By Matt Miller (Mount Union)
Hugh E. Marsh was waiting nervously at the Alliance, Ohio train station on the morning of July 22, 1892. He and a group of eight other young leaders had their petition authorized and were ready to start a new chapter at the then Mount Union College. Marsh was selected as the group’s spokesperson because of his rhetorical skills, impeccable mannerisms, and dedication to writing the petition. Marsh was waiting to greet a famed Knight of Sigma Nu who was to install the chapter that evening. The train passenger that he had been expecting was not hard to spot as he was known for his graceful conduct and bold display of Sigma Nu’s badge. That standout passenger was none other than Walter James Sears, the founder of the Beta Nu Chapter at The Ohio State University and author of Sigma Nu’s creed. Sears was a graceful, courtly man who was an ideal representative of Sigma Nu’s quickly growing national prominence. Marsh and Sears would form a bond that would remind members for years to come of the fraternal spirit that can exist between two men of a similar cause.
That evening Sears installed Beta Iota officially at the Grand Army of the Republic Hall in Alliance and gave a convicting speech that ignited a fire in all nine of the charter member’s hearts. Sears encouraged them at that moment to proceed with Love, Truth, and Honor in all of their actions and to set an example for the future gentlemen of the Beta Iota Chapter.
Competition for new members was fierce at Mount Union after the installation. Beta Iota was having a hard time keeping up with the other two fraternities who previously established an appealing reputation on campus. That didn’t stop Hugh Marsh from competing hardily for new members. After a night of recruitment talks at a freshman dorm, Marsh left discouraged at the apparent lack of interest in the young fraternity. By accident, he left a copy of The Delta inside the dorm which a freshman by the name of Albert Hughes Wilson picked up and took back to his room. Wilson had been skeptical of Sigma Nu and unconvinced by Marsh’s words. However, after reading a copy of The Delta cover to cover he was persuaded by Sigma Nu’s high ideals.
Albert H. Wilson would go on to do great work for not only Beta Iota but for Sigma Nu as a whole. Wilson was initiated with a small class and manpower was still an issue for the chapter. Wilson set about to change this and greatly because of his labors the membership increased significantly to equal the numbers of the other two. It would not be the only time Wilson would be known for expansion.
After his undergraduate days passed, Wilson and another chapter brother who he recruited to the chapter, Walter Edward Myers, would both go on to hold the office of Regent. Wilson would hold the office in 1910-1912 and Myers in 1920-1921. Wilson would come to known as Mr. “38, 38, 30:” he was the 38th initiate, of the 38th chapter, and went on to help charter 30 chapters. As a result of his extensive help with expansion and work as Regent, Albert H. Wilson was inducted into the Hall of Honor in 1952. He was a stalwart member for Beta Iota and was an essential part of the growth both of his chapter and the fraternity as a whole.
Beta Iota’s rich early history and prodigious accomplishments gave rise to a contagious work ethic in the years that followed. In 1902, Beta Iota Chapter became the first chapter at Mount Union and of Sigma Nu to own its own home. It was then known as “Old Red Brick” and was inhabited until March 6, 1923 when the chapter moved to a different location known as the Hoover property. Currently, the Beta Iota Chapter house sits right across the street from where the old Hoover property once stood. Beta Iota reached its 1000th initiate mark in 1957-58 academic year and as of the 2012-2013 academic year has initiated its 1936th member; quickly approaching the 2000th initiate mark. Beta Iota’s manpower has been competitive for top spot on campus and in recent years has had the highest manpower of the four fraternities at Mount Union. The chapter celebrated its 100th anniversary in 1992 and will be celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2017. This record of accomplishment and longevity are reflective of the work ethic of members like Wilson and Marsh who instilled that ideal into the very culture of how Beta Iota members now operate.
The Beta Iota work ethic is not limited to the active chapter but exists within its alumni as well. Many of Beta Iota’s alumni have gone on to further the cause of Sigma Nu and win fame for it in the outside world. Along with Albert Wilson and Walter Myers (Regents) there have been several other Beta Iotas to serve as Grand Officers. Charles E. Eynon and Clark W. Walter both served as Vice Regents, while Stephen Sivulich served as a Division Commander. Jay Hays served as a Division Commander and past member of the General Staff. Additional local alumni that have had significant impact at Beta Iota include: George Weimer, Daniel P. Myers, Don Mosher, Matthew Stinson, Jay Hays, Patrick Heddleston, Jarrod Cole, Jim Williams, Phil Francis, Mark Himmelein, and Mike Yukich. Williams and Yukich spearheaded the most recent construction project for Beta Iota’s current chapter house and set a new standard for how the University of Mount Union is now interacting with the other fraternities on campus. Dr. Mark Himmelein is currently serving Beta Iota as chapter advisor and has done so for almost two decades. He also works in Mount Union’s Foreign Language Department as the German Professor. This past year Himmelein was recognized as Mount Union and Sigma Nu Fraternity’s Chapter Advisor of the Year.
Notable alumni from Beta Iota also include TCU’s current Chancellor, Victor Boschini, Fred Haupt, a former President of Mount Union’s Board of Trustees, and Allen Green who is President of H-P Products, Inc. These men are among many other Beta Iota alumni that have gone forward to carry out the chapter’s long time commitment to a culture of excellence.
In 2005 Beta Iota began committing its time and efforts to the Ponery State Children’s Home in Kursk, Russia. Ponery is an orphanage that works with destitute children who have been abandoned by their parents. Since 2005, the chapter has been able to donate at least $1,500 per year to Ponery. In addition to the money raised, the chapter usually sends 1-3 members with Dr. Himmelein to Kursk, Russia per year. The brothers visit the orphanage for a few days and observe the impact Beta Iota is having there. Outside of the Russian government, Beta Iota is the only other group that donates time and money to the orphanage.
From July 22, 1892 to July 22, 2013 the Beta Iota Chapter has committed itself to a culture of relentless work ethic. From the days of Hugh Marsh and Albert Wilson to the present, the members and alumni of Beta Iota Chapter remain committed and dedicated. The chapter has developed its members to always think critically, learn from mistakes, and always strive towards a vision. These qualities were set by the original nine members and Walter James Sears back in Grand Army of the Republic Hall that evening in Alliance. The story of Beta Iota is one of commitment to excellence and work ethic: let it inspire all current members to achieve greatness for Sigma Nu.