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The success of an organization can be determined by the quality of its members. To ensure the Fraternity is embodied by worthy young men, the Jordan Standard was put in place. It acts as a set of requirements for evaluation of potential members before they are invited to pledge. These prerequisits were addressed in Isaac M. Jordan's speech at the 15th Grand Chapter in 1884.

The procedure of membership selection including the “White Clause”, the unpopularity of the Fraternity in traditional institutions, the debates on honorary membership, and war were some of the trials and tribulations that were endured.   

From the beginning of Sigma Chi to the Centennial year, the membership totals reached approximately 82,000. The Fraternity nearly doubled in size by its 125th anniversary, reaching 158,801 initiated members. Almost doubling again within the past 30 years; Sigma Chi has initiated approximately 294,943 members.

It is known that nearly 10,000 Sigma Chi members entered World War II, of them, 738 made the ultimate sacrifice. It is documented that in all wars, from the Civil War to Operation Iraqi Freedom, there has been a total 897 Sigma Chi casualties. These numbers show great honor and dedication of all the brothers who have served.

Brother Sigmas, we belong to a society worthy of our highest regard and warmest affection. We are united in the strong and enduring bonds of friendship and esteem. Let us each and all so do our duty and conduct ourselves that we bring no dishonor upon our society or each other. And we may have the high and proud satisfaction of knowing that our beautiful White Cross, at once the badge of our society and the emblem of purity, will never be worn over any breast which does not beat with pure, generous, and noble emotions, and by no man who is not a man of honor.

Isaac M. Jordan
The Cincinnati Grand Chapter, August, 1884

The Last Full Measure of Devotion

Sigma Chi’s Gold Star Honor Roll

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During World War II, Chester W. Cleveland, Illinois 1920, the editor of The Magazine of Sigma Chi, made it his mission to report on all Sigma Chis who gave their lives during the conflict. The detailed coverage he provided gives the impression that he considered his reporting a sacred duty and his contribution to the war effort. With the 2005 establishment of The Sigma Chi Historical Initiative, we proudly assumed that duty.

There is no doubt that the sacrifice of those who fight to defend their homelands, the dedication that President Lincoln called “the last full measure of devotion,” is the personification of Founder Jordan’s assertion that the White Cross of Sigma Chi will never be worn by any but a man of honor. The brothers listed here, however, did not fight and die simply to preserve their honor: they believed their sacrifice represented something greater; that those for whom they fought were worthy of the sacrifice. The belief that the worthy deserve protection, to the exclusion of all else, lies at the genesis of our great brotherhood and is enshrined as one of our most sacred tenets.

The Initiative compiled this list from the pages of The Magazine of Sigma Chi, the fraternity archives, and reports from the undergraduate chapters. This list is not complete and we welcome any further information you may have.

Honorary Membership Debate

Grover Cleveland Case

Honorary membership was a prominent debatable question in Sigma Chi Fraternity. It was brought up at practically all early Grand Chapters with legislation on the subject enacted upon. Those in favor saw it as a way to gain membership that the fraternity could be proud of. Those opposed to the membership saw it as just a way to gain in numbers. When the fraternity adopted a centralized form of government in 1882 honorary membership was presumably prohibited and nothing further came up on the subject for years.

In 1892 the question came up again, and that time it was concerning the most prominent man in America, President Grover Cleveland. He held office from March 1885 to March 1889 and was defeated for reelection by Benjamin Harrison (an early member at Phi Delta Theta at Miami University) in 1888. Cleveland later ran for the Presidency, in 1892, against then President Harrison (whose vice presidential running mate was Whitelaw Reid, the man who had led the “loyal six” in Delta Kappa Epsilon at Miami against the six who later founded Sigma Chi) and won. He began his second term in office March 1893.

On February 22, 1892, Cleveland traveled to the University of Michigan to speak at the Washington’s Birthday celebration. Before his visit the Theta Theta Chapter at Ann Arbor had the idea to initiate him into their chapter as an honorary member. The fraternity members believed that the membership was legal and went ahead and extended the offer. Grover’s stay in Ann Arbor was short and nothing came of the honorary membership offer until he returned to New York. The Theta Theta members promptly wrote him another letter, renewing the offer, and he accepted. Cleveland, not knowing the whole situation, was much appreciative of the membership.

The young men had not gotten the approval for Cleveland’s initiation and the Chicago Grand Officers were disconcerted. Everything was put on hold until the next Grand Chapter, which was the 19th Grand Chapter held in Indianapolis. The issue was debated for the better part of the two days in session. Many attendees simply thought it courtesy to extend the honor to Cleveland, but the Chicago Grand Officers opposed. A decision was made to take no action with any legislation concerning honorary membership, therefore it was still forbidden.

Many fraternity members throughout the country felt that an exception should be made, for he was the President of the United States once and soon to be again and to not follow through with his membership could cause embarrassment. Even Grand Consul Reginald Fendall believed that the President-elect should be initiated. He even went as far as to call a special Grand Chapter meeting held in New York City on January 1893. Leading the “initiate Cleveland” group was Grand Consul Fendall, and his opposition’s leader was past Grand Consul Walter L. Fisher. Fisher had no animosity towards Cleveland, he just felt that it was illegal to initiate an honorary member. The battle went on all day and into the night until 3 am, when Grand Consul Fendall formally announced Grover Cleveland as an honorary member. Brother Cleveland was presented during his initiation a badge set with diamonds, which he wore during his inauguration as President on March 4, 1893. (This pin is now in possession of the Fraternity at the International Headquarters in Evanston, IL).

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Mr. Cleveland a Neophyte
New York Times, Jan. 27, 1893

The Challenge at Purdue

March 9, 1875, with a joint effort of eight young men, the Delta Delta Chapter at Purdue University was established. It was the first of Greek organization on campus. It took these men four months to overcome the opposition put upon Sigma Chi by the University. Purdue, being that it was an “industrial” college, did not promote the intellectual and literary endeavors of the fraternity members. Through many letters and speeches delivered to neighboring Sigma Chi chapters, Delta Delta received their charter, but the fight was not over.

The university president, Dr. A. C. Shortridge, was opposed to the fraternity and only allowed it to exist in fear that any controversy would limit the expansion of the university. With the new presidency of Emerson E. White, Delta Delta had to fight harder to keep their society alive. White put in place a plan to eliminate fraternities from the university and enforced an agreement before graduation that stated that no student enrolled in the university could join a Greek society and current members of the chapter were forbidden to participant in any fraternal events.

Delta Delta members found loopholes in the document and continued their practices but kept them unseen. The members signed the agreement and knew that any meeting held would be off campus, so they would not break the rules. They pledged and initiated new members in the summer when they were technically not attending the university. Secret codes, private meetings, and cloak-and-dagger escapes became the way of life for the chapter members. They had to be careful of who they initiated because there were spies among the Purdue students. If any member was found out they would be expelled from the university. The members hoped for a resolution.

In September 1881 a former Purdue student and member of the Sigma Chi chapter, Thomas Hawley, reapplied to the university without signing the anti-fraternity agreement. Hawley was denied readmission into the university and soon after filed a lawsuit against the school. This became known as the Purdue Case. The Judge dismissed the case as “irrelevant and immaterial”. Sigma Chi lost the case and the entire Greek system was in jeopardy until June 1882, when the state Supreme Court overturned the judge’s decision and announced the right to associate at Purdue University.

Though the fraternity and the entire Greek system won the case, President White revised the university agreement and continued to discriminate against the Greek society more than ever before. The fraternity membership became dangerously low. With just two members, one just initiated and the other about to graduate, the fraternity had to recruit new members. The two young men that were chosen were the sons of the judge who ruled against Sigma Chi in the first case. This was a valuable act against the resistance, for any exposure of the two member’s status would be an embarrassment to the opposition.

In 1883 the Indiana legislature announced to White that state and government funding would be withheld from Purdue University until the deletion of all anti-fraternal legislation. White soon resigned, but the College Board still held precedence over the university and continued to discriminate against the fraternity. Sigma Chi continued operating underground until October 1885, when six brave members gathered in the university chapel wearing their White Crosses, signifying that the battle was over and the fraternity won. The Purdue case holds a place in Sigma Chi history as the greatest challenge ever made on behalf of the fraternity system.

The "White Clause"

In 1870 Sigma Chi added what is known as the “White Clause” into their constitution not knowing the many conflicts it would cause. It stated that any man initiated into the Fraternity had to be “white”. The Omicron Omicron Chapter from the University of Chicago, as well as many others, disagreed with the Fraternity’s policy on the selection of its undergraduate members and went as far as giving up its charter in disapproval.

The constitution did not see any revisions regarding membership standards until 1961 when the word “white” was struck from its pages. Though this single word was deleted from the legislation, other procedures were put in place continuing the prevention of initiating non-white men. The laws would only change if there were an approval of 90 percent of the undergraduate and alumni chapter delegates at Grand Chapter.

In 1969 Grand Consul Floyd R. Baker appointed a Planning Commission to determine the issue at hand.  The Commission was unsuccessful until Norman Brewer was elected to Grand Consul.  He appointed 15 members to the board. They met on three different occasions and spent many hours discussing the history of membership selection, the Constitution and Statutes, the current amendments made to the constitution, some problems at certain campuses, and resolutions that were offered and debated about by the 57th Grand Chapter. The board stated in their report that many amendments were offered in the 57th Grand Chapter, but none were approved by 90 percent of the delegates.  They did not believe that the “90 percent rule” would be sufficient for the future.

Based on the information gained from the Planning Commission board, the Executive Committee agreed that the personal information of an initiate into any chapter should not be distributed. By the beginning of 1970 the Executive Committee established that Grand Council members in exception of each Grand Praetor would know nothing of any pledges, therefore unable to disapprove of that individual for any reason. Executive Committee members were still required to approve any potential member, but agreed to do so primarily based on the criteria of The Jordan Standard. That same year the first African-American member was initiated into the Gamma Pi Chapter at the University of Rochester, New York.