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History of Sigma Phi Society

 

The Sigma Phi Society was founded on March 4th, 1827, on the campus of Union College in Schenectady, NY. It is the second oldest Greek fraternal organization in the United States. After its founding, the Sigma Phi became part of a triumvirate of Greek letter organizations at Union that would come to be known as the “Union Triad.” These were the first three social “fraternities” in the United States, and as such hold a special place in the pantheon of Greek letter organizations nationwide. With the founding of the Beta of New York at Hamilton College in 1831, the Sigma Phi Society became the first Greek organization to establish a chapter at another college. This makes Sigma Phi the first, and oldest, national Greek organization in the United States.

Our chapter at the University of Vermont was founded on March 4th, 1845, and was one of the earliest Greek organizations at UVM. While such groups often sprang from other social clubs on campus at the time, including debating societies and supper clubs, the Sigma Phi Society was the culmination of a trend towards formalizing the social bonds that united like-minded students on campus. Although Sigma Phi did not have a house or grounds, the first members of the Alpha of Vermont were fervent in their desire to advance the ideals of the Sigma Phi Society in the northernmost outpost of the Society. Indeed, the first classes of the “Alpha of Vermont” consisted of some of the most committed members of the Sigma Phi Society, as well as some of the brightest and best minds at UVM and in the state of Vermont. Newspaper Editors, Civil War officers, trustees, professors and future presidents of the University were all to be found in those early classes. Similarly, intrepid alumni of UVM who forged westward during our country’s pioneer days spent their college days as members of the Alpha of Vermont. These included men who would go on to be judges, mayors, businessmen and members of the clergy on the outward edges of the United States.

As the earliest era of the Alpha of Vermont gave way to more modern times, our chapter continued to grow and to flourish along with the young country. While Sigma Phi chapters at other colleges had moved into homes of their own, the Alpha of Vermont moved forward in developing plans to build a fine home near the heart of the University. In the later part of the 19th century the land for such a home was procured, plans were drawn up, and the Alpha’s home at 420 College Street was completed. Photographs from these early days show a much more formal student body than we may find lounging in the Buckham today, yet the same youthful vigor for life, the same excitement for the next adventure, and the same commitment to the Sigma Phi Society that we find on the faces of our active members to this day is clearly evident.

Over the course of the 20th century, the Alpha of Vermont continued to contribute to the history of Vermont and the United States in a manner that reflected our Society’s commitment to college, family and country. Members of the Alpha of Vermont continued to serve the University of Vermont in a variety of mediums, as both administrators and lecturers, as professors, trustees and stewards of the University, and in business and civic organizations both local and national. Alumni of the Alpha of Vermont fought and died in WWI and WWII, and many “Sigs” continue that tradition of service to this day, serving in the armed forces in a variety of capacities. The Alpha of Vermont has continued to see her members thrive in the worlds of politics, business, non-profit work, academia, art and in many other capacities worldwide. With an alumni base over 500 strong and a tradition of striving for the highest achievement in everything we do, the Alpha of Vermont chapter of the Sigma Phi Society is poised to continue a history of excellence that has now lasted over 165 years.