Gamma Kappa Chapter History

Sigma Chi Chapter Installed May 7 & 8, 1926

 

Gamma Kappa Chapter of Sigma Chi was installed in a two day ceremony on May 7 and 8, 1926.  A headline in Student Life trumpeted "Sigma Chi is installed on Campus".  The article continued: "Sigma Chi has come onto the campus of the Utah Agricultural College and Sigma Alpha, one of the oldest local fraternities in the United States, has become the Gamma Kappa Chapter of one of the oldest national fraternities in the country. The installation ceremonies took place Friday and Saturday (May 7 &8) of last week.  Representatives from thirteen active and alumni chapters were in attendence, including chapters at Stanford, University of California,  Idaho University, Colorado College, Columbia and the University of Utah, which was represented by its entire active chapter and its pledges."   Thus was the beginning of Gamma Kappa.  It wouldn't be until 1940 that the present chapter house on the corner of 7th North and 8th East was constructed.  However, those two important  events were preceded by a fascinating history that began in 1902, when Sigma Alpha came into being.   For a compelling look at the history of Gamma Kappa written by Brother Kent Bracken '76, featuring several priceless photos, see below.

 

 

A Complete History of Gamma Kappa

 

THE BEGINNING - 1902

 

To the more recent initiates of Gamma Kappa the name Sigma
Alpha, Phi Delta Nu, and the Law Club represent organizations about which
little, if indeed anything at all is known. While our chapter has been a member
of the international organization of Sigma Chi since 1926, its history goes
back much further. For any history of the chapter to begin with the events in
1926 would leave a most interesting and inspirational part of its story untold.
In the school year 1902-03, several members of Professor Robinson's commercial
law class formed the Law Club. It was this club which conducted the first
inter-collegiate debate in which the U.A.C. (Utah Agricultural College) ever
participated.

 

Dr. A.H. Upham, who later became president of the University
of Idaho and of Miami University at Oxford Ohio, was head of the English
Department of the college at this time. In the fall of 1903 he was asked to
supervise the changing of the Law Club into a fraternity, which he did.

 

This organization was known as Phi Delta Nu, and was the
first Greek letter organization on the campus. Its membership was the same as
the Law Club with the addition of a few new members. The announcement of this
change was made in a two page article in the commencement issue of Student Life
in 1904

 

The formation of this organization and the introduction of
the fraternity idea to the U.A.C. were the work of Dr. Upham and he must be
given credit for these early milestones in the history of the fraternity system
at Utah State University, He was a Phi Delta Theta at Miami University, which
fraternity is a member of the famous Miami Triad to which Sigma Chi also
belongs.

 

Phi Delta Nu existed for less than a year. It functioned
badly because the membership was not congenial and most of the fellows did not
understand the purposes of a fraternity. There was considerable friction and as
a result the fraternity fell apart during the summer and was not revived when
school opened in September 1904. It was this point that Sigma Alpha began.

 

SIGMA ALPHA

 

Dr. Upham was an outstanding educator and is honored now
with the distinction of having done more than any other man toward the
advancement of culture at the Logan college during his stay here. Mutual high
esteem existed between Dr. Upham and several outstanding students on the campus
among them B. Franklin Riter, Jr. and Orval W. Adams. In the course of their
association was born the idea of a college fraternity on the U.A.C. campus.

 

In September 1904 at the suggestion of Franklin Riter and
Orval Adams, Dr. Upham prepared a ritual with the assistance of Dr. J.F.
Engles, and the name Sigma Alpha was chosen for the proposed fraternity.

 

The next month on Halloween night, Orval Adams and Franklin
RIter met at the old B.F. Riter home on First West street to perfect
organization of Sigma Alpha, A few nights later they met with six other friends
they had invited to join them. Franklin Riter read the ritual prepared by Dr.
Upham, and the eight men present became the charter members of what would
become one of the oldest and strongest local fraternities in the country. They
were Orval W. Adams, James E. Barrack, Robert C. Hillman, Fred R. Jensen, W.A.
Jensen, Franklin Riter, Luther Howell and Roy E. Roudolph.

 

 

 A few of the charter members had been members of Phi Delta
Nu, but the organization was entirely new, including the constitution, by-laws,
and ritual. 

 

At first, Sigma Alpha was kept entirely secret because
fraternities were not understood. In a letter written by Franklin Riter in 1926
he recalls: "As I remember it was the day before Christmas vacation
commenced in 1904 that we made a demonstration in chapel which announced our
existence. The evening before we had put in a big "bust" (they were
real 'busts' in those days) at the home of my father and mother. My mother made
great preparations for the supper she served and we had lots to drink and
smoke. Dad and mother knew all of the boys personally; they were much at home
at our old place on First West where part of the Woodruff School now stands.
(now part of the Logan High School on the west side of campus).

 

"At first (and for three years) President Kerr gave us
a room on the third floor of the Administration Building for our club room. We
papered it a vivid red and furnished it. It served our purposes as a rest room
and study room, and with the small membership was sufficient...It was not until
the fall of 1907 that the club rooms were taken downtown."

 

Franklin continues: "Along in 1906 the fraternity bought
robes of red and green; they were not for secretive use, but for 'state' events
in public when we wore them. This was Jim Barrack's idea; he always wanted a
lot of 'machinery' as he called it. He used to get a kick out of the
organization and many of the good things that were pulled off came from his
brain." Taking it all in all we had to be pretty pious in those days as we
were looked upon with suspicion."

 

 

The first initiation was held in May, 1905 when A.B. Olsen
and S.G. Rich were initiated. M.J. Connelly was the third initiate.

 

For a number of years the growth of Sigma Alpha was slow due
to the fact that the school was small and there were few men who were
considered fraternity material. The college authorities also contributed to
this problem since they frowned upon such organizations. By 1910 the total
membership was only sixty. However, of this number, 39 had participated in at
least one major campus activity and been awarded the official school letter,
the "A".

 

Of these men, four had been studentbody presidents, three
had been editors of the college paper, seven had been managers of activities,
six had been inter-collegiate debaters, and the remaining nineteen had won
their awards in athletics. In addition, nine members had participated in dramatics,
seven in minor athletics, and three had won medals in various contests among
the students.

 

The membership began to increase in 1913 with the growth of
the school and a more favorable attitude toward fraternities by the school
authorities.

 

The remaining years of Sigma Alpha's existence boast a most
impressive group of members. Of these there were three studentbody presidents,
24 other studentbody officers, two Student Life editors, 30 Student Life staff
members, four Buzzer editors, 19 Buzzer staff members and nine class
presidents.

 

There were 63 football players who were Sig Alphs, including
the team captains for six years, 19 basketball players and two team captains,
41 members of the track team and two captains, eight members of the tennis team
and to captains, ten members of the baseball team and two captains and one
member of the swimming team. The fraternity was well represented on the
athletic council, in dramatics, debate and ROTC.

 

Perhaps the biggest year for Sigma Alpha was 1923 when there
were 34 active members. These men accounted for the captains of the football,
basketball, track, baseball and tennis teams. There were also five other men on
the football team, two on the basketball team, two in track, three in tennis
and one in swimming. Along with these were four on the Buzzer staff, two debaters,
four on the Student Life staff, the Buzzer editor, one ROTC cadet captain, the
winners of the Hendricks and S.A.R. medals, one member of Phi Kappa Phi, nine
members of the Alpha Kappa Psi, the national professional business fraternity,
was installed on campus in 1922, nine of the twelve charter members were Sigma
Alphas.

 

In 1919 the fraternity needed additional room for its
growing membership, and moved into the Moses Thatcher home on First South and
Main streets. From 1920 to 1926 Sigma Alpha had an active newspaper called the
Sigma Alpha Times. Although published irregularly at first, it was soon
organized and published twice each year.

 

This publication was well done, and was representative of
the journalistic talents possessed by many of the brothers. This paper was the
official news organ of the fraternity and was made a part of the chapter's
permanent record. The April 5, 1926 edition which announced the granting of
Sigma Alpha's petition to Sigma Chi was the last edition of the Sigma Alpha
Times.

 

In the words of the original history of Sigma Alpha:  "At the present time (1925) we are in
the strongest position we have been in since our organization. We have a strong
and loyal active chapter, we have a very strong alumni organization, our house
is rapidly being paid for and the growth of the school is continually
attracting more and better men, all of which points to increased growth and
strength and to do the maximum amount of good to the members and to the
college, we should affiliate with a strong national body."

 

SHOULD SIGMA ALPHA JOIN A NATIONAL FRATERNITY?

 

The 'roaring twenties' found Sigma Alpha in the midst of a controversy.
Many of the brothers were against affiliation with any national fraternity. Of
those who were in favor of this step, there was wide disagreement as to which
national fraternity was the best.

 

The problem was further worsened by the fact that many of
the brothers were already members of several different national fraternities.
To join any one would mean losing the fellowship of these strong members of
Sigma Alpha.

 

Several letters were sent to the alumni describing the
details of the situation and asking for opinions. It developed that there was a
good deal of support for going national. There was also much support for two
national fraternities in particular, Beta Theta Pi and Sigma Chi.

 

The following is taken from an article in the April 5, 1926
issue of the Sigma Alpha Times:

 

"In January, 1922 the General Fraternity (Sigma Alpha)
appointed a committee to investigate national fraternities to which Sigma Alpha
might petition for a charter. The committee consisted of Earl Robinson, W. J.
Merrill, Warren Westcott, Henry Olson and Virgil Norton. This committee did
considerable work 'feeling out' fraternities at the University of Utah and
advancing the cause among Sigma Alpha alumni.

 

"At the beginning of the next school year, the
committee was reorganized to consist of Earl Robinson, W.J. Merrill, Wendell
Thain, Rete Conroy and Wes Howell and the efforts toward petitioning were
continued. A year later it was definitely decided that Sigma Chi was the
national fraternity which embodied all the ideals and aspirations of Sigma
Alpha and work was concentrated toward petitioning the national
organization."

 

Throughout all efforts toward nationalization, Sigma Alpha
maintained that "it is better to strive toward affiliation with the best
and fail, than to accept membership in an organization of inferior or uncertain
standing". This position determined the action of the fraternity in the
selection of Sigma Chi as the national organization to which it would petition
for a charter.

 

The committee then in charge was composed of Sam Cowley, Wes
Howell, Cy Hammond, Bus Gimlin and Meb Douglas.

 

Support of Beta Epsilon, the Sigma Chi chapter at the
University of Utah was heartily tendered from the beginning and its sanction
was given for Sigma Alpha to petition.

 

The visit of Alex A. Sharp, chairman of the executive
committee of Sigma Chi to Utah presented an excellent opportunity for the
presentation of Sigma Alpha's situation to officials of the National
organization.

 

Mr. Sharp, together with John C. McClain, Grand Trustee of
Sigma Chi: Hamilton Gardner, Praetor of the thirteenth Province: Harley Gustin,
Consul of Beta Epsilon and 30 Sigma Chis from that chapter traveled to Logan
and made a thorough investigation of the local chapter and its alumni
organization.

 

Within the next few weeks the formal petition was drawn up
and presented to the Executive Committee of Sigma Chi. Favorable action on the
petition by this committee gave Sigma Alpha its first cause for rejoicing and
its foundation for future hopes.

 

The next efforts were directed toward compilation of an
accurate and detailed history of Sigma Alpha. In the fall of 1924 the chapter
membership had again been changed and Earle Robinson, Craig Hulme and Virgil
Norton composed the committee involved in the nationalization work.

 

Preparations were also made for the official inspection by
Dr. Frederick C. Scheuck, Vice-President of the University of Montana. The
inspection took place on March 14-15, 1925 and included interviews with the
active and alumni members of Sigma Alpha in addition to city and school
officials.

 

Earle Robinson, Cy Hammond, Wendell Thain and W.J. Merrill
joined an auto caravan of Beta Epsilon Sigs from Salt Lake City and represented
Sigma Alpha interest at the Sigma Chi Grand Chapter at Estes Park, Colorado in
June, 1925. These men were successful in giving information, winning friends
and generally preparing the way for the presentation of the petition that year
to the individual chapters of Sigma Chi. They also succeeded in gaining consent
from the Committee on Expansion for the presentation of the petition.

 

During the following summer a 36 page booklet was prepared
supplemental to the petition. This consisted of the history of Sigma Alpha and
pictures and information of the College and Fraternity.

 

Soon after the beginning of school a copy of this was sent
to each of the active and alumni chapters of Sigma Chi. The 'Bulletin' dated
January 3, 1926 contained the Sigma Alpha petition reports and detailed
information pertaining to it. It also called for a vote of the chapters, giving
April 3 at 12 o'clock as the time when all the votes must be in.

 

Promptly at noon, Mountain time, the glad message came in
the form of a telegram stating "Your petition granted, my heartiest
congratulations go with this announcement." The telegram was signed by
Alex A. Sharp, Chairman of the Executive Committee of Sigma Chi.

 

The last vote cast on the petition was by Eta chapter at the
University of Mississippi. This chapter had been dormant for some time because
of anti-fraternity legislation, and the first official act of the re-activated
chapter was to cast an affirmative vote on the Sigma Alpha petition.

 

SIGMA CHI IS INSTALLED ON CAMPUS

 

That was the headline of Student Life on Tuesday, May 12,
1926. The article continued:

 

"Sigma Chi has come onto the campus of the Utah
Agricultural College and Sigma Alpha, one of the oldest local fraternities in
the United States, has become the Gamma Kappa Chapter of one of the oldest
national fraternities in the country."

 

"The installation ceremonies took place Friday and
Saturday (May 7 &8) of last week. Representatives from thirteen active and
alumni chapters were in attendance, including chapters at Stanford, University
of California, Idaho University, Colorado College, Columbia and the University
of Utah, which was represented by its entire active chapter and its pledges."

 

Sigma Chis of special note who were in attendance included
Grand Trustee John C. McClain of Salt Lake City, Grand Trustee Frank L. Grant
of Denver who was the installing officer, Grand Praetor M. Elliott Houston of
the 13th province, Cloyd Woolley of Denver, Hamilton Gardner, Milton H. Love,
Pat King and Harley Gustin from the Salt Lake Alumni Chapter and Roscoe Miller,
president of Beta Epsilon chapter at the University of Utah.

 

The letter D. Earl Robinson sent to all Sigma Alphas began:

 

"The most glorious event Logan has ever seen was the
demobilization of the 145th Field Artillery, February, 1919. The most
spectacular event that has ever stirred the hearts of citizens of Cache Valley
was the great centennial celebration of July 24, 1924. But to all true sons of
Sigma Alpha, the greatest event that will ever be staged within the shadows of
the U.A.C. will be the installation of Sigma Chi on May 7 and 8."

 

Most of Friday was spent in getting ready for the
installation ceremonies which began Friday evening and continued for part of
Saturday morning. From eleven o'clock until noon on Saturday the visiting Sigma
Chis and the members of Sigma Alpha inspected the college campus. Following
luncheon at the Hotel Eccles at noon, the ritual ceremonies were held at the
Elks Lodge on East Center. The initiation was completed in time for a unique
program in front of the Sigma Alpha chapter house at 4 c'clock.

 

Frank Gimlin, president of Sigma Alpha and first consul of
Gamma Kappa relinquished the key of Sigma Alpha and turned it over to Grand
Trustee Frank L. Grant. He accepted the key and in exchange presented Bus
Gimlin with the key of Sigma Chi along with the statement of the hope that it
may "serve its purpose well".

 

The flag of Sigma Alpha was lowered and the colors of Sigma
Chi hoisted in front of the house. Grand Praetor M. Elliott Houston, in
eloquent, well balance phrases, paid tribute to the Blue and Old Gold of Sigma
Chi. This was followed by the dedicatory prayer, one to be remembered.

 

"O God our Heavenly Father, every good perfect gift
comes from Thee, We thank Thee for the good deeds of Sigma Alpha. "She
hath done what she could". May her sweet memoirs now rest in peace. Every
good work prepares Thy children for a more abundant life.

 

"We come now to rededicate this house as a blessing to
our beloved Sigma Chi Fraternity and by the measures of the Golden Rule we
rededicate and reconsecrate ourselves, under the Blue and Old Gold of Sigma
Chi, to service within the house and without the house to the uttermost parts
of the world. Pray Thee to bless our Sigma Chi Fraternity according to her
needs and make her a blessing according to her opportunities everywhere, throughout
all eternity. "we ask it all in the name of the Great Cross Bearer,
Amen."

 

The installation was ended with a banquet that evening at
the Bluebird attended by one hundred eighty-seven Sigma Chis. Hamilton Gardner
a former member of the Board of Grand Trustees at the College and Past Grand
Praetor of the 13th Province was the Toastmaster at the banquet. Toasts were
responded to by Mr. Lewis of the Salt Lake Alumni chapter, Roscoe Miller,
president of the University of Utah active chapter, D.E. Robinson, Frank
Gimlin, president of the U.A.C., active chapter, and Elmer G. Peterson, then
president of the college.