Sigma Nu official Founders’ Day is January 1 for it was on that date in 1869 that the fraternity was publicly announced at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Virginia. In October 1868, three VMI cadets who were opposed to the physical abuse and hazing of VMI underclassmen discussed the situation. James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley formed the “Legion of Honor.” When the new society was announced on that New Year’s Day, it was known as Sigma Nu.
The Gamma Mu Chapter was founded at the University of Illinois in 1902. Charles “Chic” Sale grew up in Champaign, Illinois. As a high school student, he hung out with his friends, some of whom were Sigma Nus, at the chapter house on the University of Illinois campus. In those early days of the 1900s, fraternities sometimes pledged men before they enrolled at the institution. Sale was pledged to the Gamma Mu chapter in 1906. The Sigma Nus gave him the nickname “Chic” when he entertained them at the chapter house. He had a way of making the chapter members laugh while entertaining them, and they encouraged to make his way as a performer. He left Champaign and tried his hand at vaudeville. He became one of America’s best-loved character actors and comedian on both stage and screen. During his travels, he frequently visited Sigma Nu chapter houses or attended alumni association meetings. One of his close friends was University of Wisconsin Sigma Nu alumnus Nick Grinde, who became his publicity man and later a renowned movie director.
Sale was an instant success in the film The Star Witness and his popularity grew with the publication of his humorous book, The Specialist. The book was published in 1929 and was a best seller (and this was before books of this type were published – vaudeville was rife with plagarism). It was a play about an outhouse builder. Sale, at a luncheon of the Sigma Nu Alumni Association, dined with a few lawyers who encouraged him to copyright and publish as a book the tale that he told them, the funny story about Lem Putt and his outhouses. He did just that.
Sale was initiated into the Gamma Mu chapter in 1927 by an act of the Sigma Nu High Council. He was named to the Sigma Nu Hall of Fame in 1986. Sale died in 1936 at age 51. Milton Supman, better known as Soupy Sales, is said to have chosen his stage name as a nod to Sale.
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