About Sigma Chi
Sigma Chi is a brotherhood with roots in the collegiate experience that engenders a lifelong commitment to strive to achieve true friendship, equal justice and the fulfillment of learning as part of our overall responsibilities to the broader communities in which we live.
We achieve these ideals through the practice of character qualities embodied in our Ritual, and continuously reaffirm our purpose through the observance of Sigma Chi’s Governing Laws and through adherence to the decisions of our legislative assemblies, which empower and direct our leadership.
In addition to its 242 undergraduate chapters and 117 alumni chapters (as of summer 2016), Sigma Chi is comprised of five operational entities: the Sigma Chi Fraternity, the Sigma Chi Foundation, the Risk Management Foundation, Constantine Capital Inc., and Blue and Gold Travel Services.
Unchanging Principles: The Story of Sigma Chi
At a Glance
In the fall of 1854, a disagreement arose within the Kappa chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE) at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. This chapter consisted of 12 men; six of them, led by Whitelaw Reid, supported one of the members for Poet in the Erodelphian Literary Society. Four of the other six members, James Parks Caldwell, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; Isaac M. Jordan, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; Benjamin Piatt Runkle, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; and Franklin Howard Scobey, MIAMI (OHIO) 1858; refused to vote for the brother because they knew him to lack poetic abilities. The man they did favor for that office was not a Deke. Thomas Cowan Bell, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; and Daniel William Cooper, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; were not members of Erodelphian, but their relation to the disagreement was unqualified endorsement of the four. Thus, they became six.
The chapter of 12 was evenly divided in a difference of opinion that ordinarily would have been decided one way or the other and immediately forgotten. But both sides considered it a matter of principle and could not reach a compromise. During the ensuing months, the groups disagreed so much that their friendship grew distant.
A Schism at Dinner
Chapter meetings, or attempted chapter meetings, occurred for months with the breach constantly widening. In February 1855, at an Oxford, Ohio, restaurant, a dramatic dinner meeting between the dissenting groups set the stage for Sigma Chi’s founding. Bell, Caldwell, Cooper, Jordan, Runkle and Scobey hosted the event, hoping to mend ways with the other six. They were on hand early, awaiting developments with anticipation. Of the meeting, Runkle said, “With the kindest of intentions, we determined to give a dinner in their honor. I remember that the feast was prepared at the village restaurant, the guests invited, and on the appointed night we gathered and waited for the guests. They did not come for a long time, and then only Mr. Reid with a stranger. He took into his confidence Minor Millikin, an alumnus of the fraternity from nearby Hamilton, Ohio, and the two decided on strenuous proceedings.”
Minor Millikin Steps Up
Millikin lost no time. “My name is Minor Millikin,” he said. “I live in Hamilton. I am a man of few words.” He then passed judgment on all of the matters in dispute. Since he had heard only one side of the story, his verdict was against Runkle, Scobey and the others who had originally opposed election of the DKE as the Poet in the literary society.
Next, Millikin unfolded a plan that he and Reid had concocted by which “justice” could be satisfied with the formal expulsion of the leaders in the rebellion, undoubtedly Runkle and Scobey, after which the others — having been properly chastised — could remain in the chapter.
At this dramatic moment Runkle stepped forward, pulled off his DKE pin, tossed it upon the table and said to Millikin, “I didn’t join this fraternity to be anyone’s tool. And that, sir, is my answer!” Runkle stalked out of the room, and his five colleagues followed.
Six Against Six
The final meeting of the 12 active members of Delta Kappa Epsilon was in Reid’s room in the “Old Southeast” building several days later. After a strenuous effort, led by Reid, for the expulsion of the six, with six against six on all vital issues, the meeting broke up in considerable disorder.
A rather prolonged correspondence ensued with the Delta Kappa Epsilon parent chapter at Yale, resulting in the April 1855 expulsion of Bell, Caldwell, Cooper, Jordan, Runkle and Scobey. However, those six young men undoubtedly had, by that time, already shifted their thoughts away from hoping that they would change the minds of those at DKE’s parent chapter and focused instead on the prospect of forming a new fraternity.
THE EARLY YEARS
One of the best moves the first six Founders ever made was to associate themselves with Founder William Lewis Lockwood, MIAMI (OHIO) 1858. He had entered Miami University early in 1855 but had not joined a fraternity. He was the “businessman” of the group and possessed a remarkable organizing ability. More than any other Founder, he was responsible for setting up the general plan of the Fraternity, much of which endures to this day.
During the latter months of the 1854–55 academic year, Benjamin Piatt Runkle, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857, and James Parks Caldwell, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857, lived in a second-floor room of a building near Oxford’s public square on High Street — now known as the birthplace of Sigma Chi. The Founders hosted many of the earlier organizational meetings of Sigma Chi in this room, and it was there that Runkle and Lockwood designed the badge. The White Cross was designed exactly as we know it today except for the letters “Sigma Phi” in the black center. They were later changed to Sigma Chi.
Having been members of Delta Kappa Epsilon, six of the Founders were familiar with the general outline of fraternity constitution and Ritual content. They were considerably influenced by Lockwood, who had known little of Delta Kappa Epsilon or its differences. With all of their plans formally completed, the seven Founders of the new Fraternity announced its establishment by wearing their badges for the first time in public on Commencement Day at Miami University, June 28, 1855.
Built to Last
The working fraternal conceptions of the Sigma Chi International Fraternity have long been identified with the words friendship, justice and learning. These three elements were the basic ideals our Founders used in forming the foundation of Sigma Chi.
In their new Fraternity, they possessed the qualities of congenial tastes, quality fellowship and genuine friendship to be indispensable. The element of thorough fellowship was regarded as a characteristic of all real Fraternity endeavors, thus they sought true friendship.
In matters of general college interest, the Founders had refused to be limited simply by the ties of their DKE brotherhood. The Founders’ new association was surely not planned to prevent laudable mutual helpfulness. On the contrary, it was designed in every worthy way to enhance such helpfulness. The new Fraternity stood for the “square deal” in all campus relations. It exalted justice.
In the 19th century, the academics of college were very strenuous. College men of the day studied subjects such as spherical trigonometry; Roman history; odes and satires of Homer, Horace and Plato. A strong emphasis was placed on literature in all campus activities. In the literary exercises of the chapter, literary training was regular and rigid. Founder Issac M. Jordan, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857, once said, “We entered upon all our college duties with great zeal and earnestness, studied hard, tried to excel in every department of study, contended for every hall or college prize and endeavored to make our Fraternity have a high and honorable standing.” The Founders placed learning in high regard and importance.
The Spirit of Sigma Chi
The Founders’ unfortunate experience in Delta Kappa Epsilon, which they saw as a group focused on conformity for political gain, stirred their hearts and their spirit. They found it a necessity to allow and accept differences in points of views and opinions, realizing that doing so brought opportunities and pleasures. This “spirit” became documented as The Spirit of Sigma Chi. Though The Spirit of Sigma Chi calls for men who are inherently “different,” it is expected that the members, in their differences, remain responsible, honorable, gentlemanly, friendly-indeed all those characteristics that are also listed in The Jordan Standard.
THE SEVEN FOUNDERS
The seven young men who founded Sigma Chi were not ordinary men. They were men of vision, men of courage, men of action. They envisioned something new in fraternities, and sought to transform that vision into reality.
Prior to Sigma Chi’s birth, fraternities were based on the proposition that friendships are best formed by men of like minds, talents and personalities. Our Founders, however, believed that true brotherhood could prosper only when men of unlike minds, talents and personalities banded themselves together under a common set of ideals. It was on this precept that Sigma Chi was begun.
Knowledge of the exemplary lives led by these men is a requisite to gaining an understanding of their ideals and the tremendous contribution they made to our Fraternity.