The Archives of Phi Gamma Delta

Archives Home Founders Traditions Today in History Historic Sites Leaders Exhibits/References Blog Contact

______________________________________________________________________

 

Reprinted from A History of Sigma Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta Fraternity and A Directory 

of its Members, published by the chapter in 1933.

A History of Sigma Chapter at Wittenberg

Founded in 1884

By George Hopper (Wittenberg 1932)

Back to History Articles page 

They say that Friday is an unlucky day and that all ventures which begin on a Friday are foredoomed to failure. If these old whimsies be true, then a certain group of forthright youths was foolish in its choice of a day on which to launch an undertaking. For it was on a Friday evening in the spring of 1883 that Sigma of Phi Gamma Delta was conceived. That word, "conceived", is used advisedly and in its strict physiological sense, for, as all Sigma men know, it wasn't until the fall of 1884 that Sigma was born.

It was an unusual meeting that convened in the Ohio Senate Chamber on this particular Friday evening in the spring of 1883. If you didn't know your senators and their nocturnal proclivities, you might have thought it was a committee of the Senate in extraordinary session. But, search as you will, you'll find no record of it in the minutes of the General Assembly. And no state senators ever were so youthful as the members of the group before you. And no State Senate, even in its lightest mood, ever closed its session with the song which you now heard:

"When college songs and college lays
Are faded with their maker's days;
When sol's swift wheels have made us old,
And college life's a tale that's told;
Phi Gamma Delta, still to thee,
Our hearts will turn eternally."

Whether you knew it or not, and the chances are that you didn't, you were watching Omicron Deuteron of Phi Gamma Delta at Ohio State University initiate five men into its number.

Now a fraternity initiation in a Senate Chamber is no common occurrence. In fact, it might even border on the unique. But this particular initiation, viewed in the light of what took place a year and a half later, becomes something to be conjured with, for from it there sprang, on November 21, 1884, Sigma of Phi Gamma Delta, at Wittenberg College, Springfield, Ohio.

The historian who wishes to grasp the true import of the momentous - momentous, at least, for the four hundred odd alumni of Sigma (as of 1933) - event which occurred that spring evening in 1883 must go back many more years. The true antiquarian would go back to an October day of 1517, when an indomitable Saxon tacked his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the castle church at Wittenberg, Germany. That man was Martin Luther, and his tour de force was commemorated in 1845 when the church he founded set up at Springfield, Ohio, a college called Wittenberg. In 1852, four years after the fraternity of Phi Delta Theta was founded at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio, a chapter appeared on the campus of the new institution-a campus that consisted of one building and very little else. Running the gauntlet of faculty opposition, the group lasted only two years and was outlawed in 1854.

In 1866, Phi Kappa Psi, the Jefferson College mate of Phi Gamma Delta, established its Ohio Beta chapter at Wittenberg. The following year, Alpha Gamma of Beta Theta Pi came into existence. The school was small, and almost fifteen years passed before any movement looking toward the formation of another fraternity was broached. In 1880 an abortive attempt was made to secure a charter from Phi Gamma Delta, with no measure of success. But it wasn't long before dissatisfaction with the methods of the established groups induced Frank Russell Dean, 1885, seconded by Elmore E. Grim, 1885, and Edwin S. Houck, 1886, to draw up plans which would result in the bringing of another fraternity to the college. To their number they added Noble C. King, 1885, George W. Harmon, 1888, Burton M. Lowman, 1889, Frank T. Demmitt, 1889, and William L. Guard, 1889, some of whom were students in the Academy connected with the college proper. With Dean as president, the Sigma Society was formed, so that the advantages of a stable organization might be gained.

Now the question to be decided was: Which fraternity should they make the object of their overtures? Phi Delta Theta, anxious to revive its dead chapter, was not backward in offering a charter to the new group. Sigma Chi and Chi Phi sent inspecting delegations. Delta Tau Delta's virtues were extolled by its president, who lived in Springfield. Both of the established fraternities extended bids to the members of the new local. Finally, it appeared that the majority of the group favored Sigma Chi, and there was every reason to suppose that the petition would be granted. Then some of the resident Fiji alumni, headed by T. J. Kirkpatrick (Ohio Wesleyan 1879) heard of the movement, met the petitioners, and presented the advantages of Phi Gamma Delta. With little trouble, they wooed the sentiment away from Sigma Chi, and the group decided to cast its lot with the White Star instead of the White Cross.

A petition was forthwith drawn up and presented to the Grand Chapter, which reported to the 1881 Convention that "it was compelled to reject the petition for the establishment of a chapter at Wittenberg College. . . by reason of the refusal of one of the nearest chapters . . . to request its establishment." That chapter, to its undying shame, was Theta Deuteron at Ohio Wesleyan!

Again a petition was prepared and sent to the Grand Chapter, this time properly indorsed by both the Ohio State and the Ohio Wesleyan chapters. Again the supplicants were rebuffed. The Grand Chapter indefinitely tabled the petition.

One spring day in 1883, when the hope of the petitioners was at its lowest ebb, Jesse Lovejoy (Ohio State 1884) and Edward Orton, Jr. (Ohio State 1884) arrived unexpectedly from "Columbus and announced that five of the group were going to be Fijis-and hang the Grand Chapter! The following Friday, Dean, Grim, Houck, Harmon and King entrained for Columbus and matriculated at the university. Then followed the initiation in the Senate Chamber. Noble King, writing fifty years after the event, gives a graphic account of it, prefaced with the canny observation that it may be just as well that the statute of limitations has run against what happened that day-and night. "Just how they manipulated things over there," he narrates, "we never knew, but my understanding of the affair was that one of the Phi Gams was clerk in the registrar's office, and another - I think it was Lovejoy - had a job, or else he had a friend who had a job, in the State Senate, which gave him access to the Capitol building. Anyway, when the five of us arrived in Columbus late that afternoon, we found that arrangements were complete for our matriculation. This was accomplished without disturbing any of the college officials, and then, after a very mild form of 'goat-riding,' we were conducted to the Senate Chamber and there initiated. I remember the lights were kept very dim and it was certainly an impressive ceremony."

(Edward Orton, Jr. was son of the first president of Ohio State University and late the founder of its school of ceramic engineering.)

The rites concluded, the party adjourned to the Neil House, where the initiation banquet was served. Then, having completed their course of study at the university, the five returned to Springfield as Fijis.

Hope was now renewed. With the fact that there were five Fijis enrolled at Wittenberg, a powerful argument in its favor, the Sigma Society prepared its third petition. The Grand Chapter refused to be thus persuaded and unanimously rejected it at its January, 1884, meeting. As if further to dishearten the petitioner, it delivered itself of the solemn pronouncement that "no benefit would be derived by the fraternity by the establishment of chapters at colleges of this calibre."

And well might it thus have pontificated. There were already three established fraternities in the institution, with which the new group would have to compete, for Alpha Tau Omega joined Phi Psi and Beta in 1883. The entire enrollment in all departments of the college was about 150, of whom only 65 were in the college proper. And only 51 of these were men! Tuition cost the munificent sum of $39 a year. Room rent was $7.50 per annum in the college dorm. Board was eighty to one hundred dollars. Well might the college catalog announce that "from $147.50 to $167.50 will maintain a student for a year"! Surely the outlook was anything but propitious for a new chapter. Besides, Phi Gamma Delta already had 26 chapters and was none too eager to increase its roster.

Undismayed by these cogent arguments of the Grand Chapter, the petitioners again pressed their suit. Realizing, no doubt, after almost four years, that those brash youths from Springfield were not to be thwarted longer, the Committee on Condition and Extension recommended to the 1884 Convention at Pittsburgh that "after an investigation of the matter. . . if the proper petition duly signed and indorsed be again presented, this convention instruct the Grand Chapter to issue a charter for a chapter at Wittenberg College." Immediately forthcoming was the "proper petition", and at long last Sigma was commissioned by the Grand Chapter on October 25, 1884, as the twenty-seventh chapter of the fraternity. To the petition were subscribed the names of the nine indomitable youths who had literally badgered the Grand Chapter into establishing a unit at Wittenberg - Frank Russell Dean, the moving spirit of the venture; Noble Clarence King, living now in Wooster, Ohio; Edwin S. Houck, to whose memory a tablet stands in the chapter house; George W. Harmon; Elmore E. Grim, long a physician in Springfield; Frank T. Demmitt; Burton M. Lowman; William L. Guard, for many years State Representative at Columbus and now living in Urbana, Ohio; and George Buck,* now principal of Shortridge High School, Indianapolis. (Although Buck, 1891, was not one of the Sigma Society "charter members", he since had added his efforts to the White Star cause.)

After the initiation of Guard, Demmitt, Lowman, and Buck, Sigma was installed on November 21, 1884, at the Arcade Hotel, Springfield, with Melvin N. Mix (Ohio State '85) as legate; "The initiation and banquet will long be remembered," reads an account of the ceremony.

With no permanent quarters for its meetings, at first the chapter shuttled back and forth among the rooms of the several members. Dean was elected president, and, at the first meeting, on November 29, the initiation fee was fixed at five dollars - as compared with sixty-five dollars today - and fifty cents was set aside to pay for a rope used to lower the new initiates down an elevator shaft. Five cents was also appropriated for a mug! The chapter was not long in setting itself up in a permanent hall, for in January, 1885, a room was rented in the Mitchell building, at the northeast corner of Limestone and High streets, a mile from the campus. Imagine the indignation of the group when they assembled for one of their early meetings only to find no gas available for lighting. A committee appointed to investigate the matter circumspectly reported that "through mistake and a misunderstanding with the gas company, light could not be procured until the following week." The meeting adjourned. Then, as now, the job of chapter treasurer was no sinecure.

Heated debates on topics reflecting the thought of the day filled the early meetings as the members grew vehement over "The Merits of Trades Unions," "The Possibilities of Electricity," "Chinese Exclusion," "Cremation," "The Whipping Post," "Mormonism," "The Bloody Shirt" and "The Knights of Labor." Sigma's business, however, was not wholly filled with such "literary exercises", as the secretary generically called them, for when the first annual convention of Phi Gamma Delta in Ohio was held, May 7, 1885, at Columbus, the chapter attended en masse.

Less than two years after its inception, Sigma played host to the 22nd convention of the Fraternity, held in Springfield, October 28 to 30, 1886. In the chair of the president sat T. J. Kirkpatrick, later editor of "Farm and Fireside" and one of Sigma's staunchest friends.

In January, 1887, the chapter entered a new hall in the Buckingham block, at the southeast corner of Limestone and High streets, directly across High street from the former location. It was in 1887, too, that the infant chapter first ran afoul of the despicable practice of "lifting". A member of Phi Gamma Delta at Ohio State, who had enrolled at Wittenberg, was prevailed upon by one of the other fraternities to transfer his affiliation to it. This he did, and Sigma with solemn mien adopted a formal resolution expelling him from the fraternity and expunging his name from the records.

At one meeting in the fall of 1887, the brothers, tongue in cheek, debated the polysyllabic question: "Resolved, that hypotheses promulgated by evolutionists do not conflict with the orthodox evangelical syllogisms of Christianity." In other minutes, reference is made to such mundane affairs as the purchase of new spittoons to replace the old - "to be paid for by a levy on the brothers who smoke and chew" - and the appointment of a committee to wash the windows. Every chore, even the blackening of the stove, required the appointment of a committee!

But the life of Sigma was not all literary exercises and state conventions and annual reunions. It soon became a formidable rival to the established fraternities, dabbled in campus politics and came forth in 1889 with the presidencies of all four classes. To complete the picture, George Buck dropped out of school and was elected mayor of his home town.

Relations with the other fraternities, save for the "lifting" episode, were amicable, for the most part. Only once did the chapter correspondent dip his pen in vitriol and report scathingly of another fraternity. Then he gave vent to the following diatribe: "The three men initiated by the Phi Psis are poor specimens, one of them having formerly been pledged Phi Gamm [sic!], but was discarded on account of his mental incapacity and general fatigue."

During the ensuing years the chapter continued to prosper. Men prominent in extracurricular activities joined its ranks and brought honor to Sigma. Intercollegiate athletics, which was then coming into favor, occupied the time of many of the brothers. Sometimes the chapter correspondent, in a burst of frankness, delivered himself of such gems as: "Brother. Thomas, who has become quite popular as a baseball pitcher, has accepted an offer to pitch for Otterbein." Subsidization, then as now, reared its ugly head.

For a space of several years in the early nineties, Sigma seems to have been in a state of continual siege with the gas company. In November, 1891, the gas fixtures were ordered taken out "on motion", probably of the gas company. A month later, the stove was ordered "fixed for coal." In February, 1892, a committee was appointed to wait upon the company and see about getting gas. In March, it was announced that there would be no gas until next fall. When the fall came, there was more trouble with the gas company, and the chapter decided to blacken the stove and invest in a ton of coal.

The debt which the national fraternity owes to Sigma can best be understood by chronicling the exploits of one man, Harry O. Rhodes, 1895. "Dusty", as he was known to his chapter mates, withdrew from Wittenberg at the end of his sophomore year and transferred to Amherst College. There he was instrumental in founding Alpha Chi Chapter of Phi Gamma Delta and was one of two men to pledge Calvin Coolidge (Amherst 1895). Thus to Brother Rhodes, who died recently at Wabash, Indiana, his fraternity owes deep and abiding gratitude for a chapter and a president of the United States.

In 1899, the fraternity again saw fit to hold a convention in Sigma's bailiwick, for the 51st Ekklesia met in Dayton that year. It was there that a young man from Johns Hopkins, who was the treasurer of the fraternity, took the fancy of the men from Springfield. His name was Newton Diehl Baker. They learned from him that his father attended Wittenberg in the fall of 1860, until an epidemic of small pox and the Civil War combined to close the college. "Shortly after the 1899 Ekklesia", Brother Baker writes, "the Wittenberg chapter elected my father an honorary member and asked Beta Nu Chapter at Johns Hopkins to initiate him. A time for the initiation was set, but some professional responsibility prevented my father from getting there and. . . the initiation never took place." Thus did Sigma miss becoming the chapter of the father of the most illustrious living Fiji.

No dullards, the men of Sigma soon realized that a house was a vital necessity to the proper enjoyment of fraternity life. In May, 1896, the first mutterings of this were heard when the chapter president appointed a committee to investigate the possibilities of a chapter house. (At the same meeting, a committee was appointed to stop a hole in the door!) The matter was held in abeyance for eight years, and it was November, 1904, before a house was finally rented, at 181 Stanton avenue, for which, the correspondent reported, Section Chief "Billy" Chamberlin (Denison 1993) and J. Fuller Trump, 1903, were largely responsible. In the interim, individual members of the chapter were rehabilitating themselves after two disastrous fires. In the first, which occurred during the Christmas, 1900, holidays, Lloyd C. Douglas, 1900, a student in the seminary and later destined to become famous for his best-sellers, "Magnificent Obsession", and "Forgive Us Our Trespasses", was a victim. To Arthur J. Todd, 1902, the one who writes is indebted for an interesting sidelight on this catastrophe. Todd and Douglas, both with literary inclinations, had gone out to New Moorefield, a few miles from Springfield, the previous spring, rented the first cottage they came to, and resolved to pursue their bent, at least for a week. But the fishing was good, Brother Todd confides, and the manuscript languished. That part of it which was completed was locked up in Douglas' chest of drawers. In the fire which occurred that Christmas, the manuscript was the only article in the chest not destroyed by the flames-their first rejection slip! The second fire occurred in 1903 and destroyed the minutes for the two years immediately preceding.

In the spring of 1904, just before the chapter moved into the new house, the secretary recorded that "the meeting was unexpectedly adjourned due to the firing of a pistol caused by a mob which had congregated in front of the county jail for the purpose of lynching a Negro." The hall was then located in the Gotwald building, now the Merchants and Mechanics Bank building, at the southeast corner of Limestone and Main streets.

At Sigma's first Norris Pig Dinner, which was held in the new house, on Thanksgiving Day, 1904, "Billy" Chamberlin first broached the idea of actually owning a house. Perhaps Billy would not have partaken of the pig had he known how it was obtained, for the minutes of November 14 reported that "it was decided that the chapter go out on the night of November 22 to get the pig." And this was the same chapter, mind you, that three college generations before expelled a member for plagiarism in an oration that won second place in the State Oratorical Contest. O tempora, O mores!

In the fall of 1905, the chapter rented a new house, at 134 W. Ward street, where the present Phi Kappa Psi house stands. (The house which Sigma occupied now stands behind the main buildings of the College of Music on Wittenberg avenue, one block from its old location.) Soon difficulties began to beset the group. A decreased enrollment in the college, aided and abetted by the depression of 1907, and dissension between two rival groups in the chapter conspired to humble the once flourishing chapter. From an active organization of 21 in 1905, the number dwindled to 13 in 1906; and to eight in the spring of 1907. The second rented house was lost in the fall of 1906, and with it went the integrating force which, in large measure, had served to unify the chapter. Three years were to elapse before the chapter was again installed in a house. The sand in Sigma's hour-glass had almost run out.

To Howard S. "Zeus" Bechtolt, 1907, fell the duty of attending the 1907 Ekklesia in Chicago and of bending his efforts to save the charter. Hat in hand, he waited on the Committee on Condition and Extension. After several sessions with its members, he succeeded in convincing them that Sigma, though languishing, was far from moribund. When the committee made its report to the Ekklesia, favoring continuance of the chapter, a delegate from Alabama, sensing the drama of the situation, let out a resounding rebel yell. Immediately a collection was taken up among the delegates and turned over to "Zeus" to aid in the rehabilitation of the chapter.

But more than money was needed to pull Sigma out of the slough of despond. It took men. When college opened in the fall of 1907, "Zeus" and his brother, Walter, 1907, who had returned from graduate work, and Nathan W. Harter, 1908, set about the work of reconstruction. Brother Harter gives the picture: "I returned to college in the fall of 1907 to find that I was the only active member of Sigma in the institution. All of the other fraternities were rushing furiously for new members, and one day I overheard a remark made by a Phi Psi to the effect that the Phi Gamma Delta chapter at Wittenberg had ceased to exist long ago. For some reason or other my pride received a jolt and the remark brought to me the realization of what it would mean if the chapter were actually to pass out of existence." Then there is the story, grown almost to legendary stature, of the visit of two national officers to Harter's room in the college dorm. With their best bedside manner, they had come to attend their patient, frankly skeptical of its ability to recover. Harter, suspecting the object of their visit, had hidden the charter on the top of his wardrobe. Fearful lest they discover the hiding place, he heard their ultimatum: Sigma must have six active members, a competent organization, and all dues to the national office paid in full before the next Ekklesia, or finis would be written to its career. He and the Bechtolts girded themselves for the task. Harter continues: "It was at that time late in the fall and all of the freshmen had been thoroughly rushed, so that none remained for us. But there were three excellent chaps in the upper classes who had made excellent scholastic records whom we had repeatedly attempted to pledge without success, but I felt certain that I could still get them. The success of the plan depended entirely upon pledging the one key man who would be able to swing with him the other two boys. That one key man I had selected as the foundation, inspiration and hope of a rejuvenated chapter was my closest friend - Willard P. Anspach." Harter revealed his plans to Anspach, who promptly fell in line. The two of them, aided by the Bechtolts, added Anspach's brother, Howard, and C. Raymond Isley - or "Chink" as he is better known - to their number. Redoubling their efforts, they added two more links to the weakened chain before the deadline set by the officers. In the summer of 1908, Sigma sent Bechtolt to the New York Ekklesia, where he could report that the chapter had justified the faith reposed in it and was making progress to meet the requirements of the national body. The hour-glass had been inverted!

As a corollary to their other demands, the national officers made it perfectly clear that it behooved the chapter to install itself in a house as soon as possible. During the three years since the loss of the house in 1906, the chapter had been meeting in various make-shift quarters, now in the boarding hall of the college dormitory, now at the room of one of the members. The minutes for this period are captioned: "Office of Houck and Todd", "Bechtolt's room", "474- Park place'" and "Bookwalter Hotel." After the chapter had been sufficiently fortified by the addition of new blood, it sought to comply with this other condition laid down by headquarters. To the 1909 Ekklesia, the section chief reported that "conditions have greatly improved", and that the chapter was established in a rented house at 1120 North Fountain Avenue, about three blocks north of the present location. Fuller Trump, always solicitous of the welfare of Sigma, presented the boys with a set of dishes with which to start housekeeping. It was nothing new for Fuller to make the chapter the object of his benefactions, for in 1905 he presented it with a box of cigars for a Pan-Hellenic smoker.

Not satisfied with the Fountain Avenue location, which was some distance from the campus - or perhaps they had a run-in with the landlord - the men of Sigma rented another house at 814 N. Limestone street, in the spring of 1910. Around a sturdy oak table, which was bought while the chapter was established in this house, the present chapter still plays cards in the den of the present house. While the group was located at "814" the secretary recorded that "a thoroughbred bull pup named 'Sigma', 'Sig' for short, has been added to the chapter and attended his first meeting. He has won his way into the hearts of the brothers and we are glad to have such a lively mascot."

During all this period of decline and subsequent reconstruction, Sigma had been laboring under the incubus of disinterested alumni - with the striking exception of a few old faithfuls, whose devotion served only to reveal the disaffection of the others. Then the chapter began to syllogize something like this: Get somebody to do you a favor and you're fast friends; let's get the alumni to do a favor for us, and we'll win them back into the fold. Or perhaps someone remembered the talk of "Billy" Chamberlin at the Pig Dinner in 1904. Be that as it may, the fall of 1911 found the chapter established at 909 Woodlawn avenue, on the very edge of the campus, in a house owned by a stock company of actives and alumni-in which Nate Harter, chairman of the house purchasing committee, and his bride had lived the preceding summer to keep the option open. Fuller Trump was chairman of the alumni house committee. "Ed" Houck, Trump, Harter and many another loyalist labored in the vineyard from May until October to insure Sigma a house in the fall. The option was exercised on October 1, 1911, and the house purchased for $7,250.

Once established in new quarters, the chapter began to double in brass, giving vent to both its religious and its athletic inclinations. Dr. Leander S. Keyser (Indiana 1881) long a professor in Hamma Divinity School on the Wittenberg campus and now a professor emeritus, conducted a Bible class every Tuesday evening, the chapter correspondent reported in The Phi Gamma Delta for December, 1913. In the minutes are recorded Sigma's trials and tribulations with the tennis court in the back yard. If Sig wasn't burying his bones in it, the brothers were trespassing on it with hard shoes, thus subjecting themselves to nickel fines. Sig, "the lively mascot" acquired in 1911, proved a little too lively, for the secretary noted at one meeting in 1915 that "it was moved and carried that the chapter pay $1.25 to Mrs. Whittlecomb for the chicken killed by Sig." Nor was the dog the only miscreant. In a later minute appears the record that "anyone caught eating the Boarding Club's food between meals should be fined $1.00." The blessings of fraternity must have been realized by one of the pledge brothers, when the chapter voted early in 1916 to pay for the rental of the dress suit which he used at the formal dance. What changes the times have wrought! Now the "tux-less" brothers borrow theirs.

Continuing the definite upward trend which had been in evidence since the Bechtolts and Harter took hold in 1907, Sigma rose to the crest of the wave. With the house as an integrating force, the chapter ruled the fraternities at Wittenberg. When the war came and the house was taken over by the S. A. T. C., the youngsters in Sigma, ineligible for the service, kept it together. To the Victory Ekklesia at Pittsburgh in 1919, it was reported that "Wittenberg has made a remarkable showing during the war." And, what's more, it had! In all, sixty-three men from the chapter served in the Army. One, E. Gray Swingle, 1917, president of the chapter, of the board of athletic control and of the board of publications during his college career, died within the enemy lines, the first Wittenberger to fall. His memory is hallowed by a tablet which now stands in the chapter house. A grateful government posthumously awarded him the Distinguished Service Cross, second only to the Congressional Medal of Honor. Another Sigma man, Harry Shaffer, 1915, now an educator in the Philippine Islands, was awarded the French Croix de Guerre with two palms for his gallantry as a military observer. At the 1920 Ekklesia at Kansas City, Missouri, Sigma was named second in the Cheney Cup competition, awarded to the chapters for general excellence. For ten consecutive semesters it led the school in scholarship. It contributed a member of the 1920 all-Fiji football team, all-Ohio - all-American, many said - Halfback "Wib" Etter, 1921. Thus did it redeem the pledge of 1907.

In 1925, another crisis confronted the chapter, when the national office decreed the house acquired in 1911 no longer fit for occupancy. After housing three college generations of Fijis, it had begun to show
signs of wear, as well it might. Forthwith another manifesto was issued: Sigma must have a new house. And again the chapter met the test, thanks to the loyal efforts of several of its faithful alumni. To "Rube" Farmer, 1923, Judge Harry Gram, 1901, "Ed" Houck, 1886, "Husky" Kauffman, 1913, "Art" Todd, 1902, "Count" Knisely, 1923, Joe Juergens, 1924, and many another, Sigma owes its present home at 809 North Fountain Avenue, which was acquired for $25,000, and entered in the fall of 1926. In its commodious quarters live twenty-three of the thirty-five men who comprise the present chapter. In their number are included the president of the men's governing body, the editor of the annual, an all-Ohio basketball player and men prominent in every other field of extracurricular activity. But, above all, they're good fellows, worthy members of the chapter to which they belong. To the loyalty of its alumni, particularly of Purple Legionnaire Peter C. Rockel - "Curley", the boys call him - of the class of 1921, is due the high caliber of Sigma's present chapter.

Of illustrious members, Sigma has her goodly portion. Dr. Lloyd C. Douglas, 1900, is the author of best-selling novels. Another Sigma man, Clifford S. Raymond, 1895, is an editorial writer on the staff of
The Chicago Tribune. George Buck, 1891, is principal of Shortridge High School in Indianapolis, which yearly graduates men who join the Hoosier chapters of Phi Gamma Delta. Probate Judge Harry G. Gram, 1901, a thirty-third degree Mason, Past Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Ohio and a former president of the Ohio Probate Judges' Association, finds time to keep in close touch with Sigma and to serve as president of the alumni holding company. Miles L. Hanley, 1914, professor of English at Wisconsin, with the late George Philip Krapp, 1894, aided in the compilation of The Linguistic Atlas. More than thirty Sigma men are serving the church, as ministers or missionaries. Three others are members of the Wittenberg faculty, and three more serve as field secretaries for the college - three good reasons why Sigma learns that freshmen are coming to the school before they themselves know. In every field of activity, men from Sigma's halls are extending meritorious service, a credit to their college, to their chapter and to their fraternity.

Now, not content to rest on its past laurels, Sigma plans for the future. Not the least important item in those plans is the construction in the not-far-distant future of a house commensurate with its standing on the campus. To this end, an insurance plan has been instituted, under the direction of Hildreth A. "Buck" Rider, 1919, and Homer A. McFadden, 1929, to which more than fifty Sigma Fijis have subscribed.

Scores of Fijis from allover the country will congregate in Springfield to help Sigma celebrate its golden jubilee the weekend of June 1, 2 and 3, 1934. As the society editress says, "a gay round of events has been arranged for the entertainment of the visitors." And that's not idle verbiage either. In the first place, it's Commencement Weekend at Wittenberg, and nine Fiji seniors will be among those to hear the Commencement address. Then there's the Norris Pig Dinner, which is to be held on Saturday the second, and, if you've read this history, you'll know that it will be Sigma's thirtieth. Then, "Count" Knisely is in charge of the initiation of several freshmen, with alumni occupying the chairs, and scores of lusty voices will join in singing "When College Songs and College Lays'" with renewed fervor. And Cecil J. Wilkinson - our own "Scoop" - editor of The Phi Gamma Delta, executive secretary of the fraternity and president of the Interfraternity Conference, has promised to be present.

In such a setting Sigma will round the half-century mark, one of five* reasons why the Buckeye state is a citadel of Fijidom!

(*Five was the number of active Phi Gamma Delta chapters in Ohio as of 1933.)

Back to History Articles page