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 "We shall form a fraternity on the principal that the adequacy of the fraternity lies in the opportunity for the building of a well rounded and symmetrical development of individual character. There must be in a fraternity, the expression and bond of friendship; at the same time, each must be free in the pursuit of his chosen ideals."

- Franklin Howard Scobey, Founder 1855

The Disagreement

In the fall of 1854 a disagreement arose in Kappa chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon at Miami University, Oxford, Ohio. This chapter consisted of 12 men. Six of them, led by Whitelaw Reid (later to become famous as a war correspondent, owner of the New York Tribune and U.S. Ambassador to Great Britain) supported one of the members for Poet in the Erodelphi an Literary Society.

Four of the other six members, James Parks Caldwell, Isaac M. Jordan, Benjamin Piatt Runkle and Franklin Howard Scobey, refused to vote for the brother because they knew him to lack poetic abilities. They favored a man for that office who was not a Deke. Thomas Cowan Bell and Daniel William Cooper were not members of Erodelphian, but their relation to the disagreement was unqualified endorsement of the four.

So the chapter of 12 was evenly divided in a difference of opinion that ordinarily would have been decided one way or the other and immediately forgotten. But both sides considered it a matter of principle, and could not reach a compromise. During the ensuing months they found more and more things on which to disagree with the breach constantly widening.

A Schism at Dinner

In February 1855 came a dramatic dinner meeting in two adjoining second-floor rooms of a village bakery just across High Street from the public square in Oxford. The "recalcitrant six" as they had become known, were hosts for the occassion. They were on hand early and nevervously awaited developments.

Very much to the surprise of the six, only two men came up the stairway and appeared in the doorway. These two men were Whitelaw Reid, president of Kappa Chapter of Delta Kappa Epsilon, and Minor Millikin, a young alumnus who lived in the neighboring town of Hamilton. Reid presented Millikin to the six and told them that what was about to be said had the weight of alumni authority behind it. Millikin lost no time: “My name is Minor Millikin; I live in Hamilton. I am a man of few words.”

Next, Millikin unfolded a plan he and Reid had concocted by which “justice” could be satisfied with the formal expulsion of the leaders in the rebellion (undoubtedly Runkle and Scobey), after which the others, having been properly chastised, could remain in the chapter. Reid, however, had not counted on the almost fanatical zeal the six men seated in front of him had for their cause.

It was at this dramatic moment that Runkle stepped forward, pulled off his Deke pin, tossed it upon the table and said, or probably shouted, “I didn’t join this fraternity to be anyone’s tool. And that, sir,” addressing Millikin, “is my answer!” Runkle stalked out of the room, and his five colleagues followed. 

The Founding of Sigma Chi

These six men wisely associated themselves with William Lockwood, a highly intelligent student with valuable business sense; he became the individual who designed the organization for the new fraternity. They formulated the first constitution and initiation.

Because they believed that the existing fraternities did not emulate the true feeling of "fraternity" and that the other fraternities' ideals were largely ignored by their respective members, they established a new fraternity, whose ideals and foundations were symbolized by the badge they designed -- the distinctive White Cross. Sigma Chi's ideals of friendship, justice and learning would be held close to heart and would evoke standards by which a man could improve his life while working closely with others from different back-grounds and callings, with divergent ambitions and diverse abilities. The founders themselves exemplified these ideals.

With all of their plans formally completed, the seven Founders of the new Fraternity announced its establishment by wearing their badges for the first time in public on Commencement Day at Miami University, June 28, 1855.

Quick Facts

Founding Date: June 28, 1855
Founding Location: Miami University, Oxford, Ohio
Colors: Blue and Old Gold
Motto: “In Hoc Signo Vinces”
Nickname: Sigs
Flower: White Rose
International Chapters: 222
Living Brothers: 218,000+
National Philanthropy: Derby Days - Huntsman Cancer Foundation