Why Sigma Nu’s Mission Matters


By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

The news in recent weeks has been filled with stories of corruption, deception, and all manner of unethical behavior.

Last month facts came to light that required officials at some of the world’s top financial institutions to admit to conspiring to manipulate currencies.

More recently we learned of the widespread corruption scandal within the governing body of soccer in which top officials were arrested on charges of accepting bribes in the hundreds of millions. One official now stands accused of diverting funds that were intended for earthquake relief in Haiti. These accusations underscore the far more troubling stories about the deplorable conditions of migrant workers building the stadiums and infrastructure that will service the Qatar World Cup – the legitimacy of which is now seriously in question.

These two scandals are only the most recent examples that point towards a troubling void in ethical leadership within some our most prized and important institutions.

The habits that facilitate this sort of corrupt behavior are sowed early in our development as leaders. Those who have never been trained to identify unethical behavior – or those who lack the courage to confront it – will crumble when thrust into these situations in the real world. As we’ve seen, the world is in desperate need of leaders trained to identify these scenarios and prepared to act courageously when necessary. Our world and society needs ethical leaders. We need men who firmly understand and embrace this concept.

This is precisely what we’re doing at Sigma Nu.

Our world and society needs ethical leaders. We need men who firmly understand and embrace this concept.

Sigma Nu’s mission statement reads: “To develop ethical leaders inspired by the principles of Love, Honor and Truth. To foster the personal growth of each man’s mind, heart and character. To perpetuate lifelong friendships and commitment to the Fraternity.”

That is our Fraternity’s purpose.

These recent scandals are examples of why the mission of Sigma Nu is still relevant today and will be for quite some time. We will always need ethical leaders and until that becomes a cornerstone of higher education institutions, we will need organizations expressly devoted to developing those ethical leaders. Especially so when even the Global Economic Forum issued a report in 2014 that listed a lack of values in leadership as one of the top 10 trends facing the world.

Sigma Nu’s commitment to its mission is not simply through one sentence in a mission statement. It is in our LEAD Program that provides members the tools and knowledge to become ethical leaders. It’s in our College of Chapters program for Commanders that provides keynote speakers on real world experiences of ethical leadership in action. And our commitment to this ideal shines through in the Sigma Nu Educational Foundation that works to ensure our mission can be executed for generations to come. To a large degree, the mission of Sigma Nu frames what we do every day to address the deficit of ethical leaders in our world today.

A statement from the Global Economic Forum report perhaps best summarizes why Sigma Nu’s Mission matters today, “We cannot expect all leaders to be saints, or to have no interests of their own, or know everything about everybody – that is clearly impossible. But, in terms of developing a positive global vision, the sharing of information is key. We must work hard to present people with a different range of ideas, interests and visions, and introduce different types of people, information and values in an attempt to bring about understanding. There’s always room for learning. If leaders stop learning, then it’s the end.”

This is why fraternity is just as relevant now as it has ever been in the past.

14 Sorority Women the U.S. Treasury Should Consider for the New $10 Bill

Photo by flickr user armydre2008.

Photo by flickr user armydre2008.

The Treasury Department announced this week plans to include a woman on the $10 bill as part of a planned redesign that will enter circulation after 2020. The announcement coincides with the Women on 20s campaign that’s been lobbying to put a woman’s face on U.S. paper currency. The Women on 20s campaign has gained momentum in recent months, though the Treasury Department says the timing of their announcement is merely coincidence.

Officials have yet to name which historical figure will replace or appear alongside Alexander Hamilton on the $10 note. Since the Treasury Department invited citizens to submit names for consideration, we decided to assemble the following list of remarkable sorority women whose courage and resolve blazed trails for others and left our country better than they found it. We invite all readers to suggest names of qualified candidates we may have missed. Here they are, in alphabetical order by last name.

Sadie T. M. Alexander, Ph.D (Delta Sigma Theta) was the nation’s first African-American woman to earn a Ph.D. in economics and later become a founder of the National Bar Association. In 1945 she was appointed to Commission on Civil Rights by President Truman. Alexander was also the first national president of Delta Sigma Theta.

Brigadier General Margaret A. Brewer (Zeta Tau Alpha) was the first woman general of the United States Marine Corps and served a distinguished career in executive positions at Camp Pendleton, Camp Lejune, and Quantico Marine Base, among others.

Brigadier General Hazel Johnson Brown, Ph.D. (Delta Sigma Theta) was the first African-American woman general in the United States Army.

Carrie Chapman Catt (Pi Beta Phi) was influential in passing the 19th Amendment and founded the National League of Women Voters.

Georgia Neese Clark (Alpha Phi) was the first woman Treasurer of the United States. Her signature appeared on all U.S. currency during her tenure. Clark also served as national president for Alpha Phi.

Marjorie Mehne Culmer (Kappa Delta) was elected national president of the Girl Scouts of the USA in 1957. As the former president of an organization that values civics, democracy, and leadership, Culmer undoubtedly meets the criteria for the currency note candidates.

Anna Elizabeth Dickinson (Kappa Alpha Theta) was an advocate for the abolition of slavery and staunch supporter of women’s suffrage. She played a prominent role in coordinating political campaigns in Union states in the months leading up to the Civil War. Dickinson was also the first woman to speak before the United States Congress.

Lou Henry Hoover (Kappa Kappa Gamma) advocated for volunteerism in her weekly radio broadcasts as First Lady. She served as national president of the Girls Scouts of America before and after her term as First Lady.

Jane Yelvington McCallum (Alpha Delta Pi) was a former Texas Secretary of State and served as publicity chairperson during the suffrage movement. She later served as chairperson of the Texas state ratification committee for the 19th Amendment to the Constitution and authored the Texas chapter of the National History of Women’s Suffrage. 

Francine Irving Neff (Alpha Delta Pi) served as the 35th U.S. Treasurer under President Nixon and later under President Ford. Following her service with the federal government Neff became the first woman appointed to Hershey’s Food Corp. Board of Directors.

Rosa Parks (Alpha Kappa Alpha) is widely regarded as “the mother of the freedom movement” for her role in the Civil Rights Movement. Parks received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the Congressional Gold Medal, and she was the first woman to lie in honor in the U.S. Capitol Building. As one of our nation’s most iconic and influential figures, Parks is an obvious candidate for this recognition.

Ivy Baker Priest (Delta Zeta) served as United States Treasurer with the Eisenhower administration from 1953-1961. During this time her signature appeared on all U.S. currency, making her a natural candidate to appear on the new $10 bill. She was once said to have quipped, “We women don’t care too much about getting our pictures on money as long as we can get our hands on it.”

Eleanor Roosevelt (Alpha Kappa Alpha) was a champion for women’s rights throughout her life and later become known as a steadfast advocate for human rights in general, which earned her the name “First Lady of the World.” As the U.S. delegate to the United Nations, she lobbied to pass the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. For her unwavering support of these important causes, Roosevelt was voted one of the finalists in the Women on 20s campaign that seeks to replace Andrew Jackson with a woman’s face on the $20 bill.

Frances E. Willard (Alpha Phi) was a women’s suffragist whose influence was instrumental in the passing the Nineteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution. Willard also served as Alpha Phi’s national president.

Who did we miss? Leave a comment below or email news@sigmanu.org so we can make sure our list includes all qualified candidates.


Austin Finley’s Trip to Washington

Austin Finley at the White House to discuss Higher Education policy with other student leaders across the country.

Austin Finley at the White House to discuss Higher Education policy with other student leaders across the country.

By Ben Nye (Arkansas)

Sigma Nu has no shortage of student leaders. One such student leader and brother recently went all the way to the White House where he was able to participate in conversations that will influence higher education policy in the coming months.

Along with over 150 other student government presidents, Brother Austin Finley (Alabama in Huntsville) spent May 30-June 1 in Washington, D.C., for the National Presidential Leadership Summit hosted by the National Campus Leadership Council (NCLC). As part of Finley’s trip, he got to discuss prominent issues in higher education with fellow student government presidents and education officials within the federal government.

The summit featured discussion on many issues that Finley and other campus presidents face including Title IX policy implementation, campus sexual assault prevention, college career readiness, mental health, and college affordability.

Along with discussions about issues facing higher education, Finley and his fellow presidents were educated on how to be effective student leaders and implement necessary policies. “What can we do to make our programs more efficient and what are other schools doing that we aren’t doing?” relayed Finley, expressing some of the key focuses of the summit.

Among the benefits of the summit was the attendance of many outgoing student government presidents who helped the incoming presidents understand their roles. “We really heard what their struggles were and where we could something different,” said Finley.

SGA Presidents Summit_Austin Finley_Mu Beta_Summer 2015

Finley’s involvement with these high-level discussions, combined with his involvement in local prevention efforts, is emblematic of a much broader commitment by fraternities assuming a leadership role in the growing sexual assault prevention movement. Only a few weeks prior to Finley’s White House invite, Sigma Nu’s General Fraternity joined a consortium of other national fraternities and sororities to launch a new sexual assault prevention program of their own.

On the second day of the summit, the student government presidents met with many leaders within the federal government including the director of the It’s On Us campaign and several officials within the Department of Education. “They really asked for our input on several things. We were actually active in shaping what the current administration is actually doing in Washington.”

Finley’s experience has proved invaluable in shaping his perspective on governance and politics. “Going to something like this opened my eyes to see how much easier it is to push your ideas. It’s a lot easier when you come together as a group of student leaders.”

Brother Finley is eager to get back and shape more higher education policy in Alabama, but he doesn’t want to do it by himself. Finley wants to take his Sigma Nu brothers along for the ride.

“Through student government Sigma Nu brothers have the opportunity to lobby or get involved in state or local politics. I would encourage brothers to do that. Don’t just be content, take action. That’s one of the things I’ve learned since getting involved with SGA. Apathy is not an excuse.”

Fraternities Build Campus Communities that Wouldn’t Exist Otherwise

Brothers of Gamma Beta participating in Northwestern's Dance Marathon in 2013.

Brothers of Gamma Beta participating in Northwestern’s Dance Marathon in 2013.

By Mark Nelson (Northwestern)

For many undergraduates, my university tends to feel quite lonely. Students are overly competitive, focused on getting the best internship, job, or graduate school acceptance. Throughout the year, one can find numerous students in the library on weekend nights, working through problem sets or preparing for their next interview. We also have what students call the Sheridan Road Effect, where students walk down the main street on campus with their heads down, and if they notice somebody they have met before, they do their best to pretend like they have not seen them. I am not sure exactly what it is but the campus often feels as if it lacks a true sense of community.

I was reminded of this recently when I reached out to professors for letters of recommendation for medical school and received no reply in return.

I then reached out to successful alumni of my fraternity, most of whom did not even attend my school. In contrast, the most popular response I received was, “I’d be honored. When should I get it to you?”

These touching replies further strengthened my belief that my fraternity experience has been the most meaningful part of my college career. Not just for the growth I experienced, but also for the constant support of others.

In middle school I was not the most popular kid by a long shot. It was not that I didn’t have friends at school, I did, but that was the extent of my friendships: School. I would go home every day, do my homework, watch television, go to bed, and repeat. I remember two girls in my class who had parties every Friday night to which most of my friends would be invited. The most painful part was not the Friday afternoon bus rides home listening to everyone talk about the party. That was nothing a pair of headphones couldn’t fix. The most painful part was sitting at home alone on a Friday night. I worked on model airplanes most times, occasionally read a book, and if I was lucky my mom would rent a movie for me. The most eventful nights were when I was the target of prank calls coming from those weekend parties, with the easily identifiable voices of my “school friends” on the line. I didn’t like it, but I learned to not cry about it. I grew comfortable with it

These touching replies further strengthened my belief that my fraternity experience has been the most meaningful part of my college career. Not just for the growth I experienced, but also for the constant support of others.

My life today stands in stark contrast to what it was in middle school, or even high school for that matter, and I owe most of this change to my fraternity. The training and education I received from Sigma Nu staff, alumni, and fellow members, coupled with the endless support of my family back home, has put me in a new and better place. Today, despite the anxiety I came to college with, I sit on important committees with university administrators, have a say in school policy changes, help chapter members through difficult experiences, and speak to other presidents about their leadership and personal values. While the true nerd inside me will always have a passion for academics, this work has truly made my time in college fulfilling.

In addition to personal growth, my fraternity experience has always brought me a sense of comfort. When someone is in a chapter that operates properly they are never alone, regardless of the campus atmosphere. Sure, it is not uncommon for me to take a weekend night to study for the quarter system’s ceaseless barrage of exams, but I can never go one night without at least ten friends asking about going into the city or offering to study for an exam as a group. Both suggestions are always appreciated, especially the test preparation.

Brother Nelson serves as one of the undergraduate members on the Sigma Nu Education Foundation's Board of Directors

Brother Nelson serves as one of the collegiate board members for Sigma Nu Education Foundation’s Board of Directors

Critics of the Greek system point to myriad flaws such as charges of hazing, sexual assault, binge drinking, and drug use. Undeniably, these are serious problems, as they are on NCAA athletic teams, theater groups, club sports, student publication teams, and many, many more places on college campuses. These are issues that need to be addressed and they need to be addressed now. I know this because I hear of occurrences both on my campus and on others.  Not only do these problems have no place in Greek organizations but on college campuses in general.

If these issues are to be addressed, it comes down to national organizations holding their chapters to the same standards their founders set years ago, and many organizations do that quite well. However, it is also the responsibility of universities to not only hold Greek organizations to high standards of human decency, but to show consistency by holding other student groups and athletic teams to that same high standard. Currently, the Greek system is in a spotlight in a dark room, but if the problem is ever to be truly fixed, the whole room needs to be lit.

While there are an unfortunate amount of examples of chapters gone wrong, I know that fraternities still have a place on college campuses because I have seen even more examples of fraternity done right. As the president of the Interfraternity Council, I often talk to administrators about the community service and philanthropy that Greek organizations do. I point to members of my chapter working in hospitals and the Chicago Food Depository, or I point to members canning to raise money for ALS research and forming teams for Dance Marathon. I point to these things because they are easy to understand from the outside. What I cannot fully explain is the real world training and education that fraternities provide through genuine national support and heartfelt relationships with alumni and advisors. Nor, in my case, can I fully describe how meaningful it is when alumni and brothers alike go out of their way to help me, whether that is providing letters of recommendation, reviewing my resume, or simply repeating over and over again that I will become that small town doctor I want to be.

When I left for college my freshman year my dad told me that this time was for education, building lifelong friendships, and discovering yourself. That, at its core, is exactly what the fraternity experience is meant to be and what it was for me.

Editor’s Note: We invite brothers of all ages to submit essays about their own Sigma Nu experience. Submissions should be emailed to news@sigmanu.org

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Beta Chi Brothers Launch Board Game Kickstarter

The Campaign board game created by three Beta Chi Brothers.

The Campaign board game created by three Beta Chi Brothers.

By Drew Logsdon (Western Kentucky)

Three brothers of the Beta Chi Chapter at Stanford might be on the verge of creating the next big board game. It’s not based on how much wood you have to buy, how many hotels to put on a property, or what word will give you double points. Instead it’s a game that’s focused on something we are all very familiar with: a US Presidential election.

Soon-to-be graduates Eric Iwashita, Max Kohrman, and Eric Hallett – all candidate brothers from the same class – developed the idea as part of the capstone project for their product design class. Their inspiration? Playing board games with fellow members of the chapter at the chapter house. And so began a 27 week project that now finds itself coming to fruition.

The game is titled The Campaign: A Seriously Absurd Political Board Game. In the game 4-6 players first divide as evenly as possible into two teams, Republicans and Democrats. Throughout the game the players draw and play cards as well as spend money in their attempt to garner the electoral votes needed to win the election. The cards include mini-games like the “Speech” card where a player has to give a 30-second speech on key topics like why the U.S. should annex Canada or why cheese should be banned from public schools. There’s also the “Filibuster” card that skips a player’s turn. The game is novel in that each player is not just trying to win the presidential election themselves but also ensure that their team wins the election.

He attributes much of the game’s current look and feel to those test games played by chapter members with many providing input, feedback, and different perspectives to the game designers that helped them round out the game to appeal to a wider audience.

The title alone is a good indicator that this isn’t a game where you take yourself or the political process too seriously and is filled with plenty of tongue-in-cheek humor. Iwashita says political cartoons were an influence in designing the game’s humor, as was the popular game Cards Against Humanity where political correctness is almost forbidden.

Throughout the design process Iwashita, Kohrman, and Hallett relied heavily on their fellow chapter members as test subjects for the game.  Iwashita says they went through 11-12 versions of the game until they settled on the final product. He attributes much of the game’s current look and feel to those test games played by chapter members with many providing input, feedback, and different perspectives to the game designers that helped them round out the game to appeal to a wider audience.

The three men now find themselves close to not only graduation but also the final presentation of their project on June 2, which is fitting since they will also be launching their game on Kickstarter the same day. The group is looking to raise about $25,000 to cover costs for initial manufacturing as well as filling rewards orders through Kickstarter. A $35 donation will earn a copy of the game for the first 50 donors, with additional perks for lower tier donation levels.

The 2016 presidential election might be 500+ days away but, it’s never too early to get your “House of Cards” fix in the form of a good-natured board game.

The Campaign Facebook Page

The Campaign Kickstarter Page

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The Greenest Home in America, Five Years Later

Aerial view_Photo by Blake Marvin

Photo credit: Blake Marvin


When we last checked in with Paul Holland (James Madison) and his wife, Linda, they were in the process of building the greenest home in America, as chronicled in the Winter 2010 issue of The Delta. As Paul told us at the time, the project was never intended to be a competition – “the greenest home in America” was more of a personal challenge to see how far they could take it.

The real goal was to build an environmentally regenerative concept house that would serve as a learning experience for others looking to learn more about green building. It was always part of Paul and Linda’s plan for the house to serve as a gathering place for not only their family but also green builders looking to learn from the project.

In addition to hosting classes from nearby schools, Paul and Linda have hosted nearly 50 groups since moving in four years ago this July. They’ve also hosted classes from several universities, including Stanford and James Madison, Paul’s alma mater.

“We wanted a place that brings people together,” he says now, reflecting on the building process.

“The most influential thing we were able to do was host a group from the Greenbuild International Conference and Expo when it was held in San Francisco in 2012. We hosted a VIP kickoff event that included scores of designers, architects, and other green builders looking for ideas and concepts they could borrow for other projects around the world.”

Living room_Photo Blake Marvin

Paul and Linda avoided natural gas and all oil-based products, so you won’t find any paints or varnishes in the house. Photo credit: Blake Marvin


For each group, Paul and Linda walk people through the green elements of the house in such a way that helps visitors learn how to incorporate the same ideas in their own projects.

The home is entirely free of fossil fuels, so all mechanical systems are electric. The ground-source heat pumps provide an efficient way to heat the home without electricity. Twenty-seven kilowatts of solar energy power the house and two electric cars; Paul and Linda expect this source to power up to five electric cars when their three children start driving.

As for building materials, they were careful to use only wood, stone, glass, and metal. They avoided natural gas and all oil-based products, so you won’t find any paints or varnishes in the house.

With the exception of a few trees, they removed all non-native flora from the property, replacing the existing grass with native varieties that don’t require as much water — a decision that has been validated by California’s ongoing water shortage. With the closed-loop recycled water system all water gets treated and reused on site.

In addition to favoring native grasses, they conducted studies to restore other native plant species and improve wildlife habitats. (The house’s name, Tah.Mah.Lah, is the word for mountain lion used by the native Ohlone people who once inhabited the Portola Valley area in California.)

Open walls_Erin Scholl

In addition to favoring native grasses, Paul and Linda conducted studies to restore other native plant species and improve wildlife habitats. Photo credit: Erin Scholl


As the house’s website states, Paul and Linda wanted Tah.Mah.Lah. to be a “proving ground for many innovations in the construction process itself.” As for next steps, they want to continue to do outreach and be a part of the curriculum that educates on green building. Judging from the hundreds of visitors and the green builders who seek them out for advice, it’s apparent that their project is having a positive effect on the burgeoning green building movement.

For Earth Day 2015 we asked Paul to highlight some steps we can all take to live a greener lifestyle – whether you’re a green builder or an everyday citizen looking to be more conscientious.

Do things that are irreversible. Implement energy systems that use ground-source and solar. Once you get accustomed to not using less efficient sources of energy (e.g. oil-based) you’ll never feel the need to go back. You get hooked on 100% renewable lifestyle.

Get in the habit of reusing things. Take your own reusable bottle to the coffee shop when you can. Take reusable grocery bags to the market. Drink tap water in a glass in place of bottled water. Deconstruct existing buildings and donate the parts instead of tearing them down and hauling the parts to a landfill. In general, find ways to cut down on the amount of trash you produce.

Take advantage of the shared economy. The most profound thing we’re seeing with regards to more responsible living is the shift towards sharing resources. The current generation of young people is much better at this than older generations. Young people are using UberPool, corporate buses, and other ride sharing services that cut down on traffic pollution. Thanks to Airbnb, people are finding lodging accommodations in existing structures rather than building new hotels. There are now services that let you rent out your car while it’s parked at the airport. The Airbnb for corporate events, PeerSpace, lets groups rent meeting space in existing buildings rather than hotels that don’t get as much use. The sharing economy is providing more efficient use of buildings and automobiles that would otherwise sit idle.

Paul predicts that the concepts of home ownership and car ownership will continue to change, a shift that is good news for green living.

To learn more about Tah.Mah.Lah and other green causes, visit the project’s website which includes links to news articles and a blog with additional resources for green living.

Paul Holland at his office in Menlo Park, Calif.

Paul Holland at his office in Menlo Park, Calif.

The Delta of Sigma Nu – Spring 2015

Table of Contents



A Culture Built on Ethics
Software entrepreneur Les Muma (South Florida) is spreading a message of sound business ethics.

Bound by Honor
After announcing a new theme for the biennium, Regent Joe Francis (Oklahoma State) talks about the High Council’s ambitious agenda, including what fraternities must do to remain relevant over the next five years.

Face Your Challenges
How Gamma Chapter’s loss provided the motivation the brothers needed to begin shifting the culture and attitudes in the brotherhood.

Building a Family Tradition
How two brothers from the same family helped build two of California’s most formidable Sigma Nu chapters.

Welcome Home
Beta Tau Chapter cuts the ribbon on a new 24,500-square-foot home that’s built to match their legacy as the first fraternity at North Carolina State.

Second Act
How Gerry Zimmerman (Virginia) parlayed a successful career in sales to writing books about historical fiction.


From the Editor
An introduction to the Spring 2015 issue.

A look back in history.

Updates from Lexington
News from the General Fraternity.

Chapter Eternal
Remembering the legacy of two brothers who devoted their lives to mentoring multiple generations of Sigma Nus.

Edward Forester (Northwestern)
Judge George Hearn (Georgia)

Chapter and Alumni News
Dispatches from around the country.

A new book about Theodore Roosevelt reveals what advice the former president might offer to today’s fraternity men. Plus the latest titles by Sigma Nu authors.

Higher Education
Lack of due process stirs controversy on campus.

Perspectives on Our Past
Grand Historian Bob McCully (San Diego State) explores the mystery of Alpha #4.

Alumnus of the Biennium and Chapter Advisor of the Year Bill Geddy (Georgia Southern) shares the secrets to an effective Alumni Advisory Board.

5 Questions

Bill GeddyAlumnus William B. “Bill” Geddy (Georgia Southern) has held a variety of roles within Sigma Nu. Currently serving as a Division Commander and the Chairman of the Theta Kappa Alumni Advisory Board, he has also served as a member of the Theta Kappa House Corporation. Brother Geddy was named Sigma Nu’s Alumnus of the Biennium and Chapter Advisor of the Year at the 66th Grand Chapter in Nashville, Tenn.

1. How have you structured Theta Kappa’s AAB?

There are 15 people on Theta Kappa’s AAB. As chairman, I’m a facilitator and coordinator for the group. We have advisors for every major office and those that request one. While I helped structure this, we are truly a team of advisors and I give credit to my peers who actively contribute and hold each other accountable — I am just at the helm right now. The chapter is engaged as well — we are always looking for ways to improve our engagement model. In January 2014, we added the outgoing Commander as he graduated.

Finding advisors for the board is like recruitment; and, recruitment is 365 days of the year, you’ve got to go out and find people.

2. Any best practices with your work from Theta Kappa?

We have regular conference calls in addition to our face-to-face meetings. We also took a page out of Mu Chapter’s (Georgia) success and started a call with the new candidate’s parents and laid out our entire program on the phone. In that call we tell them what they can expect and also what we won’t do. It has built strong relations and communications with the parents.

We’ve also instituted a policy that alumni volunteers have to sign an alumni code of conduct. It’s basically the same code of conduct that the chapter officers sign, minus a few items that are specific to students. It adds to the importance of the advisor and helps set the right example.

3. What would you say to a collegiate member who doesn’t take advantage of all that Sigma Nu has to offer?

Becoming engaged, stretching yourself and your skills, and becoming an officer — then participating in regional convocations, school opportunities, and Grand Chapter is a great opportunity. One of my peer Division Commanders in Atlanta, Jason Dooley, has volunteered as an alumnus and attended every Grand Chapter since he graduated. There are many dedicated alumni volunteers out there. Unfortunately, not everybody takes advantage of this and some people come to our collegiate chapters for the wrong reasons and others never think outside their own chapter.

Not every chapter member is going to get this right away and you can’t lose sleep over the minority that don’t figure it out. Some of these guys are just going to take a longer time to develop.

4. What are some trends that you see from the successful chapters you have worked with?

I’m seeing a growing trend of the leaders from strong chapters that include their leadership positions on their LinkedIn profiles. I’ve connected with a lot of undergraduate brothers and I see that they list Commander, Social Chairman, or whatever their officer position happens to be. I think it is a great way for young leaders to advertise what they are doing and also connect with others. Any employer is looking for key attributes that differentiate you from the pack and increase the odds of a successful hire.

5. What’s your advice for working with chapters that can be difficult?

No advisor can be there 24/7, and that’s not their role. We are not there to be policemen, rather it is to provide good, common sense advice and mentoring. When issues are encountered, confront them.

We want Sigma Nu leaders to make good decisions, sometimes that means they are hard and may not be popular, but they are right — we support leaders who make good decisions. But no one is perfect — leaders make mistakes — advisors are there to help developing leaders not make the same mistakes others made.

The goal of a chapter or alumni leader is to have the right programs and structures in place so even the brothers that join for questionable motives have an environment where they too can grow, develop, and flourish

Perspectives on Our Past

Semple card cropped

The Curious Case of Robert Semple

By Grand Historian Bob McCully (San Diego State)

Robert Semple was among the very first to take the oath of membership in the Legion of Honor. He was also the first member to be expelled, and for a reason not even against the Constitution of Sigma Nu at the time. Although his expulsion was little more than a year after the Fraternity’s founding, at the time he had already graduated from VMI. Yet 35 years later, the High Council asked the three Founders whether he should be reinstated.

What caused this curious set of events? What was his offense? Was he a traitor or merely an opportunist? Why so many years later was a case made for his reinstatement? How did Hopkins, Quarles and Riley respond regarding a reinstatement?

Unfortunately, most of the early Alpha Chapter records were either not recorded or have been lost due to time or fires. John Scott mentions in The Story of Sigma Nu that fires at the homes of John Alexander Howard and Grant Woodbury Harrington resulted in the loss of many of the original Alpha Chapter records they had been gathering.

Thus, it’s difficult to piece together the exact set of events that took place. Memories are often inaccurate and fade over time. However, Semple’s letter to the original members of Alpha Chapter after their action to expel him, perhaps the first correspondence ever received by Sigma Nu, has survived and is preserved in our archives in Lexington — although at some point in the past it was torn into pieces. Through this document and other materials, I’ll attempt to put this matter in perspective.

Robert Semple

So what do we know about Robert Semple? He was born on November 12, 1848, in Wilkinson County, Miss., to Robert Semple and his second wife, Francina Rosaltha Wade. His grandfather, Colonel Robert Semple, owned Desert Plantation in St. Francisville, La. It was a 1500 acre cotton plantation. His father moved to Wilkinson County, Missi., owned Wyoming Plantation, and was a planter. His father fought for the Confederate side in the Civil War and was issued a pardon after the war by President Andrew Johnson, dated August 21, 1865.

Robert Semple enrolled at VMI on October 17, 1865, and graduated on July 2, 1869, just six months after Sigma Nu’s official birth. After graduation, he remained in Lexington to attend law school at Washington College (now Washington & Lee University). While attending law school, he also served as an assistant professor of languages at VMI. He received his law degree with the class of 1870 and returned to Mississippi to practice law.

Soon after, he relocated to northern Louisiana and the town of Harrisonburg. After two years in Harrisonburg, he moved to Pointe Coupee Parish, La., and practiced law there for the rest of his life. On September 11, 1872, he married Sarah Louise Burress and they had six children.

In 1877, he was elected to the parish Police Jury and served two terms as Alpha chapter listingpresident. In most of the parishes in Louisiana, the Police Jury is the elected governing body, handling both the legislative and executive functions of the parish. He was elected district attorney in 1879 and in 1888 was elected district judge of the Fifteenth judicial district. He resided on a 240 acre plantation on the Mississippi River. He was a well-respected attorney and judge and a prominent citizen of the area.

He died on May 22, 1905, in New Orleans and is buried in Woodville, Miss.. He was 56 years old.

His Offense

So, what did he do to justify being brought to trial by Alpha Chapter? The April 1883 issue of The Delta contained a couple of extracts from the early minutes including the following note by J. P. Arthur (Alpha 39) dated February 10th, 1871.

“Mr. R. E. Semple, of Mississippi, having joined another secret society, it was decided at the meeting before the last recorded, that although he had not acted contrary to the old Constitution, that the choice should be given him of leaving it, and remaining with the Legion of Honor, or of leaving the latter entirely. He said that he was sorry he had acted so, but could not honorably leave the one he had lately joined. He was dismissed.”

His offense — joining another secret society: but which one and why? A historical note in early copies of The Liturgy states:

“At some time in the following year Mr. Semple joined another society, which was not Alpha Tau Omega, which had a brief existence, and whose very name is not certainly recorded.”

Delta Psi 1889 CatalogueThis provides a further clue towards identifying the organization he joined. My assumption is that the reference to “the following year” refers to an academic year. This means 1869-1870, when Robert Semple was attending law school at Washington College right next door to VMI. Further research shows that a chapter of Delta Psi Fraternity was started at Washington College on November 27th 1869. In the June 1889 catalogue of members of Delta Psi, Robert Semple of Mississippi, a law student, is listed as being initiated in 1869 by the Washington College chapter.

What would cause him to join another secret society? At this point, we do have a clue in the letter written on this case many years later by James Frank Hopkins. He stated, “he [Semple] connected himself with another frat[ernity], because…it had more members, and influence than we had.”

From the evidence we have, Robert Semple was an ambitious young man seeking a professional career in law. The Legion of Honor at that time was an organization of approximately 50 men with only one local chapter — at VMI. In 1869, after graduating from VMI, he was offered the chance to join a much larger national fraternity. Delta Psi was founded on the same day (January 17, 1847) at two institutions — Columbia University and New York University. By the time Robert Semple was initiated, chapters at fifteen additional institutions had been installed, although only eight were still active. Clearly, Robert Semple was motivated by his future professional aspirations more than his estrangement from his colleagues at Alpha Chapter.


Of the actual trial conducted by the members of Alpha Chapter, we have no further record than the note I provided earlier. We know that Semple did not attend the trial. After hearing whatever arguments were presented, the chapter voted to expel him. Greenfield Quarles communicated the results to Semple.

Semple’s Response

Semple sent a written response to Alpha Chapter regarding the trial and decision. It is housed in our archives in Lexington. It was a long letter and throughout reflects no desire to impugn the integrity of the Order, its men or their future success.

“Though the last link of friendship’s golden chain is ever shattered — though the fire of love that had burned so brightly through the lapse of many months is extinguished — still will the embers in the smoldering ashes reflect back the Pallid Image as the mind worships a happy past it never more can welcome. Though the hand that once clasped hand in the mystic grasp of friendly brotherhood is chilled by this tempest of separation, still shall it greet you kindly while the heart from out its innermost shrine shall bid you onward! onward! to a glorious destiny!”

However, it is clear from its tone that he did not feel he had done anything wrong or dishonorable.

“Heaven knows my motives free from malice or guile… Still I do find comfort and consolation in the rich relic of an unblemished conscience… My honor, friends, bears no stain to tarnish the splendor of its former luster!”

He ends his letter with a wish for the Legion of Honor’s future success,

“My sincerest wish shall ever be for your prosperity and success in this the loftiest aim of your collegiate life. And when the work begun is finished and ye kneel around your “Holy Shrine” may each and every noble heart throb in unison to the laudable sentiment: Exegi monumentum aere perennins Regalique Situ pyramidum altius. [I have erected a monument more lasting than bronze, built higher than the pyramids of the kings.]”

The Expulsion Revisited

Over his professional career in Pointe Coupee Parish, La., Robert Semple became friends with Dr. Abram Feltus Barrow, an early initiate of our chapter at Louisiana State University. During that friendship, the subject of Sigma Nu came up and Barrow became aware from Semple of the circumstances of his expulsion.

Nothing came of the matter until 1905, when Clarence Woods, Sigma Nu’s Grand Recorder and Editor of The Delta, was in New Orleans and visited with Barrow. Barrow raised the issue and indicated he thought it would be proper for the fraternity to revisit the expulsion and reinstate Robert Semple.

On May 1st, 1905, Clarence Woods sent a letter to the three Founders and four of the leaders of the fraternity including members of the High Council and the Grand Historian. He included a copy of Semple’s original letter to Alpha and solicited the opinion of the addressees as to the propriety of reinstating Semple. Coincidentally, Robert Semple passed away later that same month.

For some unknown reason, there is no record of any response to Woods’ request for input on the subject of reinstatement. However, a year later a similar request must have been sent out because almost all finally responded. The tone of Semple’s original letter had made a positive impact on most of them.

Grand Historian Walter James Sears was the first to respond. He heartily approved the suggestion to reinstate. However, he readily deferred to the opinion of the three Founders, indicating they were more familiar with the events surrounding the expulsion. If they agreed to reinstatement, then Sears stated he was in total agreement.

Regent Isadore Dyer agreed with Sears that the decision should ultimately be left up to Hopkins, Quarles and Riley. If it was okay with them, no time should be wasted in making it happen.

Grand Counselor A. Miller Belfield took, not surprisingly, a legalistic approach to the matter. He stated that the materials presented to him did not provide enough information on the facts and the circumstances of the expulsion to make an informed decision as to whether it was justified or not. However, based on the tone of Semple’s original letter to Alpha and the conduct of his professional career and personal life, he was willing to go along with reinstatement providing it was agreeable to the three Founders.

IMGThose who responded completely deferred to the views of the three Founders on this matter since they had been a part of the original trial and expulsion. If the three Founders felt it appropriate, then they would support it wholeheartedly. If not, then the matter should be dropped.

The Founders’ Position

There is no copy in the file of any response from Founder Riley. However, it would not be unusual at this late stage in his life for him not to respond on matters like this — instead deferring to Hopkins and Quarles.

The response from Greenfield Quarles was entirely supportive of reinstating Semple after all these years.

“I have so often wished when I would read over our catalogue and note the word “Expelled” set at his name and my heart would cry out that it might be taken away. With all my heart and soul I say restore him, and let it be done quickly.

You must remember that we had been soldiers and were young and may be were too strict in our construction of the intention of the law.

Until now no opportunity has been offered to rescind the action then taken. I thank God that I have lived to be able to make the earnest request that Brother Robert Semple be fully reinstated with all honors due him.”

James Frank Hopkins, on the other hand, felt very differently about the action taken by Alpha Chapter so many, many years before. He did not feel they had done Semple a wrong and had provided him ample opportunity to resign from his other secret organization and remain in the Legion of Honor. He saw no reason or basis to overturn that decision.

“I can not admit that we did Mr. Semple a wrong, for those men who took that action expelling Mr. S- were above doing any man a wrong. Their organization was for the purpose of righting the wrongs to which they had been and were then suffering.

The fact Mr. S- wrote an appealing letter or statement to the chapter, cuts no figure in the case, or if so, it simply increases the gulf which separated, and still separates him from the ‘Knights of the Legion of Honor’. He never wavered from his allegiance to his second love, but sought to retain his first, and we who were with him at the time, daily, almost hourly, tried to reclaim him, but to no avail… After more than a generation has passed, I do not know of a single reason why the whole fraternity even; should undo, what the whole fraternity (every member included) with all the evidence, only a few days old, before it; deliberately did, under the law for the good of the order. The question of justice to Mr. Semple does not enter, he received that at the time. It is a question of justice to the Sigma Nu fraternity…Alpha’s work was well done, let it alone.”

As you can imagine, once Founder Hopkins wrote so strongly on the matter of reinstatement, it was dropped, never to surface again. Thus, the curious case of Robert Semple (Alpha 4) came to a close. From beginning to end, it took place over almost a 35-year period.

Sigma Nu underwent tremendous changes during that 35-year time period. At the time of Semple’s death in 1905, Sigma Nu had grown from a single chapter at VMI to a total of 54 active chapters with over 5,300 initiates. Since its beginning in 1847 until the time of his death, Delta Psi Fraternity had initiated less than 3,000 initiates and only 8 chapters remained active. Perhaps if Robert Semple had been a more patient young man, he would have enjoyed being hailed as one of the very first initiates of the Legion of Honor. Instead he will always remain as an anomaly in our early history.

Archives Weekend

We are currently cataloguing, photographing and rehousing our historical collection in Lexington. There are thousands of documents, photographs, audio tapes and other memorabilia that need to be processed and digitized so they can be made available to our chapters and alumni.

To assist in this process, we will conduct our second annual volunteer weekend on June 19-21, 2015, in Lexington. The goal is to get a small number of volunteers to spend a full two days working in the archives on various projects. Due to budget constraints we are unable to pay the costs of transportation and housing for volunteers, but we will provide the meals. If you’re interested in helping out, please send me an email at news@sigmanu.org indicating your interest.

Rememberance: Honoring Heroes of our Recent Wars

In the fall 2013 issue of The Delta, I discussed an effort currently underway to identify all initiates who served in the military and gave their lives to protect our freedoms during one of the wars the United States and Canada fought in. Their names will be added to the Flag Pavilion at our headquarters in Lexington to appropriately honor and remember them for their courage and ultimate sacrifice. To make sure they are all recognized, I asked our readers to send in the names of those they are aware of who died.

In the last edition of The Delta, I listed brothers killed in the Vietnam War. Listed below, are the names of those brothers we have identified killed in the post-Vietnam Wars. In future editions of The Delta, we will list the names of those who died in other wars. ƒƒ

Cory William Brooks (South Dakota)
ƒƒChristopher James Holland (Valdosta State)
Paul Singh Pabla (Ball State)
Eric Byron Shaw (Southern Maine)
Jacques Juies Fontan (Montana State)

Please let us know if we’ve missed anyone who should be included on this list by sending an email to news@sigmanu.org.

Flag Pavilion (8)

Law School Faculty Raise Objections to Sexual Harassment Policy

On October 15th, 28 members of the Harvard Law School faculty released a statement in The Boston Globe strongly objecting to Harvard University’s new sexual harassment policy. The Harvard faculty’s open letter reflects growing concerns among many commentators about new laws, federal guidance, and campus policies that sacrifice due process and constitutional values like “innocent until proven guilty” in order to address sexual misconduct on campus.

“We are gratified to see so many Harvard Law faculty members speak out against Harvard University’s participation in what is a continued and inexcusable disregard for student and faculty due process rights,” said Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) President Greg Lukianoff. “This should serve as a desperately needed wakeup call for those who have ignored or dismissed the fact that fundamental fairness is being unnecessarily jettisoned in the otherwise laudable quest to tackle campus sexual misconduct.”

The Harvard faculty statement, signed by some of the nation’s top legal scholars, expresses grave concerns about the process Harvard recently adopted to handle sexual misconduct, including both sexual harassment and sexual assault. Among their complaints are that accused students and faculty are denied a meaningful opportunity to present a defense or even confront the witnesses against them, and that students are not ensured adequate representation. Further, practically all functions from investigation to appeal are run not by an impartial entity but by the Title IX compliance office, a step signatory Professor Janet Halley told The New Republic was “fundamentally not due process.”

“Policies that essentially presume guilty anyone who is accused of a crime are an affront to our constitutional values and to the idea of justice more generally,”

The professors also note that the definition of sexual harassment adopted by Harvard goes far beyond Title IX requirements and is especially onesided in its treatment of students who are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, and that Harvard adopted these policies without sufficient faculty input in an apparent rush to placate federal officials.

Harvard Law faculty are weighing in on what’s become a fierce national debate about sexual misconduct on campus, most recently spurred by the state of California’s adoption of an “affirmative consent” law requiring continuous affirmations of consent throughout any sexual interaction between college students. Ezra Klein, co-founder of news website Vox.com, recently poured gas on the fire in an op-ed where he declared the bill “terrible” but nonetheless affirmed his strong support of it, saying that “To work, [the law] needs to create a world where men are afraid,” and that unfair findings that students are rapists are “necessary for the law’s success.” Affirmative consent policies similar to California’s law have spread to the State University of New York System and are being proposed by lawmakers in other states.

The fight for due process on campus is not going unremarked upon by those outside FIRE and the Harvard Law faculty. Politically and intellectually diverse commentators across the country have been pointing out the many pitfalls of institutionalizing unfair and biased procedures on our nation’s college campuses.

“Policies that essentially presume guilty anyone who is accused of a crime are an affront to our constitutional values and to the idea of justice more generally,” said FIRE’s Lukianoff. “No matter how severe the social evil we are fighting, a free society’s answer cannot be to turn every student and faculty member into a criminal and then require them to somehow prove their innocence when accused.”

FIRE is a nonprofit educational foundation that unites civil rights and civil liberties leaders, scholars, journalists, and public intellectuals from across the political and ideological spectrum on behalf of individual rights, freedom of expression, academic freedom, due process, and freedom of conscience at our nation’s colleges and universities. FIRE’s efforts to preserve liberty on campuses across America can be viewed at thefire.org.