Monday, October 8, 2007

The fundamental purpose of the Sigma Chi Fraternity is to cultivate an appreciation of and commitment to the ideals of friendship, justice and learning. These ideals and objectives have been at the heart of Sigma Chi since its founding by seven men at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, on June 28,1855.

These seven men believed that the principles they professed were imperfectly realized in other fraternal organizations. Although this vision of Sigma Chi was based upon the notion of shared ideals, they believed that true brotherhood would thrive best among men of different temperaments, talents and convictions.

Our guiding principles, unchanged for almost 150 years, continue to define the essence of Sigma Chi.

[From his address to the Grand Chapter titled “True Manhood,” July 25 - 27, 1895]

By courage I do not mean the savage animal instinct that makes a man insensible to danger – a bulldog has that – but I mean that strong conviction which keeps ever before the mind the true aim of life, and unswerving loyalty to that conviction. You must have not the courage of Alexander, but the courage of Socrates; not the courage of Caesar, but the courage of Washington; not the courage of Frederick the Great, but the courage of Lincoln; not the courage of Napoleon, but the courage of George H. Thomas and of Robert E. Lee. The most magnificent example of courageous self-sacrifice that has ever lifted up humanity, was seen in our Civil War, when true manhood reached the extreme height possible in an era of war. It matters not for this example who was right or who was wrong, those unequaled soldiers – I mean the men who carried the knapsacks and handled the rifles – who met in a death-grapple that lasted four long years, were men of whom the race may well be proud – Jena and Eylau were terrible, and in a sense glorious; but Shiloh and Chickamauga stand as eternal monuments of self-sacrificing courage. Austerlitz was brilliant, but its star pales before Gettysburg. McDonald’s charge at Wagram, bloody and desperate as it was, will be forgotten; but the constant courage of Hancock’s Union veterans, and the self-sacrificing devotion of Pickett’s Confederates, will live as long as Old Glory floats in the sunlight. Oh, ye sons and successors of the heroic dead, can you, can any young American, in the face of these examples of true manhood, make the mere getting of money, the enjoyment of luxury, the climbing into place by the disgraceful means in common use, the aim and end of life? I tell you no! The power of such manhood cannot be lost. One cause, that of union, has triumphed, and must live in the splendid growth of a united people. The other was lost, but the mighty spirit of manhood that strove to uphold it will live – live in the love of country, live in the strength of fraternal feeling, under the stars and stripes, under the White Cross! [To the Sigma Chi Quarterly, 1897] We had very little chance for ceremony, meeting in any out of the way place we could find, and always keeping the time and place of meeting a secret. It was considered a great thing to find out where another fraternity held its meetings; they were held by moonlight and by no light at all. Whatever there was in the way of ceremony is contained in that old copy of the Constitution, which has been saved, only that we would extemporize such performances as would fit the time and place. There were no such ‘tests’ as are indulged in now. [To the Sigma Chi Quarterly, 1908] This carries me back to the olden and perhaps primitive times when we had an essay, and a supposed poem at every session of the chapter, and prepared our brothers for the literary society work and the college debates – when the question asked about a prospective brother was: ‘How does he stand in the classes, and can he write and debate?’ There is where Jordan was made an orator, Cooper a preacher, Bell a college president, and Caldwell and Scobey were trained for writers.” [His address titled “We Seven” to the Convention of the Fifth Province, held in Chicago, December 4 - 5, 1908. Brother Runkle gave his “We Seven” address at several Sigma Chi events in his later life] To go back fifty-three years and place oneself in a mental condition to portray, with any accuracy, the ways and works of one’s associates and companions is a well-nigh impossible task. That was a different age from this, and it seems a thousand years away. The ideas of men were of another sort from those of this imperial, commercial age. Steam had scarcely begun its wondrous work and the electric wonders of today were not even dreamed of. There was no mighty concentration of wealth. There were no millionaires and there were no suffering poor. If a man had fourty thousand dollars he was rich, and more, he was content. Today the man of uncounted millions is grasping for more, and no man is contented with what he has. Today we have magnificent universities, vast piles of brick and stone filled with the wondrous modern inventions that are supposed to furnish more brains where the so-called student has a few, and to grind out all sorts of specialists from every kind of material. It was different in that bygone time. We had the little brick college with its limited faculty, wretchedly poor in money but wonderfully rich in the treasures of human sympathy, in the love of their fellow-men, and in rich the beautiful classical culture of the olden time. Oh, my comrades and brothers, those were men that a boy could love. Those were men whose spirits filled the very air that we breathed and stirred within us mighty hopes and ambitions which, even if never realized, made us better, stronger, and more useful men. Not one of us ever ceased to feel that mighty molding influence. If any strayed away from those high and noble teachings he came back again, my brothers, with a penitent but earnest heart, to walk in the good old path again. I do not believe you young men can – I only wish you could – understand how we of those long agone days love that little college down among the Ohio hills, that holy spot with its golden memories of precious hours and loving hearts. A man is not strong because of what he knows, or thinks, or says, or does, but because of what he is. The faculty of that little college was the college. Those men were mighty, earnest, loving men of God. The Cross meant to them what it meant to the saints and martyrs of old, and they tried to teach the founders of this order what it was and what it is, and is always to be. To those men we, the founders of this order, owe it that our ideals were pure and that we reached, in our imperfect way, for the true, the beautiful, and the good. To those men you owe the birth of Sigma Chi, and in whatever memorial you may erect a tablet of enduring bronze should register their names. I said that we do not forget. No man of that day forgets. Sigma Chi or Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta, or Delta Kappa Epsilon, barbarian or Greek, they all remember Miami and remember with loving hearts and open hands. The august ambassador of this mighty nation [Whitlaw Reid] amid the form and splendor of St. James remembers the mother that made him what he is, and gives freely of his wealth to further her interests. The President of the mighty republic did not, amid his high duties and the dignity of his matchless office, forget. Senators, governors, high church dignitaries, noted men of science, leaders in the world of learning, menchant princes, and professional soldiers, all alike remember and no call is made on them in vain. Strong and able men, through evil report and good report, through prosperity and adversity, have devoted their lives to that old college and today the results of their work is manifest to all men. The institution is taking her place among the leading colleges of the land. The wealth of the state is freely poured onto her treasury; splendid buildings are rising on her beautiful campus; young men, the very bone, sinew, and brain of the state, are crowding to her gates; but, above all, and better than all, the spirit of the 50’s and the 60’s is alive and active in her halls. Miami of old, rejuvenated, enriched, made strong and earnest for the continuance of the work that this republic needs – the making of good, strong men. And now what of the men who made the small beginning of the Fraternity that wears the matchless badge of the ages and gives ear to the teachings of the elder brother of mankind? The Sigma Chi, like all things else in this world, was the product of heredity and environment. The fathers and mothers of these founders were with one exception, the sons and daughters of the pioneers who cleared away the forests and, amid privations and hardships, laid the foundations of a great commonwealth. Those were strong and sturdy men, God-honoring, law-respecting men, the sort of men who might say, with the stern Scottish clansman, “Where McGregor sits is the head of the table.” Every one of these founders knew of the comforts, and the discomforts of a log cabin with its puncheon floor, and its great open fireplace. They did not all dwell in these primitive homes, but such were common where they passed their early youth, and each knew that there was, in that day, but slight social distinction between the dweller in the lowly cabin and the owner of the more pretentious brick structure. These were young freemen filled with the spirit of American democracy, and in some respects filled with the socialistic instinct. When Will Lockwood received a box of fashionable clothing from his importer father in New York, it was at once parceled out, and the strange sight of blue jeans trousers and a cloth shanghai coat reaching nearly to the heels, gave a variety to the landscape on the campus. A stovepipe hat over a gray shawl, with a pair of parti-colored trousers stuck into cowhide boots was no uncommon sight. Some hair was like the flowing locks of Absalom, some was patterned after the style of John L. Sullivan. Yet they were not different from the rest of the 200 and odd students gathered from far and near. There were Singletons from Mississippi, the Lowes and Halls from Iowa, the Pages from Oregon, the Berrys and the Taylors from Kentucky, and samples of young American manhood from all over the land, with Ohio leading the count with the greatest number. The big eastern fraternities did not hesitate about granting chapter charters. We had the Delta Kappa Epsilon and the Alpha Delta Phi. But none of these were good enough or strong enough,, or progressive enough – or at least something essential was lacking – and these young western enthusiasts proceeded to make others along lines drafted out of their own imaginations and sanctioned by their own judgments. So we have the three Miami fraternities that have covered the land and have made some of their then pretentious rivals look like small sums of the current coin of realm. Thomas Cowan Bell, great hearted and good hearted in civil life and a hero in battle, believed in securing the good things of this life and immediately dividing the same with his companions. He was a born expansionist, full of enthusiasm as a crusader. Naturally he was a leader and teacher men. He was ambitious, but in no wise disposed to push his aspirations at the expense of his fellows. With restless energy, he had no sooner received his diploma than he commenced his life’s work only to be interrupted by the thunder of the Confederate guns. Laying down his books he took up the sword and we find him, like well-nigh all good Sigma Chis, in the forefront of battle leading his command to victory and receiving the highest reward, recognition for gallantry on the field. The war ended, this young colonel laid aside his sword, turned his face toward the setting sun, and we next hear of him as the president of a college on the Pacific slope – a sort of “ground scout” of the advance guard of the Sigma Chi. Colonel Bell contributed his full share to the work and to the ruling spirit that gave the order its first impetus. He and Cooper for some reason, hidden in their secret souls, were closely knit together. They entered the Delta Kappa Epsilon together and side by side, left that order to become founders of the Sigma Chi. They were members of the same literary society. In thought and sympathy and in the deep foundations of their being they were much the same sort of men, though in outward expression of the inward character they differed widely. They were distinct varieties of the same good fruit. Daniel W. Cooper was literally an Abou Ben Adam among his brothers – one that loved his fellow-men, and did them naught but good. To him more than to any other man is due the birth and early growth of the kindly and generous spirit of Sigma Chi. It is hard to account for his dominant spirit, and his influence in that little band. He was, and is, a man of God, honest, upright, and pure. In his intercourse with the rest of us he was as gentle and considerate as a woman. He never reproved; he never lectured. By common consent he was the head of the chapter,. And no one thought of displacing him. His quarters were the resort of each one of us when in trouble, and there we found sympathy and convincing, because unselfish, advice. Different from every one of us, he walked among us honored, loved, looked-up-to with perfect confidence. He taught us that the cross was holy and not to be looked on as common. He seemed to have in mind the words, “What God hath made clean call thou not common,” and he was wont to say “If you will go where you ought not to go, leave off the badge,” and this we did. In the fact that the first case of discipline in the chapter was for intoxication at a banquet may be seen his quiet but all-sufficient influence. Many an hour did I pass in his room, and every minute was a benediction. Brother Cooper, in these days, though rich in spirit was poor in worldly goods, and his life and work contain a priceless lesson for such of us as think that the end of life is the attainment of material riches and worldly power. James Parks Caldwell was the son of a physician in a little village the nearest neighbors to which were the solemn and strange sect of the Shakers. Jimmie Caldwell was born with a wonderful brain and a strangely sensitive and delicate nervous organization. He was from his childhood one of the most lovable of God’s creations. Strong men whose lives have taken them far away from the memories of youth and who have become hardened to tender feeling and sympathetic sentiment, remember and love him to this day. Somehow, he seemed closely akin to all of us. Years ago I met in Europe a statesman engrossed in his great duties, burdened with the weight of many cares and the first thing he said to me was, “Where is dear little Jimmie Caldwell?” And then he went on to tell me how when crossing the continent, from San Francisco to New York, he stopped for two days on his way to find and greet again that living memory of his youth. I roomed with and cared for him for more than a year. Our holidays were spent in the fields and along the streams, one of us carrying a gun, or fishing rod, but Caldwell his copy of Poe or his Shakespeare. His contributions, essays, poems, plays, and stories read in the literary hall, in the chapter meetings, and on Saturdays before the whole corps of students, were the most remarkable productions that I ever heard. Few of us escaped the pointed witticisms that flowed from his pen, or ever lost the nicknames that he gave us in his dramas. He never seemed to study as other boys. What he knew appeared to be his intuitively. He could not parse the Greek and Latin, but he wrote Latin and Greek poetry, and he was more widely versed in literature, and more accurate in his knowledge, than any other student in the college. He always said that he hoped to sup sorrow with the wooden spoon that would be his on graduation day. I do not know whether or not he secured that trophy but he left the university with the respect and the whole-hearted affection of every soul from dear old Dr. Hall down t the janitor. From college he went into Judge Clark’s office in Hamilton to study law. Afterward he drifted south and became a tutor in the family of Senator (and later Cabinet Minister) L. Q. C. Lamar. He was at Panola, Miss. -- if I mistake not – when the Civil War broke out, and a Democrat, surrounded by southern Democrats, who doubtless loved him as everybody did, he entered the Confederate army. There he bore himself, consistently, as a soldier and a gentlemen, energetic, brave, enthusiastic, devoted with unswerving faith to the cause he had made his own. Captured and cast into prison, he rejected the offer of freedom, on condition of deserting the South, with scorn, although it came from [Ben Runkle] a northern soldier who loved him as a brother. Some years ago I met a distinguished man from Mississippi who knew him. He told me that Caldwell was the most highly cultured, the most deeply learned and, take him all in all, the most remarkable man that he had ever seen or of whom he has ever read. He graduated when barely sixteen years of age. Isaac M. Jordan – playmate of my boyhood, schoolmate for seven swiftly flowing years, friend of a long and strenuous years of manhood, and always the incarnation of high resolves, boundless energy, lofty ambitions, gifted with untiring perseverance and ability that made success a certainty, how many dear and beautiful memories come into these sunset days, and make the life that is past seem not to have been lived in vain. Cut off in the prime of his manhood by what seems to us a cruel fate, he has set an example of what a strong will and determined purpose can accomplish. If ever there was a “self-made” man who had a high right to be proud of the making that man was Brother Jordan. He came to our little home village when perhaps fourteen years of age. His father was one of that matchless class of workers, an American mechanic. He was a cooper, and he taught his boys to make barrels, and the best of barrels, and so they learned to honor labor – not as the canting politician honors it – but in their harts. When a new boy came to town of course, after the manner of boys, we hunted him up to find of what stuff he was made. I found little Isaac near the cooper shop and challenged him to play marbles. He informed me that he only played “for keeps.” We played, I with confidence, he with skill. He won all my marbles, lent them back again and again and won them again and again. At last he told me “to go somewhere and practice,” and we never played together any more. Then we tried boxing. It was without gloves – naked fists – give and take. Ikey had long arms, and in due season we both had nose bleed. We ceased to fight one another, and took to the field as companions in arms and fought every other boy we could find. While at Geneva Hall – a strict covenanter academy – we fought many a terrific battle with the “townies,” and more than once we carried Ike Jordan home after he had fought, almost literally to the death, some bully, twice his weight. In the classroom and literary halls at Geneva and Miami it was the same story, rivals with one another, allies against the rest of the world. When Jordan was in the village school some three years, his was a hard life. Rising every morning before the sun he worked in the cooper shop making barrels, and there Saturday found him pounding away like a veteran. When we went to Geneva his elder brother Jackson Jordan, of Dayton, came to his aid, and stood by him until he graduated at Miami. He was worthy of the confidence placed in him and he lived to return the kindness a hundred-fold. We went together to Geneva and from thence to Old Miami and were roommates for about a year. My father – a stern Presbyterian elder – who approved of Jordan, took us both there and place us in a boarding-house which made us long for the flesh pots of West Liberty. Our first efforts in the Erodelphian Literary Society – Jordan’s an oration, mine an essay – brought us each a proposition to join the Delta Kappa Epsilon of which Whitlaw Reid was “it” with a big I. Jordan’s bid came first, and I knew nothing of it. One evening Isaac got out an old single-barreled pistol, of which he was the owner, and preceded to load it with ball. He then told me that he must take some sleep for he was going out about midnight. Alarmed at this announcement, and waiting to be in any scrimmage that might be coming, I begged him to tell me what was in the air. He only said, “If anything happens to me you will hear of it,” and out he went. Nothing happened and in due season the rest of the founders walked the same path to the old Negro church, piloted by the able Reid, and began our fraternity experience. A few months after this the election of the Junior orator and poet, the highest honors in the gift of the student body, came on, and the trouble that made Sigma Chi began. We, the future founders, had no comprehension of such a thing as a ticket set up for us to vote. As long as we were in college each one of us followed the dictates of his own will or conscience and voted for just the one that suited him, barbarian or Greek, brother or not. The following year, when the same election was held for our class, Jordan and the writer hereof were the leading candidates for orator and I beat him for the coveted honor by one vote. He was chairman of the committee that managed the ceremonies. In front of the Davis House – our chapter house, though we did not know it – was a gate five feet in height and solid. Someone told Jordan that he could not jump over it. He said he could, tried it, caught his foot, and was nearly killed. Not satisfied, he tried it again and succeeded. This was his character. Nothing was too lofty for his aspirations, nothing, to his vigorous mind, was impossible. He was wont to tell me in his working years that the burdens of life weighted heavily upon him. They do upon us all, but he showed no signs of faltering. He did everything with the same tremendous energy that he displayed when, during the siege of Cincinnati, I took him out of the trenches and put him on my staff. He showed that he would have made a splendid soldier, for he had all the qualities of a splendid man. Franklin Howard Scobey How glorious is the sunshine after the nightly gloom, How beautiful the sunshine on the roses in their bloom, But he who carries sunshine in his heart where’er he goes, Gives human life more beauty fair than sunshine gives the rose. Frank Scobey, boy and man, was one of those whom everybody wants everywhere at the same time. Of all those that I have ever been closely associated with he was the brightest, the most cheerful, the sunniest. Do not understand that he was lacking in the strong qualities of manhood because he was loving and cheery. The sunshine is the most powerful agency of nature. The world were dead without it. But this brother was never gloomy; no clouds seemed to shadow his life; he was the same to all at all times. The element of selfishness was as far from his nature as light from darkness. He cared nothing for money as money and yet he was the closest friend and companion of the only one of the founders who exhibited much trace of the commercial instinct. Without Frank Scobey I do not believe that Sigma Chi would have succeeded and expanded and endured. We had our disappointments, our months of gloom, times when it seemed that we had no chance of success. Everyone was against us. But Frank Scobey was never discouraged. Always looking on the more hopeful side, his very smile and cheerful words of encouragement gave us new heart. Scobey did well whatever he undertook to do; stood high with the professors and was popular even with our enemies whose name was legion, and whose inimical activities were unceasing. He was never physically strong and his life ended early. Frank was a soldier in the Civil War and made an honorable record. After the war he became an editor, and a good one, founding the publication of which I believe Hon. Walter S. Tobey is the head. We may well wish that there were more Frank Scobeys in this work-a day world of ours. William Lewis Lockwood: I have inverted somewhat the alphabetical order of these names because Brother Lockwood was not of the Delta Kappa Epsilon contingent that founded Sigma Chi. He was an ally called in as the battle grew fierce. He made up the magic number, seven. He was chosen unanimously on the motion of Frank Scobey, who was always closer to him than any other of us all. He was different from each of the others. This difference was hereditary and was sharpened by environment. He was western born, but cultured, and had been partly educated in the East. His father was a merchant and importer. He was a slender, fair-haired, delicate-looking youth with polished manners, and was always dressed in the best of taste. When he first came to Miami wondrous tales were told of his wardrobe, of his splendid dressing- gowns, and the outfit of his quarters. He was refined in his tastes. He knew something about art and had some understanding of the fitness of things genteel. We welcomed him into our circle. I understand why we wanted him. He could bring to our ambitious little band some things, mental and spiritual, that were sorely needed. But I do not understand why he so promptly responded to the cal. Phi Delta Theta would seem to have been the most attractive, but it was not. He came to us, brought us all he had, and divided even his wardrobe, which seemed to be unlimited. Lockwood and the writer hereof designed the badge; that is to say, we furnished the ideas. Frank Baird, a Delta Kappa Epsilon who would not withdraw with us (though sympathizing with us), and since an artist of high renown, drew the design. I can see him now, Lockwood on one side and I on the other, working away over the drawing in that poor little, old room where Sigma Chi had her birth. I remember that we determined [To Joseph C. Nate, past Grand Consul, responding to Brother Nate’s request for assistance in writing the History of Sigma Chi, November 29, 1910] My Dear Brother Nate: I received your circular letter, and enclosed folder, this morning, have read both and, to be frank, am at a loss as to what I ought to say in reply. The proceedings (I should rather say, certain of the proceedings at the last Grand Chapter so depressed my confidence in the future of Sigma Chi that I have scarcely thought of the matter since without a feeling of sadness which is all the heavier because my affections were wounded as well as my sense of fairness. The manner in which the revised Constitution was forced through, without the slightest opportunity for consideration and discussion, was painful because it indicated that a domineering, arrogant, instead of a brotherly spirit, was at the head of fraternity affairs. Again, the manner in which our candidate for Grand Consul was attacked and another Brother, not one whit better, or worse, was lauded on to victory made me sick at heart. I have tried to forget these things and have endeavored to believe that our adversaries were actuated only by the highest motives but the original impression still remains. I believe, in fact I know, that candidates for Grand Consul ought to be presented by the provinces, and that at least three months before the Grand Chapter, in order that all appearances of unfair dealings may be made impossible. I believe, also, that amendments and revisions of the Constitution should be published in advance, and an opportunity should be given for full and fair discussion. It seems to me that the active chapters have too little to say in regard to the government of the fraternity. The power is concentrated in the hands of too few of the Alumni. I care not how good the men are, the system is wrong in principle. The Alumni should guide not govern. But laying these things aside, I am glad that you are preparing a history of the Fraternity. It will be hard to satisfy so many, hard to do justice to all. I often think of the words of dear, old Sam Ireland after our candidate was defeated (in the same old way) for Grand Consul at Nashville: ‘General, they have no sympathy with our feeling, there is too much politics in the deal. Let us get what happiness we can our of association with those we love, and let them have their way for good or evil.’ I did not feel that way. I do not surrender easily but I did come to a realization of conditions. So realizing, I wish you success in the work, and if I can aid you, will cheerfully do so. I know the history of Miami and I know the history of Sigma Chi. If my duties would permit I would, myself, write, not exactly a history but a statement of what was intended fifty-six years ago, and in how far we have progressed along those lines and in how far we have departed therefrom. I do not care who gets the credit for what is creditable, and am willing to bear far more than my share of the blame for shortcomings, but I would like to see a clear, fair, impartial statement of the work done and the fruit brought forth. We cannot have things (save now and then) our own way in this world, but we have the consolation of knowing that the mass of humanity is just and fair minded, and will give us credit for our good intentions in the long run. Let me hear what, if anything, you desire and believe me Affectionately yours Ben P. Runkle [A letter of greeting to the San Francisco Grand Chapter addressed to Grand Consul Newman Miller just ten months before Founder Runkle’s passing to the Chapter Eternal on June 28, 1855] Hon. Newman Miller, Grand Consul of Sigma Chi Dear Brother:- It is a long way to the Golden Gate and a far call to the dim beginnings of 1855, yet out of all these sixty years and over all this space I send you cordial White Cross greetings. For each Founder there are now two thousand hearts that throb under the emblem of faith and hope - Faith in Sigma Chi ideals, and hope for our future in this world and in the world to come. To these thousands I send fraternal love and heartfelt good wishes. As you have, through all of our struggles and contentions, so now, and in the future, go on with the good work until the White Cross is known and honored in every nook and corner of the educational world and you shall accomplish greater things than the Founders could ever have hoped or dreamed. The Scrolls of these Founders are nearly filled, soon each will have turned the golden key to the final mysteries of life. We will watch over you as the Eagle watches over his young. So, clasping each and every hand I look to the “Stars.” Ever Cordially and Fraternally Ben P. Runkle.

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