History of Sigma Phi Epsilon

In 1901, Sigma Phi Epsilon was founded because 12 young collegians hungered for a campus fellowship based on Judeo/Christian ideals. At Richmond College, Carter Ashton Jenkens applied for a charter of Chi Phi. The request was denied. Wanting to maintain their fellowship, Carter and 5 of his friends decided to form a local fraternity.

1901
The six original members found six others. They met to discussed the organization of a fraternity they would call “Sigma Phi”. The 12 founders are named as members. Jenkens is listed as the first member. “This fraternity will be different, will be based on the love of God and the principle of peace through brotherhood. The number of members will be increased from the undergraduate classes. We will change the name to Sigma Phi Epsilon”. An unheated, unfurnished single room in the tower of Ryland Hall was assigned to the new fraternity by the College.

1902
State charter was created. Virginia Alpha established chapters at five other colleges.

1903-1908
Sigma Phi Epsilon ended its fifth year of operation with 14 chapters in nine states. The next five years brought 17 new chapters and representation in a total of 18 states.

1908
The Fifth Grand Chapter Conclave was important because new laws required employment of a full-time Chief Executive Officer.  Founder Williams L Phillips (Uncle Billy) was employed as a Grand Secretary.

1913
The University of Tennessee chapter is chartered as Tennessee Alpha on May 29. It is the 45th chapter of the fraternity.

1927
An article first published in the 1927 edition of Baird’s Manual of American College Fraternities, refers to the “latest development in fraternity administration… the establishment of a central office headquarters with a full-time secretary in charge. It is apparent from this, that the Grand chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, in taking this step, was showing remarkable forethought as a pioneer in fraternity administration. SigEp was one of the two fraternities to own a headquarters building.

1930
The roots of the Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation started in 1930, when, in the face of the Great Depression, SigEp established a Student Loan and Fellowship Fund from pooled dues to aid worthy members in completing their college education.

1938
Merger between Sigma Phi Epsilon and The Theta Upsilon Omega national Fraternity.

1940
69 active chapters.

1943
The Sigma Phi Epsilon Educational Foundation was established in honor of William L. “Uncle Billy” Phillips. The Foundation funds scholarship and leadership programs that develop the academic leadership, citizenship, and personal potential of college undergraduate and graduate students.

1959
148 active Chapters.

1960’s
59% of the 173 chapters were among the top chapters on their campuses. Sigma Phi Epsilon made the transition to a more business-like operation.

1970’s
The 70s were difficult for fraternities. The investment in the belief that hard times would come to an end paid off. In the late 1970s, students began to change-demanding a return to the ideals of past generation. Fraternities were in prime position to meet those needs and SigEp was ready.

1980’s
With 16,000 undergraduates on college campuses, 170,000 lifetime members, and more men joining than any other fraternity, SigEp became the strongest and most popular fraternity in history.

1989
The Fraternity developed the first formalized strategic plan-a detailed blueprint designed to take the Fraternity into the next millennium as the premier Greek-Letter organization.

1990’s – Present
The Fraternity’s Education Foundation continued to support undergraduates and innovate programs. bullet New Millennium 2001 saw the addition of the New Member Camp, now called EDGE. This program wh/Chapterich focuses on acclimation to college and substance abuse prevention, has fast become a favorite event for all new SigEps.

For a history of Sigep at Tennessee, Click Here.