On Phi Sigma Kappa Founders’ Day – the Story of Kappa Tetarton, SIUC’s Chapter

The April 3, 1956 edition of the Egyptian reported that the Interfraternity Council had admitted Alpha Sigma to membership on a trial basis. The local fraternity had 24 members; it was founded on October 18, 1955 (Obelisk, 1959). The fraternity was interested in affiliating with Sigma Phi Epsilon. On May 7, 1956, it became a Sigma Phi Epsilon Colony.

The chapter was on the verge of becoming the Illinois Epsilon chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon when the Office of Student Affairs rescinded its permission (Obelisk, 1957). Sigma Phi Epsilon’s ordeal is chronicled in Chapter VI of this paper. The chapter returned to its former local status, this time taking the name Alpha Sigma Epsilon.

Instead of completely disbanding, the chapter decided to again pursue national affiliation. George Hand, a Sigma Phi Epsilon member who was privy to the first affiliation process, wrote a letter of support to a Phi Sigma Kappa national officer: “Since my son is a member of this group, I have been in close contact with them for more than a year, and I feel that I am well acquainted with them. I have a high opinion of the character of the group. They have given evidence that they have principles and are ready to stand by them. The group is quite active as evidenced by the fact that seventy-five percent of the members are on campus committees. The group has grown in number, in prominence, and stature on the campus, especially in this past year.” (G. Hand, personal communication, 1957)

Alpha Sigma Epsilon’s petition for membership in Phi Sigma Kappa was approved in May, 1957. Davis notified Roger Gordon Bush, Alpha Sigma Epsilon’s president, that the Administration had given permission for the local to affiliate with Phi Sigma Kappa (I. C. Davis, personal communication, June 18, 1957). The first pledging ceremonies occurred in September.

Alpha Sigma Epsilon became the Kappa Tetarton chapter of Phi Sigma Kappa on November 23, 1957. An installation team from the University of Illinois chapter arrived to perform the ceremonies. Forty-one undergraduates were initiated along with three SIU faculty members and two Carbondale residents who were receiving associate status. They included George Hand, Vice President for Business Affairs; Max Turner, Assistant Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; John Hopkins, Assistant Professor of Geography; Henry Engel and Alvy Smit (B. Lyon, personal communication, November 5, 1957). The chapter celebrated with a banquet at Engel’s and the following day it was honored at a tea at the Sigma Sigma Sigma chapter house (Obelisk, 1958).

Phi Sigma Kappa was founded in 1873 at the Massachusetts Agricultural College, now the University of Massachusetts. The official badge consists of the three Greek letters (Anson & Marchesani, 1991).

In June, 1958, a lease was signed for a house at 401 West College Street. In what remains a confusing situation the lease was entered into with “the Sigma Phi Epsilon Southern Illinois Corporation (parent corporation of Phi Sigma Kappa Fraternity), of SIU.” The members of Alpha Sigma Epsilon endured the process of becoming a national fraternity and settled into being a part of the SIU fraternity system.

Among Phi Kappa Sigma’s traditions was a pinning ceremony in “which the couple wears a ball and chain for 24 hours and the fraternity burns the Greek letters on the sidewalk” (Obelisk, 1959, p. 192).

This excerpt of from my master’s thesis, A HISTORY OF THE FRATERNITY SYSTEM AT SOUTHERN ILLINOIS UNIVERSITY FROM 1948 THROUGH 1960 by Frances DeSimone Becque, 1995.  © Fran Becque  www.fraternityhistory.com

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