Sigma Nu’s past is a proud and colorful one. Founded by three cadets at the Virginia Military Institute in a period of civil strife known as the Reconstruction, Sigma Nu represented a radical departure from the times. The system of physical abuse and hazing of underclassmen at VMI led to James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles, and James McIlvaine Riley to form the “Legion of Honor” which soon became Sigma Nu Fraternity. So, amidst a backdrop of turmoil, North America’s first “Honor” fraternity was established.
The following is a historic account of the early years of the Delta Delta Chapter at Penn State.
H. H. Heinrich, ’05
I. C. Minick, ’05 R.
J. Peschko, ’05 W.
C. Cope, ’06
Purely for good fellowship and to foster college friendships already formed, rather than with the object of petitioning a national fraternity.
H. H. Heinrich was the first to conceive the idea of establishing the University Club, as early as the spring of 1903. He took up the matter with I. C. Minick, but nothing whatever was done until the following spring, about April 1, 1904. At that time Heinrich again broached the subject to Minick and to Peschko and Cope. These four men took the preliminary steps, formed a definite plan of action, and then invited the following to join before any constitution, club room, or finances had been arranged:
P. T. Kamerer, ’06
O. C. Noss, ’07
H. F. Braddock, ’06
E. L. Rafter, ’06
R. C. Kelly, ’06
K. L. Gibson, ’06
Inability to secure a house caused the plan to be abandoned by all but Heinrich and Minick until the fall of ’04. After a house-to-house canvas, a room was found over Krumirine’s store. All of the men came back into the fold, a constitution was carefully drawn up and the two club rooms furnished. L. F. Beckert and R. L. Bovard, both 1907 men, and the following freshmen were invited to join: R. K. Tate, J. K. Van Horn, R. J. Garrett, J. E. Mount, Bert Rhodes, H. N. Heckel, and S. P. Armsby.
C. Minick was the first president of the University Club and served in this capacity until he graduated in 1905.
A ritual for initiation was prepared. Preceding an initiation, there was always some hazing and stunts; these, in many cases, were held in Andy Lytle’s woods at night. Later, a serious ritual was given at the clubhouse. No national fraternity at college then had a group of men more intent on making their organization the very best.
Soon the value of a national charter was realized and it was decided to petition a national fraternity. First the local increased its members from 21 to 25. As several of the men knew J. W. Bartlett, ’06, an Alpha Tau Omega from Colby College, was approached. A formal petition to Alpha Tau Omega was prepared and submitted by Bartlett at the Alpha Tau Omega convention
in New York in December 1904. It received a negative vote, as did the petition submitted to the convention at Birmingham in 1906. Petitioning continued until the fall of 1907 when the local voted unanimously that it did not wish to become Alpha Tau Omega.
Soon after furnishing the two clubrooms in the fall of ’04, it became evident that a house was needed. Finally, arrangements were made on April 1, 1905, to rent the Herman House on Allen Street. This was effected chiefly through the efforts of R. L. Bovard, ’07, who then roomed at the Herman House. This became the first Chapter House. Twelve men moved into the house and $500 worth of new furniture was purchased. The local maintained its own dining room and club room and really started its life as a fraternity. In June 1905, the first commencement house party was held. Thus, within a year, a real, well-housed club was formed.
The University Club was soon recognized as a growing and prosperous organization. A
reputation for hospitality was established that lasted for many decades. The new men secured were enterprising and ambitious, and it was their ideal to make and maintain an organization of strength and character.
When Sigma Chi vacated its house on Allen Street in September 1906, it was secured by the University Club. This was a large and better house. R. L. Bovard and K. L. Gibson were the committees who selected the $1,800 worth of furniture and arranged details of the loan making possible the purchase of new equipment. Several of the boys’ mothers, especially Mrs. G. M. Bole and Mrs. Carpenter from Pittsburgh, presented linen, made curtains, cushions, etc.
As the organization strengthened, some national fraternities decided to destroy it by bidding the members. Everyone in the club received from one to five bids.
The desire to be a national fraternity man proved too strong for six of the members, who broke their vows to the University Club and joined other fraternities. This crisis brought the faithful members closer together and the club was better for having lost those men who were a disturbing element.
In the fall of 1907, thoughts turned toward Sigma Nu. At that time the club secured as a member
E. A. Walker, brother of a Sigma Nu from Lehigh, while Brother Heltman, Gamma Psi, who was a student at Penn State, lived at the clubhouse.
The preliminary petition to Sigma Nu was presented to the First Division convention at the Pi Chapter House, South Bethlehem, PA, in the spring of 1908. When it was found that the club was a worthy organization, Brother A. H. Wilson, then inspector of the division, appointed Brother H. B. Mann of Gamma Theta to inspect the club. (At that time Division One contained 9 chapters.)
The formal petition to the High Council and Chapters of Sigma Nu Fraternity was presented on October 20, 1908. Strong endorsement of the petition came from such prominent men as Past Regent A. H. Wilson; H. E. Sibson, Cornell, formerly inspector Division One; Brother Mann,
Cornell; Brother Heltman, Gamma Psi; and the New York Alumni Chapter.
The petition was favorably acted upon by vote of all the chapters during October, November, and December 1908, and the charter was granted December 22, 1908 – a welcome Christmas gift.
The following members were the petitioners whose names appear upon the charter:
Harry A. Bole, ’09, ΔΔ1
Sidney P. Armsby, ’09, ΔΔ2
Edward A. Walker, ’09, ΔΔ3
Frederick F. Beckert, ’09, ΔΔ4
Paul M. Etters, ’09, ΔΔ6
Wilberforce Eckels, ’09, ΔΔ5
Charles A. Lambert, ’10, ΔΔ11
Chauncey R. McAnlis, ’10, ΔΔ14
William W. Davies, ’10, ΔΔ7
George O. Weddell, ’10, ΔΔ8
Robert B. MacDermott, ’11, ΔΔ12
Walter H. Hillary, ’11, ΔΔ13
E. Horace Siegler, ’11, ΔΔ15
Albert P. Goedecke, ’11, ΔΔ16
Harry H. Armsby, ’11, ΔΔ9
Robert L. Devereaux, ’11, ΔΔ10
Rolland G. Bailey, ’12, ΔΔ17
William V. Collins, ’12, ΔΔ18
Roy C. Clarke, ’12, ΔΔ19
Howard E. Gage, ’12, ΔΔ20
These men were all initiated with the installation of the chapter on April 8, 1909. At commencement, 1909, the following alumni of the University Club were initiated into Sigma Nu: E. L. Rafter, W. C. Cope, H. F. Braddock, L. F. Beckert, R. L. Bovard, and P. T. Kamerer.
The petitioners from Penn State arrived in Philadelphia on the evening of April 7, 1909, many going to the Beta Rho Chapter House, where the initiation was to be held the following evening. Beta Rho was wide open to all Penn State men and all visiting “Sigs.”
April 8 was a clear, bright day. In the afternoon a large tea was held at Beta Rho house in honor of Mrs. Wade H. Ellis, wife of the Regent. There were 250 guests, many prominent in Philadelphia society.
The house was decorated artistically with palms and the chandeliers were covered with flowers and greens. Music was furnished by an orchestra. The Sigma Nu tea was one of the finest ever given by a fraternity at the University of Pennsylvania and was a great success.
The secret work of initiation commenced at 7:30 pm in the spacious parlor of the Beta Rho Chapter House. The petitioners were initiated in blocks of five by teams from Lehigh, Lafayette, Cornell, and Pennsylvania. A large assembly of “Sigs” were present and the ceremony was very impressive. The installation functions were in charge of Frank H. Hobson, Beta Rho, who had been elected inspector when Wilson was elected to the vice regency.
After the installation, a banquet was held at Kuglers cafe. The banquet hall was decorated in black, white, and gold, and the tables were arranged in the shape of ΣΝ. Covers were laid for 86.
Prayer: Brother Roswell Philips
Toastmaster: J. Howard Reber, Pi, 1890, a prominent Philadelphia lawyer
Introductory remarks: Regent Wade H. Ellis, Lambda
Response: Wilberforce Eckels, for Delta Delta
The new chapter soon gathered to itself honors in all lines of college activities, its policy being to send underclassmen into every branch of college life.
The Delta Delta Property Association of Sigma Nu Fraternity, Inc., a not-for-profit corporation (IRS section 501.c.(7)), was established in April 1921 under the laws of the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania for the express purpose of establishing a permanent residence for the Delta Delta collegiate chapter. On February 16, 1925, the Association co-signed a deed with the university
that transferred property on Burrowes Road, owned by the university, to the Association for a cost of $1.00. Under this agreement, the university retains the right to purchase the lot and any buildings erected thereon if the building ceases to be used as a chapter or fraternity house. The deed reports an initial mortgage of $20,000.
The Association was established during Prohibition. The Association’s original Articles of Incorporation prohibited alcohol on the property. These Articles appear to have remained unchanged until the ’80s, at which time the Articles were revised and this prohibition was deleted.
Sigma Nu Penn State
340 North Burrowes St
State College, PA 16801