Phi Sigma Epsilon

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Phi Sigma Epsilon
FoundedFebruary 20, 1910; 110 years ago (February 20, 1910)
Kansas State Normal College
MottoGolden Rule
ColorsCardinal Red and Silver
FlowerWhite Tea Rose
Chapters43 at Merger, 4 dissenting
Headquarters2925 East 96th Street
Indianapolis, Indiana

Phi Sigma Epsilon (ΦΣΕ) was a North American social fraternity that operated for 75 years (20 February 1910 – 14 August 1985) until its merger with the Phi Sigma Kappa (ΦΣΚ) fraternity. The vast majority of Phi Sigma Epsilon chapters participated in the merger. Phi Sigma Kappa incorporated many of the symbols of Phi Sigma Epsilon into its own, changing its crest, and expanding its Cardinal Principals, symbolism, rituals and historical canon to embrace the milestones of Phi Sigma Epsilon's development. These changes were soon fully adopted by all chapters of the improved, and much larger fraternity, retaining the older name, Phi Sigma Kappa.

The two fraternities viewed it a happy, even auspicious coincidence that both groups had until the merger generally used the nickname, "Phi Sig." This was found to be just one of many striking similarities.

A few chapters and scattered alumni refused the Merger, eventually settling on a plan to form a new national fraternity Phi Sigma Phi (ΦΣΦ), incorporating traditions similar to the original Phi Sigma Epsilon.


The Phi Sigma Epsilon Fraternity (ΦΣΕ) was founded on 20 February 1910 at Kansas State Normal College, now Emporia State University. "The early years of Phi Sigma Epsilon were stormy ones for there was much opposition to secret societies" at the school; the fraternity had to exist as an underground organization, frowned upon by many of the college authorities and citizens, until 1912.[1] However, the fraternity's willingness to cooperate, and its program of scholastic and social improvements, won over support and admiration. After three years of effort, in 1913, Phi Sigma Epsilon was officially recognized on campus, and Prof. C. R. Phipps became the sponsor.[2]

ΦΣΕ Founders[edit]

  • Raymond Victor Bottomly
  • W. Roy Campbell
  • W. Ingram Forde
  • Humphrey Jones
  • Robert C. Marley
  • Orin M. Rhine
  • Fred M. Thompson

Seventy Five Years of Service[edit]

Expansion of Phi Sigma Epsilon[edit]

In 1926, Emporia's now sixteen-year-old local chapter of Phi Sigma Epsilon (ΦΣΕ) held preliminary meetings with two younger local fraternities, Sigma Delta Tau (ΣΔΤ)[3] of nearby Kirksville State Teachers College in Kirksville, Missouri, and Pi Sigma Epsilon (ΠΣΕ)[4] of Kansas State Teachers College in Pittsburg, Kansas. From the resulting union of these three chapters, ΦΣΕ became a "national teachers college fraternity" at its first Conclave on December 30, 1927, keeping the eldest name. A group of members developed the charter, constitution and bylaws. Others, led by Fred Schwengel, authored the fraternity's new ritual over the following year.[2]

In 1932, the fraternity began its publication of The Triangulum, a magazine for members.

In 1937, after a year of negotiations between the teachers college men's fraternities, Phi Sigma Epsilon worked with Sigma Tau Gamma (ΣΤΓ) to form the Association of Teachers College Fraternities on January 9, 1937.[2]

The War Years: Closing and Reopening[edit]

The fraternity expanded to many other campuses until World War II, when an acute manpower crisis caused every chapter to cease operations between 1941 and 1946. Under the leadership of National President Shannon Flowers, however, the fraternity was successfully revived after the war.

It was noteworthy and probably un-equaled in the fraternity world that all chartered Phi Sigma Epsilon chapters were able to reopen after WWII.

With the mass influx of returning GIs to its schools, and with the expansion of mission at those schools beyond the teaching profession, by 1947, Phi Sigma Epsilon similarly broadened its focus, no longer to remain strictly a fraternity for teachers, but to embrace the general academic population. In 1952 the fraternity became a junior member of the NIC,[2] and in 1965, a senior member.

Throughout its history approximately half of the Fraternity's chapters came from affiliating local chapters, some that had existed for many decades prior to joining Phi Sigma Epsilon.[5] In most cases it is evident that these former locals became the strongest or most resilient chapters. The others, started as new groups on campus, were often short-lived, especially those formed from 1950 onward.

Growth and Decline[edit]

Phi Sigma Epsilon had an unofficial goal of having sixty chapters, a milestone it reached under the leadership of president James Whitfield by doubling in size between 1958 and 1970. Whitfield retired in 1970, after an unprecedented term of twelve years as president. This was the high-water mark for the fraternity. On February 20, 1970, the actual 60th anniversary of the founding was observed in Emporia. Founder and first initiate, Fred Thompson, along with James Whitfield, cut the anniversary cake, which bore seven candles in representation of the seven founders. Thompson was 86 years old at the 23rd Conclave, on September 5 of that year.

By 1972, growth had ceased while expenses grew, and, like many fraternities, Phi Sigma Epsilon had difficulty managing its chapters in that time of social change. Lack of fraternity interest on its campuses was another contributing factor. Attempts were made to innovate, for example, by hosting regionalized Conclaves rather than a single national meeting, and with early automation of address records. By the beginning of the 1978–79 academic year, there were but 38 chapters on the roll, nine fewer than in 1974 and 22 fewer than in 1970. This alarming situation precipitated aggressive action to shore up or re-charter struggling groups, which lead to some success: by the 1980 Conclave there were 45 chapters, up from 38.[2]

Yet fiscal problems and rolling staff difficulties continued to weaken the fraternity. Complaints came in from various chapters of dissatisfaction with services and a lack of cooperation from the national office. Between 1980 and 1984, significant concerns, too, were raised about the financial health of the organization. Executive officer Ric Hoskin, who had served since the mid-60s, resigned on July 28, 1984. An emergency Council meeting was called, and, after the appointment of president John Sandwell to replace Hoskin as acting executive officer on an interim basis, a late audit confirmed the Council's worst fears: Phi Sigma Epsilon had only its equity in its national headquarters building which could be termed an asset.

One month later, at a belated and hastily called 30th Conclave, James Whitfield was again elected to serve as president. The following day, immediate past president Sandwell resigned from the position he had retained, that of executive officer. The Council named Whitfield acting executive officer without compensation. Whitfield immediately moved to establish effective communications throughout the order as a major priority. Yet the point of crisis was long past; by that fateful 30th Conclave, the discussion of what might yet be done was passionate and no option would prove to be easy. Leaders scheduled a series of meetings, considering all aspects of revitalization, and recessed the Conclave until the summer of 1985. The fall ushered in a flurry of activity, with plans for a follow-up Council meeting and publication of a series of chapter bulletins to teach the basics of fraternity management.[2]

The Merger[edit]

In a curious stroke of timing, only a few months after the fall 1984 Council meeting, president James Whitfield attended an NIC meeting on Dec. 1, 1984, where he met for the first time Phi Sigma Kappa's grand president, Anthony Fusaro. They were seated next to each other due to the alphabetized seating of all the fraternities.

The two leaders "discussed their respective fraternities, and Whitfield learned that two PSE chapters (Phi Epsilon at Rider College, Lawrenceville NJ and Epsilon Tau at Ball State Univ, Muncie IN) had contacted PSK during the 1983-84 year, seeking assistance from PSK (also HQ'd in Indianapolis, IN) because of 'the lack of services from PSE.' The NIC rule [prohibiting this] had been explained to these chapters by PSK Executive Director, Brett Champion, and President Fusaro [had] contacted then-PSE National President John Sandwell to offer assistance. In the [recent] transfer of PSE leadership from Sandwell to Whitfield, this information had not been relayed, so all of this was news to Whitfield." [2]

A friendship developed, in this meeting of peers. The word "merger" was mentioned, and the two statesmen agreed to talk further, enlarging the sensitive and respectful conversation with a half dozen or more fraternal leaders from both groups. These men realized the profound similarities between the fraternities, and set a framework in place to continue the discussion, beginning by polling the interest of both executive councils. A favorable response by both groups led to further concrete steps, and merger documents were prepared. Soon, an overwhelmingly positive response came from a letter PSE wrote to its chapters and alumni clubs, with 26 of 29 respondents declaring in the affirmative, two negative votes, both from alumni clubs, and one un-indicated.[2]

Phi Sigma Epsilon was scheduled to resume its Conclave on June 1, 1985. The evening prior, the Council met to review general fraternity operations, but final decisions on all items were to be deferred until action on the merger vote. There was significant division of opinion, and the various Council members were lobbied well into the evening. Yet, the following day, the final vote came down 40 to 39 in favor of the merger, with active chapters more strongly supporting the action, and alumni less inclined. Of the larger chapters, these broke significantly for the merger. Phi Sigma Epsilon's 31st and last Conclave's final vote was the unanimous selection of James Whitfield to sign and implement the merger documents. It was announced that Phi Sigma Kappa had already voted by mail overwhelmingly in favor of the merger, an action that was ratified at its 50th Convention by a unanimous vote, held later that summer on August 14, 1985.[1][2]

With the merger, all Phi Sigma Epsilon alumni were welcomed into equal status in Phi Sigma Kappa. A vigorous plan was set in motion to 'onboard' all active chapters of Phi Sigma Epsilon as Phi Sigma Kappa chapters. All living past presidents of Phi Sigma Epsilon were inducted into Phi Sigma Kappa's Court of Honor. PSE past president Shannon Flowers became its Recorder. James Whitfield and Larry Beck of Phi Sigma Epsilon were immediately placed onto an enlarged Grand Council as directors, with PSE's Ron Cowan, Jr. joining that body in 1987. Scott Hull of PSE was brought on as a fourth Leadership Consultant on staff, and the man who had witnessed the formation of PSE as a national fraternity and written its ritual in 1927, past president, Fred Schwengel, agreed to serve as an Historian for the combined fraternity and as a trustee of the PSK Foundation.

Guided by the two men who knew the two rituals best, past-president Fred Schwengel and Grand President Anthony Fusaro, Phi Sigma Kappa's Ritual of Association was rewritten to include significant portions of the Phi Sigma Epsilon ritual. The PSE ritual itself was cast into the form of a special lecture to be added to the ritual book of all chapters for use on particular occasions. Similarly, Phi Sigma Kappa's Cardinal Principals were amended to reflect the ideals of Phi Sigma Epsilon: Justice, Wisdom and Honor.

As planned, aggressive action was taken over the next several years to assist former PSE chapters in their transition to the revised ritual, operations and requirements of the greatly enlarged fraternity. The fraternity agreed to honor the badges and words of recognition of both fraternities when presented by visiting alumni.

At the 1987 Convention the Phi Sigma Kappa flag and crest were changed to incorporate the symbolism of Phi Sigma Epsilon, thus formally finalizing the merger.[2]

While most Phi Sigma Epsilon chapters, their alumni and most current and past national officers took part in the merger, a small percentage of active chapters did not. Several chapters were later found to be non-viable or recently dormant. One was released to join another national organization due to the presence of both chapters on campus. In the end, seven groups who did not wish to take part in the merger decided to form their own fraternity, Phi Sigma Phi, in 1988.[2]

Historical Record[edit]

Mergers are rare in the fraternity world. A cursory reading of Baird's Manual of American College Fraternities will show that, far more often, groups that eventually fail will stubbornly decline into a shadow of what they once were, losing their last, lingering chapters in a rush into oblivion, or to individual chapter dispersal or absorption. It is a lesson of mature management to know when to 'wind down' any institution, especially one that is a labor of love. From this perspective, it appears that Phi Sigma Epsilon's leaders understood the risk of total loss for a struggling 75-year-old fraternity. By pressing forward with merger talks in spite of some opposition, proponents saved much of the history, continuity and culture of Phi Sigma Epsilon, blending its real strengths into the resulting combined fraternity.

Because of the foresight and determination of leaders from both fraternities, Phi Sigma Epsilon remains a cherished part of Phi Sigma Kappa, and thousands of young men annually learn its history, as part of a larger, better Phi Sig.[2]

The record of Phi Sigma Epsilon's rise, long life and eventual merger is available in All The Phi Sigs, a history of both groups, revised in 1993 with a lengthy new section on Phi Sigma Epsilon (pp 179 – 212). Until this publication, Phi Sigma Epsilon had never prepared a comprehensive written history. James Whitfield, past president of PSE and Phil Baird, former PSE Council member, volunteered to write this document. As many of the records of the fraternity were lost to flooding at PSE's former headquarters building, their job was difficult; yet as participants at a high level for many years, they, with the help of leaders they interviewed, such as former national presidents Shannon Flowers, Larry Beck and Fred Schwengel, were able to complete the highly detailed work. This volume is available from Phi Sigma Kappa fraternity headquarters for all the Phi Sigs.[2]

From 1985 onward, the continuing history of Phi Sigma Epsilon may be found within Phi Sigma Kappa's record.

Active Chapters of ΦΣΕ Who Became Active Chapters of ΦΣΚ at the Merger[edit]

All Active ΦΣΕ chapters were welcomed into ΦΣΚ, and most joined. These are listed below. A very few opted immediately to decline, and a few others deliberated on the matter between 1985 and 1987, eventually choosing to revert to local status in anticipation of the entity that would become Phi Sigma Phi. Still other chapters were at a level of disorganization or actual dormancy that, on those campuses, there was no one left: no chapter existed to merge. For the groups that declined the Merger, and for the long-dormant groups, listed separately, Phi Sigma Kappa has continued to reach out the hand of brotherhood to alumni of those chapters.[1][2][6]

Bold for current active chapters, italic for post-merger dormant chapters.

  • Phi Alpha (ΦΑ) is the Memorial Chapter for Phi Sigma Epsilon. See also Phi Sigma Kappa's Chapter Eternal.

Chapter names listed in order of chartering. Some names do not follow standard Greek alphabetical order. See List of Phi Sigma Kappa chapters for chartering dates, and reference notes on the many predecessor local chapters that had become Phi Sigma Epsilon chapters.

Inactive Chapters of ΦΣΕ at the Merger, now part of Phi Sigma Kappa[edit]

These chapters were closed in the years prior to the merger, or in the waning years of Phi Sigma Epsilon as the merger approached. Some have organized alumni, depending on their relative strength during their active years. Phi Sigma Kappa continues to serve their alumni with news and support staff where the Fraternity has good addresses.[2]

Bold for current active chapters, italic for dormant chapters.

Chapter names listed in order of chartering. Some names do not follow standard Greek alphabetical order. See List of Phi Sigma Kappa chapters for chartering dates

Previous Chapters of ΦΣΕ Which Immediately Moved to Form Phi Sigma Phi[edit]

Organization took several years, and the eventual name of the new fraternity was not determined until ΦΣΚ and the non-merging chapters resolved trademark and copyright issues.[2]

Bold for current active chapters, italic for dormant chapters.

  • Lambda (Λ) Chapter at Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, Michigan - Alumni only seceded in 1985. This chapter resulted in both the ΦΣΚ chapter called Epsilon Lambda, which was a continuation of the active group, and ΦΣΦ's Lambda Chapter which was established by a group of recent PSE alumni who chose not to merge. Oddly enough, ΦΣΦ later colonized and chartered a chapter at the University of Michigan-Dearborn that would become known as Epsilon Lambda. As if that wasn't confusing enough, an earlier, dormant ΦΣΚ Chi Pentaton chapter on the campus contributed its alumni to the newly named ΦΣΚ chapter, but not its chapter name, as it was younger.
  • Omega (Ω) Chapter at UW Stout, Menomonie, Wisconsin. Seceded from Phi Sig in 1985. ΦΣΚ's planned name for this chapter would have been Epsilon Omega.
  • Phi Mu (ΦΜ) Chapter at Concord University, Athens, West Virginia. Seceded from Phi Sig in 1985. ΦΣΚ's planned name for this chapter would also have been Phi Mu.

Three additional chapters were revived for a time, going on to form the Founding Seven of ΦΣΦ. These three have all since closed:

  • Phi Kappa (ΦΚ) Chapter at West Virginia Wesleyan College, Buckhannon, West Virginia -Seceded in 1985, then left Phi Sigma Phi in 1997 to join ΑΣΦ.[11] ΦΣΚ's planned name for this chapter was also Phi Kappa.
  • Phi Iota (ΦΙ) Chapter at Northland College, Ashland, Wisconsin -Inactive at Merger, alumni seceded in 1985, colonized by 1988, then closed after 1990.[12] ΦΣΚ's planned name for this chapter was also Phi Iota.
  • Sigma Zeta (ΣΖ) Chapter at UW River Falls, River Falls, Wisconsin -Inactive at Merger, alumni seceded in 1985, colonized under the un-named new fraternity in 1986, took PSP name in 1988, returned to Phi Sigma Kappa for a 1996 ΦΣΚ colonization, then closed in 2005. ΦΣΚ's name for this chapter was also Sigma Zeta.

One more chapter of the Founding Seven has also recently gone dormant:

  • Phi Beta (ΦΒ) Chapter at the UW Eau Claire, Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Seceded from Phi Sig in 1985. Closed between 2011 and 2015. ΦΣΚ's planned name for this chapter would also have been Phi Beta.[13]

Later Phi Sigma Phi Activity, and Naming Confusion[edit]

There is no legal connection between Phi Sigma Phi and Phi Sigma Kappa, nor their respective chapters, even if there is occasional similarity between chapter names. There is no formal agreement on 'naming rights' between PSK and PSP, thus each fraternity is free to name its chapters as it sees fit.

Following its formation in 1988, Phi Sigma Phi placed several new chapters on campuses new to any Phi Sig-named group (PSK, PSE or PSP), and has added several chapters where PSE (now PSK) formerly had a presence. As of 2018 Phi Sigma Phi had 9 active chapters. Chapter names for new PSP groups occasionally follow an historical precedent and reuse former PSE chapter names on a campus: About half of its chapters show some naming continuity with a predecessor, which indicates a claim of linkage between the older and newer groups. This is most often where alumni of PSE who rejected the merger become involved in a restart, or may possibly be where an active chapter left PSE/PSK for the new national in the tumultuous formation period between 1985 and 1988.

Besides the Founding Seven listed above, other PSP chapters and any potential ambiguity in their naming are as follows:

Other PSP chapters, started since 1988, are now gone:

Chapter start dates and (where dormant) closure dates for Phi Sigma Phi chapters are not yet published on their national website. Hence, this list is in the order shown on their Wikipedia page.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c Phi Sigma Kappa Headquarters Staff (1992). Hills and a Star - A Manual for Members (10th ed.). Self-published. pp. 25–28.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Rand, Frank Prentice; Ralph Watts; James E. Sefton (1993). All The Phi Sigs - A History. Self-published.
  3. ^ Not to be confused with the national sorority of the same name. That sorority, also Sigma Delta Tau, had been founded in 1917 and had created twelve chapters by the time the three local fraternities constituting ΦΣΕ met in their first conclave to form Phi Sigma Epsilon into a national fraternity. Such naming confusion happened occasionally with that period's blizzard of creation of new local chapters across America.
  4. ^ This local Pi Sigma Epsilon should not be confused with the national professional fraternity of the same name, founded in 1952 for marketing and sales management students.
  5. ^ Where known, these are noted in the references for each chapter on the List of Phi Sigma Kappa chapters, with information taken from All the Phi Sigs, the history of the combined fraternity of Phi Sigma Kappa and Phi Sigma Epsilon.
  6. ^ The list of chapters was compiled by ΦΣΚ staff over time, with assistance of former ΦΣΕ officers. See the List of Phi Sigma Kappa Chapters for a comprehensive treatment. However, the chapters listed on this page show the outcome of merger activity for the "Epsilon" chapters, and subsequent opening and closing of chapters whose origination was in Phi Sigma Epsilon.
  7. ^ "Historical". PhiladelphianSociety. Retrieved 2020-02-16.
  8. ^ Note that occasionally chapters were given specific names to honor previous locals. The former Phi Sigma chapter of PSK/PSE at Hillsdale College is dormant. Perhaps that name could be re-used at Platteville if the group wished to merge back into PSK. There is a precedent.
  9. ^ a b It appears that, at the time of the Merger, the already-dormant chapter at Wayne State University of Detroit was simply forgotten in the lists, probably because of confusion with the similarly named Wayne State College of Nebraska, itself also dormant. The chapter is missing in Hills and a Star's list through 2013, missing from Baird's Manual, and only found in the published chapter list on pg250 of All the Phi Sigs. On p255 ATPS notes that Omicron's (Epsilon Omicron's) charter was "revoked".
  10. ^ There exists some confusion regarding two chapters named Phi Tau. ΦΣΕ's Phi Tau chapter at Cornell, existent from 1963 until the merger in 1985 when it was released and affiliated with Theta Chi, should not be confused with ΦΣΚ's Tau chapter at Dartmouth, which, upon seceding from the national fraternity in 1956, renamed itself Phi Tau purely by coincidence.
  11. ^ Twelve years after the PSK/PSE merger, the West Virginia Wesleyan chapter broke ties with PSP, according to their website Archived 2016-02-02 at the Wayback Machine accessed 27 January 2016. They explain that in 1997, 26 active brothers of the Phi Kappa Chapter left Phi Sigma Phi and petitioned for a charter to become the Beta Nu chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi (NIC) national fraternity in 1998. This group remains an active chapter of ΑΣΦ. At the time, Phi Sigma Phi was not an NIC fraternity. (Phi Sigma Phi joined the NIC soon after; The NIC prohibits such 'poaching' of whole chapters.)
  12. ^ A chapter graduate from 1990 noted the fraternity's interest in recolonization in an October 2017 post to the campus alumni website.
  13. ^ Regarding Phi Beta Chapter, a campus directory noted the chapter's existence in the 2009-10 school year. A PSP Facebook post noted them as an expansion candidate in 2015.
  14. ^ The chapter was banned from the CMU campus after a pattern of risk management issues extending over a decade, according to published reports accessed 6 May 2019. Phi Sigma Phi at the time asserted it would continue to operate as an unrecognized entity.
  15. ^ Phi Sigma Phi had a PSU colony, as noted in the Onward State blog, accessed 14 Dec 2016. This group was short lived, however, as the chapter is no longer listed on the PSU active chapter and colony list maintained by the PSU Office of Student Affairs, accessed 6 Nov 2018.
  16. ^ The Nebraska colony's facebook page, accessed 14 Dec 2016.

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