Collegiate & Chapter Awards - LEAD Program Awards". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  28. ^ "Collegiate & Chapter Awards - Rock Chapter Awards". Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Retrieved 2023-08-10.
  29. ^ "Home - Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc". www.sigmanu.org. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  30. ^ a b c d LEAD: Phase I. Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc. Publishing. 2008. pp. 56–57.
  31. ^ Scott, John C.; Thomas, Charles Edward (1936). The Story of Sigma Nu (2nd ed.). Indianapolis: Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., 149
  32. ^ Silver, William (5 October 1954). "Sigma Nu Vote Shows Large Anti-Bias Gain". Columbia Spectator. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  33. ^ 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.
  34. ^ Tumulty, Karen (December 12, 2002). "Trent Lott's Segregationist College Days". Time. Archived from the original on December 13, 2002.
  35. ^ "History". Sigma Nu Dartmouth. Retrieved 30 January 2014.
  36. ^ Kaplen, Sarah (April 10, 2015). "Report: Jon Hamm, star of 'Mad Men,' was arrested in college for brutally hazing another student". Washington Post. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  37. ^ Weber, Paul J. (April 9, 2015). "'Mad Men' star Hamm was accused in violent fraternity hazing". Dallas Morning News. Associated Press. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  38. ^ "Alleged prank ends in student arrests".
  39. ^ "Greek life makes a comeback".
  40. ^ Sullivan, Ian (March 5, 2010). "ASU student suspected in stabbing fellow frat member". The Arizona Republic.
  41. ^ Murphy, Sarah (February 20, 2014). "Teen charged with Marine's death". WWAY TV3.
  42. ^ https://emorywheel.com/sigma-nu-fraternity-suspended-for-five-years-following-hazing-investigation/
  43. ^ Craig, Daniel. "Man says he was beaten by PSU fraternity member because he's gay". PhillyVoice. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  44. ^ Berger, Zach (15 October 2015). "Penn State Student Charged in Alleged Anti-Gay Assault". StateCollege.com. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  45. ^ Boren, Michael (17 August 2018). "Pa. expands protections for LGBT people, but hate-crime law still doesn't include them". The Inquirer. Retrieved 24 September 2022.
  46. ^ Castillo, Mariano (August 25, 2015). "Sigma Nu frat at Old Dominion suspended for offensive banners". CNN.
  47. ^ "Frat Suspended During Probe Into Sexually Suggestive Signs". nbcnews.com. 25 August 2015. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  48. ^ https://www.redandblack.com/uganews/sigma-nu-at-the-university-of-north-georgia-dahlonega-suspended/article_e092ef0c-db14-11e5-8713-fbf08ff68409.html
  49. ^ "Two more Sigma Nu Fraternity members arrested in ongoing investigation". kagstv.com. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  50. ^ Surette, Rusty. "Family of deceased A&M student files wrongful death suit against Sigma Nu". Retrieved 2017-10-13.
  51. ^ https://abcnews4.com/news/education-news/sigma-nu-chapter-at-cofc-suspended-amid-drug-and-alcohol-violations-cofc-official-says
  52. ^ "Sigma Nu national board revokes UNR fraternity's charter". rgj.com. Retrieved 1 April 2018.
  53. ^ https://fox59.com/news/sigma-nu-fraternity-suspended-at-indiana-university-for-hazing-alcohol-violations/
  54. ^ "University Releases Details About Sigma Nu's Suspension - the Cornell Daily Sun". 12 June 2018.
  55. ^ "Sigma Nu Recognition Revoked for 3 Years Following Hazing Incidents - the Cornell Daily Sun". 4 May 2018.
  56. ^ https://www.nicholsonstudentmedia.com/news/suspended-ucf-sigma-chi-accused-of-blindfolding-pledge-forced-cocaine-use/article_e77d4c64-1d77-11ea-9e10-1727068e55ee.html
  57. ^ "Sigma Nu Fraternity At USC Suspends Member At Center Of Sexual Assault Allegations". losangeles.cbslocal.com. Retrieved 24 October 2021.
  58. ^ "UCSB Student Dies on Sigma Nu Trip; Fraternity Suspended for Holding "Unsanctioned Event" | the Daily Nexus". 14 October 2021.
  59. ^ "UCSB Sigma Nu fraternity closed following financial delinquency, alcohol violations, dishonesty with university and national organization | the Daily Nexus". 29 September 2022.

External links[edit]

Media related to Sigma Nu at Wikimedia Commons