Benjamin Piatt Runkle
Founder Benjamin Piatt Runkle, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857, born in West Liberty, Ohio, was 18 years old at the time of the founding of Sigma Chi. It was Runkle who pulled off his Delta Kappa Epsilon badge and threw it on the table at the pivotal February 1855 dinner meeting, putting into forceful words the thoughts of Founders Thomas Cowan Bell, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; James Parks Caldwell, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; Daniel William Cooper, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; Isaac M. Jordan, MIAMI (OHIO) 1857; and Franklin Howard Scobey, MIAMI (OHIO) 1858. It was this type and quality of spirit that he instilled in Sigma Chi throughout his life.
Runkle joined with Founder William Lewis Lockwood, MIAMI (OHIO) 1858, in designing the White Cross. They had decided to come up with something different from the shield and diamond type common at the time. In later years, Runkle explained, “Its selection grew from an admiration of its meaning.” He was inspired with the story of the Emperor Constantine and his vision on the night before the battle for Rome. He believed Constantine was a heroic character, and he convinced the other Founders to pattern Sigma Chi symbolism after the vision of Constantine. Runkle's spirit and idealism in college once led to his temporary suspension from the university for fighting in chapel with a Beta Theta Pi Fraternity member who had publicly sneered at his badge.
He had the most noteworthy military career of any of the Founders. At the outbreak of the Civil War, he volunteered with a militia company and was a colonel by the end of the war. He was seriously wounded in the battle of Shiloh and left for dead on the battlefield, leading his former Delta Kappa Epsilon rival Whitelaw Reid to pen a glowing tribute to Runkle in a dispatch to his newspaper. The reports of Runkle's battlefield death turned out to be erroneous, and Runkle actually outlived Reid.
After a long military career, during which he was eventually promoted to major general, Runkle was ordained as an Episcopal priest. He was the only one of the Founders to become Grand Consul, serving as the 7th Grand Consul from 1895–97.
Runkle spent the last years of his life in Ohio, where he died on the Fraternity's 61st birthday in 1916. He was buried with full military honors in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, where in 1923 Sigma Chi erected the first of the Founders' memorial monuments at his grave.