Sigma Phi Epsilon

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Sigma Phi Epsilon
The official coat of arms of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
Founded November 1, 1901; 113 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
313,000+ lifetime
Founding principles Virtue, diligence, and brotherly love
Headquarters Zollinger House
310 S. Boulevard

Richmond, Virginia, United States

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 one of the largest social fraternities in the United States in terms of current undergraduate membership.[2]


Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity House at Ohio University.


In the fall of 1900 18-year-old divinity student Carter Ashton Jenkens, the son of a Baptist minister, transferred from Rutgers College of New Jersey to Richmond College, a Baptist institution in the Virginia capital.[3] At Rutgers Jenkens had been initiated into the Chi Phi Fraternity. At Richmond, which did not have a chapter of Chi Phi, Jenkens was part of group of friends who were meeting regularly under the unofficial name the "Saturday Night Club".[4] By early October, 1901, Jenkens had persuaded the group, which had grown to twelve men, to try and establish a chapter of Chi Phi at Richmond. These men were reportedly spurned by the existing fraternities on campus for their sense of morality (seven of the twelve were studying for the ordained ministry) and for their rural, middle-class backgrounds.[3] 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.[3] Jenkens and his friends therefore founded their own fraternity.

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. It listed the twelve founding members 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.[4]

Jenkens, Gaw and Phillips then met with a faculty committee to seek official recognition for their new fraternity. The faculty members were reluctant to recognize a sixth fraternity in a school with only 300 students, especially as more than half the members would be soon-to graduate seniors. Additionally, another national fraternity already existed using the name Sigma Phi.[5] The founders responded that the fraternities at Richmond would be different, as was founded upon biblical principles,[5] and new members would quickly be taken in from the undergraduate classes to increase the new fraternity's size, and the fraternity's name was still open to debate.[6] 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.[5]

Badge and colors[edit]

The colors dark red and royal purple were chosen to represent fraternity, while the golden heart was chosen as the fraternity's symbol. The principles of Virtue, Diligence and Brotherly Love, were chosen as "The Three Cardinal Principles". Jenkens also designed the fraternity's badge 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 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 skull and crossbones below. A last-minute telegraph sent to the jeweler requested that an "Epsilon" be added "somewhere" on the already-complete badges, so the jeweler replaced the bottom-most gemstones with a black enameled "Epsilon." The badges of founders Carter and McCaul are on display at the Sigma Phi Epsilon headquarters at the fraternity's headquarters.[citation needed]

Acceptance of Transgender members[edit]

In December 2014, Sigma Phi Epsilon became the first fraternity in the North-American Interfraternity Conference to accept transgender men as members. The National Board of Directors passed the policy by an 8-0 majority vote with three abstentions.[7]


In 2014, the Sigma Phi Epsilon chapter of the University of Mississippi was closed after three of its members were said to have draped a noose around the statue of James Meredith, the first black student to attend the university.[8][9][10]

In February 2014, two sexual assaults were reported at the Yale SigEp chapter fraternity house one block from campus.[11] The fraternity had allowed their facility to be used by another student group for a private event. According to the fraternity, the allegations were not made against members of the chapter.[12]

In September 2014, SigEp pledge Tucker Hipps, of Clemson University located in Clemson, South Carolina was found dead in Lake Hartwell after his pledge brothers reported him missing after a run that morning. Both the university and the national fraternity found that the chapter had violated its code of conduct. The investigation is ongoing. In February 2015, Clemson chapter was given a five-year suspension for alleged violations of the student organization conduct code after the death of Hipps.[13][14]

Notable members[edit]



  1. ^ a b Year-End Report
  2. ^ "Fraternity Facts - The National Fraternity". Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. Retrieved 2010-03-23. 
  3. ^ a b c "The History of Sigma Phi Epsilon - The first 50 Years > Sigma Phi Epsilon Founded". Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  4. ^ a b "The History of Sigma Phi Epsilon - The first 50 years >The First Meeting". Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  5. ^ a b c "The History of Sigma Phi Epsilon - The First 50 Years > Fraternity Recognized". Retrieved 2006-11-13. 
  6. ^
  7. ^ "National Board of Directors Meeting Minutes" (PDF). December 6, 2014. Retrieved 7 August 2015. 
  8. ^ "Fraternity shuts Ole Miss branch after James Meredith statue noose tying>". Retrieved 2014-04-20. 
  9. ^ "Ole Miss frat shuttered in wake of noose incident". CBS News. Associated Press. 18 April 2014. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  10. ^ Golgowski, Nina (22 February 2014). "University of Mississippi fraternity suspended, 3 members kicked out over noose on statue". New York Daily News. Retrieved 11 December 2014. 
  11. ^ Southall, Ashley (February 21, 2014). "Two Sexual Assaults Are Reported at Yale". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2015. 
  12. ^ Ramilo, Marek (February 24, 2014). "YPD reports two sexual assault allegations". Yale Daily News. Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2 February 2015. 
  13. ^ Barnett, Ron (5 February 2015). "Clemson suspends Tucker Hipps' fraternity". Greenville Online. Retrieved 10 March 2015. 
  14. ^ Cahill, Harrison (4 February 2015). "Clemson University suspends fraternity for five years in wake of student death". The State (South Carolina). Retrieved 10 March 2015. 

External links[edit]