A Day in Common for Phi Sigma Sigma, Kappa Alpha Society, and Sigma Alpha Mu

Phi Sigma Sigma was founded at Hunter College on November 26, 1913. Its original name was Phi Sigma Omega, but it was discovered that the name was already in use. Its founders are Lillian Gordon Alpern, Josephine Ellison Breakstone, Fay Chertkoff, Estelle Melnick Cole, Jeanette Lipka Furst, Ethel Gordon Kraus, Shirley Cohen Laufer, Claire Wunder McArdle, Rose Sher Seidman and Gwen Zaliels Snyder.

Phi Sigma Sigma founders

Phi Sigma Sigma founders

Phi Sigma Sigma became international in 1930 with the founding of its Upsilon chapter at the University of Manitoba. The University’s second female architecture graduate was a Phi Sigma Sigma, Evelyn Blankstein; she was born on March 5, 1913. Her father was an architect and that may have influenced her choice of major at the University of Manitoba. In addition to being a member of Phi Sigma Sigma, she was a talented athlete in the 1930s when athletic opportunities for women were limited. She was even named Woman Athlete of the Year while at the University. 

Blankstein was the only female to graduate in architecture that year and she was the first Jewish woman in Manitoba to earn a bachelor’s of architecture. She served her chapter officially as social chairman and generally as a good spirit and chapter cheerleader.


Blankstein spent her career as an architect, “when there were few if any women in a profession that was considered a male preserve — for close to 40 years, first in her brother Cecil’s office and then for Hobbs Glass (later Canadian Pittsburgh Industries) where she designed and facilitated the use of architectural glass for stores, movie theatres, offices and factories designed in the architectural offices of Winnipeg,” according to her obituary.

She was one of the first women golfers with a full membership at the Glendale Golf Club; it allowed her to golf with the men. She was a competitive Duplicate Bridge player, earning Life Master status. The Jewish Foundation of Manitoba administers an Evelyn Blankstein Athletic Assistance Fund for area young people.


Kappa Alpha Society is the oldest of the Union Triad, the three fraternities founded at Union College in Schenectady, NY.  It was established in 1825 by nine men, John Hart Hunter, Thomas Hun, Isaac W. Jackson, John McGeoch, Orlando Meads, James Proudfit, Joseph Anthony Constant, Arthur Burtis, Jr., and Joseph Law. Its second chapter was founded at Williams College in 1833. A total of 13 chapters have been chartered; nine of those chapters are currently operating. Four of those nine chapters are in Canada. Two are the dormant chapters are also located in Canada. My rudimentary math skills detect what is likely the largest percentage of Canadian chapters among men’s fraternities.


Sigma Alpha Mu was founded on  November 26, 1909 at the City College of New York. Its eight founders first met at a meeting of the sophomore class. Its founders are Lester Cohen, Hyman Jacobson, Adolph I. Fabis, Samuel Ginsburg, Abram N. Kerner, Jacob Kaplan, Ira N. Lind, David D. Levinson. 

Sigma Alpha Mu founders

Two years later, a second chapter was established at Cornell University, quickly followed by chapters at Long Island University and Columbia University. The SAM chapter at Syracuse University was founded in 1913. It was SAM’s seventh chapter.

Syracuse football great, Ernie Davis, was a member of the Sigma Alpha Mu chapter at Syracuse. In addition to being the first African-American to win the Heisman Trophy, and the first African-American to be picked first overall in the NFL draft, he was the first African-American to become a member of Sigma Alpha Mu. Sadly, Davis was diagnosed with leukemia in 1962 and died in May 1963 at the age of 23. He never played in a professional football game. 

The Ernie Davis statue at Syracuse University.

The Ernie Davis statue at Syracuse University.

© Fran Becque, www.fraternityhistory.com, 2016. All Rights Reserved. If  you enjoyed this post, please sign up for updates. Also follow me on twitter @GLOHistory and Pinterest www.pinterest.com/glohistory.

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