Sigma Phi Epsilon
|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (December 2014)|
|Sigma Phi Epsilon|
|Founded||November 1, 1901
Richmond College, Virginia
|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|
|Founding Principles||Virtue, Diligence, & Brotherly Love|
310 S. Boulevard
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 one of the largest social fraternities in the United States in terms of current undergraduate membership.
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. It listing 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. 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. 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 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, 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 the fraternity's founding, are on display at the Sigma Phi Epsilon headquarters at Zollinger House.
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.
In February 2014, two sexual assaults were reported at the Yale SigEp chapter fraternity house one block from campus. 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.
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.
- Year-End Report
- "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.
- "Fraternity shuts Ole Miss branch after James Meredith statue noose tying>". Retrieved 2014-04-20.
- "Ole Miss frat shuttered in wake of noose incident". CBS News. Associated Press. 18 April 2014. Retrieved 11 December 2014.
- 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.
- Southall, Ashley (February 21, 2014). "Two Sexual Assaults Are Reported at Yale". The New York Times. The New York Times. Retrieved 14 January 2015.
- Ramilo, Marek (February 24, 2014). "YPD reports two sexual assault allegations". Yale Daily News. Yale Daily News. Retrieved 2 February 2015.
- Barnett, Ron (5 February 2015). "Clemson suspends Tucker Hipps' fraternity". Greenville Online. Retrieved 10 March 2015.
- 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.