History

The Sigma Chi fraternity was born out of a matter of principle. The first brothers who had created Sigma Chi were initially brothers of the Delta Kappa Epsilon fraternity’s chapter at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio. In autumn of 1854, after a disagreement over whether or not one of their brothers should be elected to the office of “poet” for a literary society on campus, the DKE chapter was split into half; six brothers believed that the brother in question should be elected based on merit solely, while the remaining six believed the bond of brotherhood should be a sufficient criterion to vote for him.

It follows that this dissention had caused a great schism in DKE. Chapter meetings, activities and relationships between the opposing groups had proven to be too problematic. The six brothers who valued merit sought to repair this rift among the brothers with a friendly dinner between both groups. Expectant of the other six who prized loyalty over merit, DKE brothers James Caldwell, Isaac Jordan, Ben Runkle, Frank Scobey, Tom Bell and Dan Cooper were dismayed when only one of the opposing brothers, Whitelaw Reid had shown. He was not alone, however.

A DKE alumnus Minor Millikin accompanied Reid to the dinner. Staying true to his persona of “a man of few words”, Millikin denounced the six brothers and described them as rebellious. He desired to have them cast out of the chapter. To this day still a historic moment, Runkle tore off his DKE badge, slammed it on the table, and shouted “I didn’t join this fraternity to be anyone’s tool. And that, sir, is my answer!” And at that, the six brothers left the dinner.

And so since the dinner had been a failure, Reid attempted to expel the brothers from the fraternity by majority vote. However, since brothers from each side were in equal number, there could be no majority. Eventually after extensive correspondence with DKE’s parent chapter at Yale, the “recalcitrant” brothers were expelled from the fraternity. The six had not lost face, however, for the former brothers already had in mind the prospect of forming a new organization based on fairness and honesty. At that, justice became one of the central ideas in the formation of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.

The six had later associated themselves with William Lewis Lockwood who, while not in DKE, proved to be an invaluable component to the organization of the new fraternity. Later that year, Runkle and Caldwell had been living in a room in Oxford. This became the prime congregation room for many of Sigma Chi’s initial meetings. It was here that Runkle and Lockwood created the badge and White Cross. Lockwood served as an asset in the founding of the fraternity and formation of its constitution because he maintained views which differed from that of DKE, given that he was never a brother there.

When the formal plans had been completed, the Seven Founders of the Fraternity announced its establishment. The Seven Founders wore their badges in public on Commencement Day at Miami University, June 28, 1855.