The Sigma Phi Epsilon Illinois Alpha RLC at the University of Illinois
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Illinois Alpha Memories

Compiled by Vance Fraley, Order of the Golden Heart Recipient

MEMORIES OF ILLINOIS ALPHA – THROUGH THE YEARS 1947 – 2002

- Vance L. Fraley '56, LAW '58

It is hard to remember the first acquaintance with ILLINOIS ALPHA. It started when my brother, Varel L. Fraley '50, enrolled at the University in 1946 after completing his military service in WWII. Probably, the first visit to ILLINOIS ALPHA was in the fall of 1947 for a football game. My parents and I would attend football games and then visit the fraternity while on campus.

I recall watching BUDDY YOUNG scamper down the football field and being thrilled watching the Marching ILLINI and Chief Illiniwek. In the fall of 1948 (Nov.), there were people selling the Chicago Tribune with the famous headlines "DEWEY WINS" – wish now we had bought one since they are historical keepsakes.

 

The Sig Ep House had their big red door and the Brothers were impressive to a kid that was only in junior high. I particularly remember the fraternity band members looking so impressive in their uniforms and DICK RODGERS with his drum major uniform. The excitement in the fraternity on football game days was electric. After games, it was fun to listen to the Sig Ep quartet and to talk to and dine with the Brothers.

The Brothers in that era that I remember the most were BOB DUNN (who later became IL DISTRICT GOVERNOR for Sig Ep), DALE ARVIDSON (and all his jokes and stories), CLARENCE BEZIO, DICK GUCKER, BOB RUNYON, CHICK MAGGOLI, IRISH MAPES (part of the Quartet, I think), KIRBY LOCKHART (also part of the Quartet, I think), ELDON (BLONDIE) MOORE, ED PALUGH, DON LAZ and DON SUNDERLAGE. Who can forget PAT GRAHAM who was an ATO but partied with and ran around with the Sig Eps? PAT held many parties at his home after Homecoming when we could sing, tell jokes and solve the problems of the world. These parties were always 90% Sig Eps.

I enrolled at ILLINOIS in the fall of 1952 in the school of COMMERCE with a major in commerce and LAW. I then rushed in the fall of 1953. Several Brothers who were around when my brother was here endeavored to "sweep me off my feet" to join Sig Ep. I rushed several other fraternities, but in the end I decided that Sig Ep was my choice.

Pledging in those days began as soon as you moved into the House (Saturday after rush). Rushing was held the week before the start of school. My pledge dad was GERALD EARLY '54. My first semester was spent in a room on the second floor with JERRY and FRANK MEZEK. At that time, there were two dormitories on the third floor – one at each end of the House. The Senior Dorm was at the South end, and the larger dorm was at the North end. You got to move to the Senior Dorm when you became a junior.

Some incidents involving the dorms were comical. One year we had a big fight over how many windows would be open in the winter. Some wanted them all closed – some wanted them all open. Finally, a compromise was worked out – two windows at each end would be open. We have got up to find snow covering our beds and to find birds frozen to death in the dorm. Remember – there was no heat in the dorm. One member had a sleeping blanket, and the plug on same was pulled many times with much swearing and noise until he got out of bed to plug it back in. Occasionally, there would be fights with Psi U's next door – to the North. They would shoot water from a hose into the North dorm to wake people up and then things would get hectic!

During the pledging, you were expected to clean your room, bring mail up to the actives in your room, run errands for them, and to take out trash from the room – in other words, keep the room clean. Saturday mornings, the pledges were assigned work duties – wash windows (all floors), run sweeper, and generally keep the House "spruced up." Failure to do these duties usually entailed being swatted with a paddle until they were done satisfactorily to the actives.

At this time, we had a "porter" named SNOOKS ANDERSON. He was African-American and had been with the House for many years. I do not know when he finished working there, but it was after I left. Snooks dusted, did some maintenance, and helped keep the hallways, dorms and the first floor in a spic and span condition. SNOOKS was a great individual and was always willing to talk to us about our problems and was a big asset to the fraternity.

The Sig Eps were very active during the middle '50's. Besides coke dates, serenades and rushing, the members were active in committees at the ILLINI UNION and other campus events. The fraternity held many dances at the House besides those that were campus sponsored. The latter included the MILITARY BALL (everyone had to take ROTC at the time), and the IF Ball. All dances at the House were alcohol free (University rule), and we had to have chaperones, so women could be present. One member of the fraternity, AL GOSS, was a cheerleader, and several members were in the marching band.

The dances I recall being held in the fraternity each year were the PLEDGE DANCE (Fall); CASINO (a formal in Dec.); and SPRING FORMAL (usually in March or April). These dances were held in the House and the entire first floor had to be decorated with the appropriate décor. Each dance had several faculty and alumni invited with their wives.

The highlight of the year would be our CASINO. The library on the North side of the Great Hall was a "penthouse" with tables and chairs. Each side of the room had a skyline view of New York City with winking light and puffy clouds. Soft drinks and snacks were served in this room. The Great Hall was turned into a giant ballroom with the walls and ceiling completely covered. A dance band was placed in one corner of the room. The poolroom and adjoining room were our 'casino" – poker tables, roulette wheels, slot machines and other gambling activities. Each couple got lots of paper money to use to make their fortunes. Outside the House, we had a sign over the walkway to the House and over the porch to the door. The sign read "SIG EP CASINO" on each side. Our engineers worked it so the "SIG" would light up, then the "EP," and then the "CASINO", and then they would blink off and then light up all three words at the same time. It was an impressive sight and to our way of thinking, the top fraternity dance on campus.

The campus wide dances brought in nationally known bands. Some that I recall are JAN GARBER, RAY ANTHONY, WOODY HERMAN and BOBBY MORROW. Since WOODY HERMAN was a Sig Ep, he would come to the House while in town and would visit with us and have dinner with us.

Coke dates were scheduled with various sororities during the semester. We generally met the girls at their house and then went to KAMS, or PREHNS or KATSINAS to have our cokes. These dates were primarily for us to meet girls and to get to know them. Our serenades took place when one of the Brothers became pinned. These were accompanied by a "flaming heart" which was a large wooden heart lit up by flaming cans of lighter fluid. In the center of the heart were our Greek letters. I believe that the flaming heart became a casualty of "having an open fire after sundown" law. These sundown laws were in effect in Champaign and Urbana but not enforced. One night after a serenade in Urbana, the song chairman (BOB WITHERSPOON) and myself (I was President at the time) were arrested and taken to jail. It took a few hours to get freed – thanks to JACK MITCHUM, a Sig Ep alum and an attorney in Urbana. – and imagine Bob and my surprise when the whole House was up and waiting for us to see what happened to us. The end result was we could no longer have our flaming heart and no charges were brought against us.

To big campus-wide activities in which a fraternity and a sorority worked together were STUNT SHOW and SPRING CARNIVAL. STUNT SHOW was a musical skit put on at Homecoming at Huff Gym. We participated every year and reached the finals with GAMMA PHI BETA in the fall of '54 or fall of '55. The skit consisted of a medical school replacing an old gray haired dean (me!) with a new one – a woman in a slinky bright red dress. SPRING CARNIVAL was held at the Armory and consisted of games and acts to raise funds for various campus charities. Each of these activities was lots of work, lots of fun and taught us how to work together.

I lived in the fraternity House for three years – fall 1953 to May 1956. During that time, I served on the IF COUNCIL, was Rush Chairman, and was President for 1 year (Feb. 1955 – Feb. 1956). The experiences that I learned in the fraternity were of great help in my future work as a lawyer, bank board member, savings and loan board member, credit union chairman of the board, and various offices in my KIWANIS club and Bar Association. The fraternity taught me how to work with people to get jobs done. Illinois ALPHA gave all of this to me.

I graduated from law school in 1958. The U. S. Army then gave me a tour of duty from 1958 – 1961. Fortunately, most of my service was at Ft. Eustis, VA, which is located a few miles south of William & Mary College in Williamsburg, VA. In some manner (of which I do not recall), I was asked to help in the rechartering of the Sig Ep chapter at William & Mary. Their charter had been lost during WWII because of lack of manpower. The Chapter Counselor or Advisor was BILL USRY (I hope the spelling is correct) who was the principal stimulus to get the chapter going again. He was a very dedicated man who worked diligently for the new chapter. I helped by working with the members, going to chapter meetings, attending their parties, and working with their alums. In 1960 or 1961, the chapter was rechartered, and at that time, was the top fraternity on their campus. These Brothers were a delight to work with, and I consider it a privilege to have helped them get their charter restored.

After service, I returned to Taylorville, Illinois, to practice law – and I'm still there! I served on the ALUMNI BOARD for the ILLINOIS ALPHA chapter for three years in the late 60's. I visited it many times at Homecoming during those years.

One evening in the fall of 1982, I received a call from TIM BROWNING. We talked for some time and then he asked if I would consider going on the ALUMNI BOARD. I agreed to go on the Board and attended the annual meeting of the Board after the Homecoming game. Little did I know that Tim and the Brothers wanted me to be President of the Board. Not having had contact with chapter operations, I was initially hesitant to do so. However, the undergrads persisted, and I agreed to do the job.

From 1982 to 1992, I was privileged to serve as ALUMNI BOARD PRESIDENT. During that time, we had many fine, outstanding chapter Presidents, officers, and members. (I won't name the Presidents for fear I will overlook someone). Also, during this period we became a 100-man House and started a program of House improvements. Shortly before I came on the Board, we had had a fire that extensively damaged the House. After repairs of the fire's damages, there were still maintenance and repairs that needed to be done. Some of the projects were re-doing the doors and windows on the first floor, re-doing the third floor bathroom, and re-doing the second floor bathroom. Some work was also done on the ladies bathroom on the first floor and on the carpeting on the stairways.

During the 80's, CHUCK SHALLAT started a program called EBONY AND IVORY. This was a program to bring about a better understanding between the white and African-American Greek fraternities. The program involved meetings between the various fraternities, leading national speakers were invited to campus and leading educators led discussions on race relations. The program was an outstanding success and received much publicity and awards from the University and our National Headquarters. Unfortunately, this program has not been continued for several years.

After leaving the ALUMNI BOARD as President, I remained a member for a short time. I was not on the Board when the problems arose in 1995 and resulted in our losing our charter. When hearing of the closing of the chapter, I was greatly upset. Many undergrads of that time called and asked how they could get the charter back. Since it was in the hands of the National Fraternity, there was little I could do to help. We lost some loyal and outstanding Brothers when the chapter closed down. To this day, I am working to get these Brothers to come back and take part in the livelihood of the chapter.

Several alums of the 70's and 80's formed a group to work with the National Fraternity and the University to get our chapter reborn. It is through the huge efforts of D. SHAWN DALGLEISH that a group was formed to get ILLINOS ALPHA back. This group would not take "No" for an answer and would not allow a long period of time to go by until a new chapter was started. Their efforts started in early 1996.

As SHAWN says, "all Boards need an attorney." Thus, I got a call from him to serve on the Board again. I was reluctant to do this again, until I attended a meeting in Champaign to meet some of the young men that the National Fraternity and others recruited to start a Sig Ep colony.

The future was bleak, but we had excellent recruits (seven or eight as I recall) who had an idea and worked to make it work. Through the hard work, tenacity and guidance from D. SHAWN DALGLEISH and LLOYD MURPHY, the group started to grow. Meetings were held in University classrooms (Gregory Hall). Our House (which we almost lost) was rented to KAPPA SIGS (after a fire at the KAPPA SIG house), and then to TKE's. We did not have enough men to return to 1105 S. Fourth Street.

The small group of Brothers adopted the BALANCED MAN concept. They then went out and sold that concept to others on campus. The group grew to 20, then to 30 and more. We finally had enough members to rent the Phi Tau house. What a difference having a house made. Membership took off. In scholastics, the men were #1 on campus for five or six semesters. In activities, the men joined and led many campus groups (IFC, ALPHA KAPPA PSI Business Fraternity, etc.).

With diligence, hard work, and persistence, the colony finally had the qualifications to ask the National Fraternity for our charter back. The re-chartering Banquet occurred May 19, 2001 in the Illini Union's Grand Ballroom, and we were able to move back to 1105 S. Fourth Street. Our Grand National President, BILL TRAGOS, was the chief speaker at the Banquet. He noted that ILLINOIS ALPHA should be a "BEACON CHAPTER" for other chapters. The Brothers are trying to live up to that challenge.

In the spring of 2001, I finished a brief history of our chapter. It is now available on the web site: .kjhgkhgkh. There are many stories not told in the history because of lack of items from members or loss of records. However, a history can always have additions to it and notes to be added at the end.

It is hard to believe that I have in some way been involved with ILLINOIS ALPHA and Sig Ep for over 50 years. This fall, when we celebrate our chapter's 100th Reunion of our founding, I will have been somehow involved for over half of Illinois Alpha's history. How time flies, but I have enjoyed every minute of it and would do it again if I had the chance.

It has been a privilege to have been a Brother, a chapter President, and ALUMNI BOARD PRESIDENT, and a Board member at ILLINOIS ALPHA. It has also been a privilege to have helped two chapters, William & Mary and the University of Illinois, get re-chartered. It has also been a privilege to know so many Brothers from the 40's to the 2000's. We have a great chapter that can be even greater. Let us be a "BEACON CHAPTER" for years to come.

Thanks to all of you who have helped, advised, and worked with me through the years. I am proud to have worked with you and to have known you. Finally, I would like to say, "It's great to be a Sig Ep."

Fraternally Yours,
Vance L. Fraley '56, LAW '58

The History of the Illinois Alpha Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity

Compiled by Vance Fraley '56 and Jeffrey Harden '07

Sigma Phi Epsilon: A New Idea of Brotherhood

Sigma Phi Epsilon was founded at Richmond College in Richmond Virginia in 1901.

Richmond College was started on June 18, 1830. It was chartered by the Commonwealth of Virginia in 1840. The college owned eight acres near what was then the outskirts of the state capital, Richmond. From 1840 to 1900, the city of Richmond grew and eventually surrounded the little college. By 1900 the college had grown to include 12 ½ acres and was bounded by Broad Street on the north.
In 1914 the college moved from its downtown location to its present site on a 350-acre campus. The college was rechartered in 1921 as the University of Richmond. The central campus had three primary buildings, one of which was Robert Ryland Hall. Ryland Hall was named after the first president of Richmond College.

In 1901, there were four fraternities on the Richmond campus. As stated in the Pledge Manual of 1952, "those were days of malicious moods and fanciful pretension among the Greek-letter men, who operated in a high gear of snobbishness. The fraternities existed in their private zones of armed neutrality, but frequently open fighting violated the peace, and meetings would be broken up, rituals stolen, and so on." At this time, only a small percentage of men on campus belonged to fraternities.

In early September of 1901, a group of men were seeking closer fellowship than dormitory and rooming house life permitted. This group met at Jerry Morano's at the corner of Broad and Madison in Richmond. These men formed a group that came to be called the Saturday Night Club. The aim of this club was to recruit the best men of the college to meet and form a closely bound group. The group existed in September and part of October, but met with much bitterness and hatred from the four fraternities already on campus.

Aroused by the opposition they encountered, this loose association of men made a decision to make themselves more formidable. The group originally sought to affiliate with an old established fraternity, but that did not work out. Another portion of the group decided to try and establish a new Greek-letter group and go nation wide with it. Among this group of men included Carter Jenkins, Benjamin Gaw, William Wallace, and Thomas Wright. Later additions to the group were William Carter and William Lazel Phillips.

The group petitioned Chi Phi fraternity for a charter. This fraternity had Carter Jenkins as a member. Shortly after the petition to join Chi Phi, six more men joined the Saturday Night Club. These men were Lucien Cox, Richard Owens, Edger Allen, Robert McFarland, Franklin Kerfoot, and Thomas McCaul. The petition to Chi Phi was refused on basis that Richmond College was too small for another fraternity.

Sometime in October 1901, a meeting was held to discuss the refusal Chi Phi to grant the petition. The group was apparently angered and insulted that the petition had not been granted. At that time, a motion was made to form a new fraternity, and it passed unanimously.

Carter Jenkins had a vision of what a new fraternity should be like. To endure, it had to have a firm foundation. The foundation for the new fraternity would be the Holy Bible and was to be inspired by the parable of the man who built his house upon a rock.

The group adopted the name of Sigma Phi. It has been suggested that Sigma stood for a proper adjective to precede Phi. The group also adopted the symbol of a heart and set up a committee to design a new badge.

The Richmond College faculty became aware of the fact that a new fraternity was being formed. The college then called a meeting to discuss the formation of this new group. Members Jenkins, Gaw, and Phillips met with the college representatives. The college wanted to know why a new fraternity was needed, how it could organize with twelve members, seven of which would be graduating, and why they had the right to use the name Sigma Phi (There was a previous fraternity with this name chartered at Union College in 1827).

The fraternity brothers at this meeting informed the faculty that this fraternity would be different. It would be based on the love of God and peace through brotherhood. They indicated that they intended to recruit from lower classes to insure a growing fraternity. They also agreed that they could add a third Greek letter if an existing fraternity was using theirs. After further discussion, the faculty committee granted tentative permission for the organization to proceed.

After the meeting, some of the members met in Brother Jenkin's room. They then decided that the letter Epsilon could be used as a third letter in the fraternity's name. Several meetings were held on where to place the Epsilon in the name. It was finally decided to place Epsilon at the end.

On October 22, 1902 Sigma Phi Epsilon received its corporate charter from the Commonwealth of Virginia. The document was for an association which was "to intensify and perpetuate friendship and promote happiness among its members, to encourage literature and education, and to create such sentiments, mould such options and perform such deeds as shall conduce to the building up of a noble and pure manhood".

The 1908 Conclave set the date of Sigma Phi Epsilon's founding as November 1, 1901. The original founders were: Carter Jenkins, Benjamin Gaw, William Carter, William Wallace, Thomas Wright, William Phillips, Lucien Cox, Richard Owens, Edgar Lee Allen, Robert McFarland, Franklin Kerfoot, and Thomas McCaul. As Stated in the 1952 edition of the pledge manual, "it was their gallant efforts, vision, ideals as well as the homely longing for closer friendship that formed the basis for the growth and progress of Sigma Phi Epsilon".

Ever since the beginning in 1901, Sigma Phi Epsilon has attained the status of one of the largest and strongest national fraternities. It started out as a "new ideal" of brotherhood and has proven that that ideal can be widely accepted. In the 1990's the national fraternity adopted the concept of the balanced man as the new "ideal" of brotherhood. This new concept has received great acceptance and is quickly becoming the envy of other national fraternities. Sigma Phi Epsilon is casting off the "frat boy" image and becoming the new fraternity "ideal"- a balanced man.

The Origins of Illinois Alpha

The national Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity started a chapter at the College of Physics and Surgeons at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Illinois. There is some indication that this chapter was formed from a local fraternity. However, this name has never been found, and the national fraternity has no record of a petition to become part of Sigma Phi Epsilon. It is entirely possible that the chapter was expressly formed by the national fraternity. The chapter was designated as the Beta Alpha chapter and was the ninth chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The first regular meeting was held at the Stratford Hotel where Brother E.H. Martin of Philadelphia initiated twelve charter members. After administering the oath, the members proceeded to a private dinning room for the chartering banquet. Brother Martin then addressed the members on the high standards expected by Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The first regular meeting of the chapter was held on January 6, 1904 at the Stratford hotel, where the officers were elected. The chapter established an "elegantly furnished" suite of rooms at 516 W. Adams Street for the first chapter house. Several influential members of the faculty were voted on for honorary membership in the chapter.

The College of Physicians and Surgeons was founded in Chicago, Illinois in 1881. The college had over seven hundred students in 1904 and was widely recognized as the medical college of the west. There were four fraternities besides Sigma Phi Epsilon on the campus.

The Journal reports, filed by the chapter, list it as being located at the University of Illinois (Medical Department) or simply the University of Illinois. Records show the chapter was located at the following addresses: 290 Park Ave. in 1906, 212 S. Lincoln in 1905, 859 S. Jackson in 1906, 352 Warren Ave. in 1907, 368 S. Ashland in 1909, and 725 Ashland in 1909. Records also indicate that the Physicians and Surgeons College of Medicine became a department of the University of Illinois in 1913.

The Beta Alpha chapter became the Illinois Alpha chapter at the 1908 Conclave of the national fraternity. The designation of the various chapters was changed by a vote at this conclave. The chapter at this college ceased operation after the 1911-1912 school year. At the time of the closing, the chapter had initiated 109 members. The fraternity national executive committee officially withdrew the charter in 1913. The reason for the withdrawal has not been found in the records of the fraternity.

The Re-chartering of Illinois Alpha at the University of Illinois – Urbana Campus

The report from the national conclave of 1916 reveals that there were two petitions filed from the University of Illinois at Urbana. Although the report does not reveal any action on these petitions, it is known that a local fraternity Psi Delta was one of the petitioners. Events of 1917 would show that this petition was the one accepted for the re-chartering of Illinois Alpha.

On April 20th and 21st 1917, the installation and initiation of the Psi Delta was held at the chapter house at 110 E. Green St. These dates were the ending of the Psi Delta fraternity and the renewal and rebirth of Illinois Alpha. The work of initiation commenced on Friday of that weekend. The installing committee was composed of resident brothers and representatives from neighboring chapters. Over two-thirds of the local Psi Delta fraternity was present to be received into the Illinois Alpha of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

The SigEp Journal, vol. XIV, No. 4, dated May 10,1917, stated that this was an occasion of great pleasure "especially at this time with war threatening to take many from the chapter. The large number of initiates demonstrated to the installing committee their competence to carry forward the great work as outlined by the committee". At the end of the installation William (Uncle Billy) Phillips addressed the chapter and presented to Brother D.L. Mink, Illinois Alpha President, the charter for the chapter. A total of seven alumni and twenty-seven active members of Psi Delta were taken in to Illinois Alpha. An installation banquet was held on Saturday at the Beardsley Hotel. There were 41 people present for the banquet. The toastmaster of the evening was D.L. Mink, president of the chapter. Between toasts, various alumni, brothers and the installing committee members gave extemporaneous remarks.

Psi Delta, which merged into Sigma Phi Epsilon, was founded in 1912, with twelve members and was recognized by the University of Illinois administration on October 30th. This local fraternity had very definite ideals embodied in the constitution and ritual. The aim of Psi Delta was "to broaden the lives of its members, to unite their interests and to promote their educational, social, and moral advantages while in attendance at the University". In September 1913, Psi Delta rented and furnished its own house. This fraternity house was the first one erected and occupied by a fraternal organization in Champaign-Urbana. In January 1917, Psi Delta purchased the Phi Delta Theta house. This latter house was erected in 1904, was of the colonial type, and had eighteen rooms. This house would become the first home of the new Illinois Alpha. (There were 5,612 student enrolled at the university at this time. There were also 31 national and 7 local fraternities on campus 13 of which owned their own house.)

1105 S. Fourth Street: A Dream Come True

The Illinois Alpha chapter continued to grow and prosper after World War I. According to the SigEp Journal, the chapter moved several times: 1918, 104 E. Green St.; 1918, 615 S. Wright St.; 1918, 104 E. Green St.; and 1920, 404 E. Daniel. The latter address remained the chapter address until moving into the newly constructed house on S. Fourth Street.

On May 1, 1918 a celebration of the first anniversary of the chapter was held. Louis Phillis, who was the first secretary of the chapter, was also the first Illinois Alpha man to have crossed the Atlantic to "fight the Kaiser". The address of the new chapter was announced at 110 E. Green St. for the 1919-1920 school year.

The directory of October 1918, shows the address for the chapter at 615 S. Wright St. Apparently, the university leased the house at 110 E. Green St. and turned it into barracks for housing men of the S.A.T.C. Some of the fraternity members were assigned to the chapter house and some were assigned to other houses. The chapter had to rent rooms near campus to hold their meetings until the house was returned to them. The chapter was fourth in grades on campus.

At this time, it was also announced that the first Illinois Alpha man to be killed in World War I was Louis I. Phillis. He was killed at Tours France on July 19th, 1918. He was serving in the same unit as Quenton Roosevelt, the son of Former President Theodore Roosevelt.

In December 1918, the university released the house back to the fraternities. The university also lifted the ban on dances, and some dances were even held in the fraternities' houses. Illinois Alpha moved back into their house in March 1919 and made plans to remodel it.

In December 1919 the chapter had sixteen pledges and seventeen active members. They stated in the SigEp Journal that they had a goal "to own a house in the near future. A lot has been purchased and the first payment has been made. The lot was well selected, for it is very near where the athletic field is to be located (Memorial Stadium), and is directly opposite the new armory. S.D. Himes (Shelby) has been put in charge of the building and lot committee...". In April 1920, they had a third annual installation banquet. The records show the chapter moved to 404 E. Daniel St. in 1920. The chapter had fulfilled its total subscriptions to the stadium fund for the University of Illinois, and also donated $1000.00 for a column at the stadium (each column was erected in memory of a University of Illinois student who died in the Great War). The chapter gave the first fraternity dance at the new Champaign Elks Club and won second place in Homecoming decorations.

On October 31st, 1920, Clarence H. Freark was initiated into Illinois Alpha. He became a leader in the fraternity and served in several offices of the fraternity. After graduation in 1922, he joined the staff at national Headquarters. He then became the first traveling secretary of the national fraternity. His duties included going to each chapter and assisting and advising them on their operations. Brother Freark contributed many articles to the SigEp Journal, entitled "Tale of a Traveling Secretary", describing his visits to the various chapters.

In 1923 the chapter announced the completion of payment on two "desirable" lots in the better fraternity district of the university. They also had "hopes" to have building plans rushed along so they could have a house "worthy of the fraternity". In November 1923, they said they expected to start a new house in the near future as all bids were in and the letting of a contract was expected soon. In February 1924, they further stated that the new contracts to build the house were to be signed.

During this period they also announced that the new football stadium -Memorial Stadium- had been completed. During the winter their chapter had entertained poor children at a Christmas party and just before their school's Christmas vacation. They also announced this would become an annual affair.

In the fall of 1923, Illinois Alpha began a SigEp's Dad's Association. This was the first chapter to start such an organization and it was highly praised by national, which encouraged other chapters to do the same. The association was started to help celebrate the annual Dad's Day events at the university and to help the dads feel they were an important part of the fraternity.

In the fall of 1924, the fraternity had three men who were captains of their athletic teams-baseball, swimming, and cross-country. This was believed to be the first time that one fraternity on the campus had the distinction of three varsity captains serving at the same time.

In November 1924, the chapter announced that work had started on their new house and it was to be designed by a past Grand National President: A. P. Dippold. The local architect was George Ramey. It was to be built in the Georgian style with an estimated cost of $72,000.00. The work on the house continued and in February 1926 the chapter reported the construction was well under way. They anticipated the house would be ready for the next school year.

In the November 1926 Journal, Illinois Alpha announced that they had moved into their new house in the fall semester. The new house was one of the largest and most complete on the campus. The chapter house cost a total of $106,000.00 and had living quarters for forty-five men. The house was of the Georgian design built with red brick and a white stone design. The chapter faces the university armory and Huff Gymnasium is near. All the furniture and fixtures were purchased especially for the new house.

The basement of the house contains a dining room (for 50), boiler rooms, a chapter room, a trunk room, a kitchen, and a serving room. Tables and chairs in the dinning room were in gray and red line border.

The first floor of the house contained a living room, library, sunroom, card room, trophy room, and office. Folding doors were placed between the library, sunroom, and living room so that when the doors were opened it made the entire front of the first floor into large room. To the right of the staircase landing (between first and second floors) was a room designated as the Alumni Room.

The second floor had 10 three men study rooms. Each room also had a built-in wardrobe, three individual wardrobes, or one individual wardrobe and one double wardrobe. This floor also had a shower room, lavatories, and washbasins.

The third floor had five study rooms and two dormitories. Originally the house contained twenty-five double-decked beds. Through time the north dorm became known as the "junior" dorm and the south dorm became known as the "senior" dorm. A member could not move into the senior dorm until a space became available. These spaces were based on the class you were in as well as chapter number. The third floor also had a bathroom and a hospital room. The latter room was shut off from the remainder of the floor by a short corridor and was just outside the north dorm.

Mergers into Illinois Alpha

With a new house, the chapter began to expand. The first house dance was held on October 15, 1927. The terrace on the front of the house was completed and the landscaping was finished. In 1928, the chapter finished sixth in scholastics on campus and finished fourth on the overall intramural standings.

In 1930 the chapter won five intramural cups and had the president of the sophomore class (R.G. Redell) of the university. They also continued to be high in scholastics on campus. One of their members, George Fencl, was nominated for the SigEp Hall of Fame. Brother Fencl had lettered in baseball, basketball, and soccer and was a member of the Tribe of Illini and Sachem, the latter being the junior men's honorary.

In the spring of 1931, Uncle Billy Phillips, one of the founders, and Dr. Earl V. Rugg, one of the charter members of Illinois Alpha, visited the chapter. In 1932, the chapter hosted the fourth district conference of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

It was noted in November 1931 Indian that the active chapter had started a "House Note Plan". Each initiate signed a $100.00 note to be paid at $2.50 per month during the school year and for twelve months after graduation. These funds were to be used for permanent financing, additions, and/or improvements to the house- no current expenses were to be covered. No indication of how long this plan remained in effect or what success it had can be found. However, several improvements were made in 1936 and 1937.

In early 1932, it was also announced that Illinois Alpha absorbed Kappa Theta Sigma, a local fraternity into its membership. No special ceremony marked the occasion but all of that fraternity's members -9 actives and 3 pledges- were simultaneously pledged into Sigma Phi Epsilon. These men moved into Illinois Alpha chapter house after a two-week period when the regular pledge admission examinations were given and passed, they were all initiated into the fraternity. No prior alumni of Kappa Theta Sigma were initiated at that time. The chapter expected that the initiation of these alumni would take place in the future.

The University of Illinois chapter of Kappa Theta Sigma was a mother chapter of a national fraternity. A second chapter was in existence at Depaul University in Chicago. No information is available as to the disposition of the second chapter. The national officers who came to visit enthusiastically praised the merger on the University of Illinois campus. The Illinois Alpha chapter had handled the merger in an exemplary manner.

The chapter continued to grow and prosper during the 1930's. In the mid 1930's the chapter had many varsity athletes of the University. Among the more famous of these were Harry Combes and James Vopika. Both were on the University's basketball team which had very successful seasons. Later, theses men became outstanding coaches- Harry Combes at Champaign H.S. and the University of Illinois; and Jim Vopika at Morton High School in Cicero, Illinois.

Another outstanding high school coach came out of this group. Dolph Stanely, from Marion Illinois accumulated over 900 victories in his career including the state championship at Taylorville, Illinois with an undefeated record (45-0) and with record of taking five different schools to the state finals.

In 1936, the chapter reconditioned the pool table, rejuvenated the dorms, and purchased new rugs for the hallways. In 1937, all new furniture and rugs were purchased and new mattresses and blinds were put in the dorms.

In 1938 a large merger with another fraternity took place. For chapters of the Theta Upsilon Omega were merged into Sigma Phi Epsilon at the University of Illinois, University of California (Buckley), Alabama Tech and George Washington University in the spring. Illinois Alpha inducted fifteen undergrads and forty-three from the TUO fraternity.

The TUO fraternity was founded in Lewisberg, Pennsylvania in February 1924. A conference was held at that time for several local fraternities that who had a common desire to form a new national fraternity. The locals were formed from the following colleges and universities: University of Illinois (Zeus Fraternity); Worchester Polytechnic Institute; Stevens Institute of technology; Temple University; Bucknell University; George Washington University; University of New Hampshire; Penn State College; Davidson College; University of Chattanooga; Nebraska Weslyan; and Iowa State College. The chapter at the University of Illinois was one of the ten charter chapters of TUO and was designated the Delta Alpha Chapter.

The TUO chapter at the University of Illinois prior to its merger had the following locations: 1926, 112 E. Green St.; 1926 1106 W. Oregon; 1928 109 E. John St.; 1929 1010 S. Third St. The latter address is the new chapter house that the fraternity built. The house was constructed of variegated Indiana limestone with a slate roof. Its main entrance was on Third Street with an entrance from the terrace that faced Armory Avenue. The house now believed to be occupied by Phi Mu Sorority.

The War Years and After

Illinois Alpha continued to grow after the mergers. The university had increased enrollments and the fraternity grew. Then, on December 7th, 1941, war descended on America. Drafts and enlistments started to deplete the number of men in college and the fraternities suffered also. Although the fraternity continued to operate, its membership dwindled. In the fall of 1941, the chapter had twenty pledges and one third of the starting football team was SigEps. The house was redecorated with new desks, chairs, rugs, and curtains. On the walls were two hundred paddles that were collected from all fifty-two fraternities on campus.

There were very few reports on or from the chapter during the war years. Elmer Engle played football at Illinois as an end and was selected to the All SigEp Football Team. He won three varsity letters during his years at Illinois and was the MVP of the team. James "Red" McCarthy was also a varsity football player and helped the chapter win four intramural firsts in 1943. The SigEp Indian won second place in competition with all SigEp chapter publications that year too.

The lists of members of Illinois Alpha in service were published regularly in the SigEp Journal. The first such listing was in November 1941 and these continued to be published until February 1946. The records indicate that our chapter had 154 members in military service during World War II.

The February 1944 Journal reported that Illinois Alpha was without a house. During the war, the university took over much of the campus housing for various war effort participants. (The chapter house closed in 1943-not enough people.) The army and co-eds used the house from 1943 to 1945. Various tales passed down from that time; some say that house was also occupied by nurses. The records indicate at this time there were ten actives on campus and no pledges. Regular meetings of the chapter were held at the Illini Union or at the homes of various professors who were SigEps.

In May 1945, the Journal reported that Illinois Alpha was "functioning soundly". There were two actives and one pledge at that time. Plans were made for reactivation of the chapter. The alumni decided to reopen the house in June. On June 10, 1945 the SigEps moved back to the house. Much of the furniture had been ruined by occupants during the war and had to be replaced.

William Hindman from the national office came to campus in the fall of 1945 to help with rushing. During this time they had ten pledges and knew they had six men returning from service. A "house warming" dance was held in December to celebrate the opening of the chapter house. For the dance, the house was decorated as a nightclub. This dance was said to be "great success" and announced to the campus that SigEps were back. At homecoming that Fall, there were a large turnout of alumni and almost every class since 1919 was represented. During the summer, Herbie Smith was initiated as the first person after the war to become a SigEp.

By the fall of 1946 Illinois Alpha "has not only got some flesh on the skeleton, but is now hulking, lively, and over grown" in the words of the chapter secretary. There were seventy men living in the house and eight living outside the house. Two of the three game rooms on the first floor were made into study rooms. The poolroom was the only game room remaining. To accommodate the members one man was added to each room on the second and third floors. The chapter also bought new desks, study lamps, chairs and beds. The chapter also had four football players on the varsity team.

At this time, the chapter started the annual casino dance. It would become the best dance of the year for the SigEps. The interior of the first floor was completely decorated to have a casino in one room, a large dance floor in another, and a lounge with the skyline of New York City in another. The entrance to the house was under a large canopy that was lighted to show "SigEp" casino. In the spring of 1947, the chapter started the annual spring formal dance that was held in the house. (As a side note, at this time, the University did not allow alcohol in the house, and women were not allowed in the house unless chaperones were present.) The fraternity also reinstated the Star and Scroll honorary. The chapter started the honorary in 1938 to honor outstanding freshman in the fraternity system. The award was suspended during the war but was established again in the fall of 1947.

In the fall of 1947 the chapter had fifty men return. Alum Harry Combes (class of '37), who had been coaching at Champaign High School (now Champaign Central), was named head basketball coach at the University of Illinois. He would continue to coach at the university for almost twenty years and took the Illini to the final four in 1949,1951,and 1952. In 1949 he was selected as Coach of the Year.

During the late 40's and early 50's the SigEps became Illinois sports legends. Don Sunderlege ('51) was an outstanding basketball player and was in the final four teams of 1949 and 1951 and was named to many all-star teams. Don Laz ('50) was a standout in track and field at the university. He became only the second man in the world to Pole-vault over fifteen feet and won numerous competitions in the Big Ten and at national meets.

The Fifties

Illinois Alpha continued to grow and prosper as the University grew. Large numbers of people were now going to college. The chapter house was full- 55 to 60 men in residence at all times. Many members had to reside on campus since there was no room in the chapter house. The chapter continued to be active in intramurals, university activities, Block-I, and Community fundraising. SigEps participated in spring carnival, which was held at the Armory and was annual fund raising event for various campus charities. (In 1949 the chapter and its sorority co-host raised $19-20,000.00 for the Community Chest- a fore runner of the United Fund.)

Robert Dunn ('50) became the district Governor of District X which included Illinois and Indiana chapters. Bob served in this capacity for many years. Mark Hindsley (' ) was the director of bands at the University and served in that capacity until retirement. Duane Braniagan (' ) was Dean of the Music school at the university and Coleman Griffith (' ) was provost of the university at this time. The chapter continued its growth into the mid 1950's. It remained active in campus activities, in intramurals, and in community work. One of the newer activities was for the chapter to go caroling at Christmas time at home for the elderly and at hospitals.

Richard K. Rodgers ('52) was the first band member at the University to be named Drum Major (1948). He continued in that role and was the drum major when the band preformed at the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1, 1952. Dick later worked for a short time in the University's alumni office. During these years several Marching Illini were SigEps.

During the 1950's the university sponsored many dances and balls that were campus wide affairs. The leading bandleaders such as Woody Herman, Jan Garber, and Tommy Dorsey came to campus. The SigEps had a tradition of inviting the bands to the chapter for dinner. Woody Herman was a SigEp alum and visited the chapter each time he had his band on campus.

In 1954, Illinois Alpha had the largest roster of members in the national fraternity. We had initiated 842 members at that time. The Queen of Hearts Spring Formal was also started in the 1950s. This affair was held at the chapter house and the first floor was completely decorated for the occasion.

In 1955 and 1956, Lyman (Al) Goss was on the varsity cheerleading team for the University. Also, several members were very active in Block-I and the cheering sections for sports activities and other Intramural activities. (The University of Illinois had around 21,000 students at this time.)

During these years, the national fraternity had traveling secretaries who visited various chapters. In 1957, National sent Bill Tragos to come visit the chapter and give advice on having a successful chapter. Little did anyone know that Bill would become the National President of Sigma Phi Epsilon in 1999.

The Sixties

In the early 1960's, the chapter had two varsity cheerleaders- Martin Grose and Truman Hix. The chapter continued to play a large part in Block-I and other Illini Union Board committees. Community activities included Heart Fund and Campus Charities.

The SigEps also had a combo that played jazz. They appeared at USO shows, sorority exchanges, and at different campus activities. A SigEp quartet was also formed and provided entertainment for exchanges, house parties, and some campus events.

Homecoming decorations were a big competition on campus. The chapter won first place in house decorations for 3 years in a row. Mother's Day weekend also developed into a big event with the chapter having a banquet, a play, a picnic, a skit about the brothers, a movie about fraternity life, and a "night on the town". The SigEps also had a housemother for a few years.

The 1967 pledge class was #1 on campus for scholarship. In that year, 1968, the chapter won the Excelsior Cups from national for chapter improvement, pledge education, and rushing. The chapter used the first rush movie on the Illinois campus. Also, in 1967 Pedro Campo was initiated as an honorary member and he compiled the first history of Illinois Alpha. Pedro was a graduate student who lived in the house and gave valuable guidance to the undergrads.

In 1968 the chapter took first place in the Greek Week Chariot and Princess Contests. These were the contests between competing fraternity and sorority teams. This same year the chapter computerized all the alumni records and addresses for the first time. This year also saw the initiation for the 1,000th member of Illinois Alpha-Doug Powley. Doug later served as president of the fraternity.

The 60's ended with the coal-fed boiler being converted to gas and the chapter remodeling the kitchen and installing additional laundry facilities in the basement. In 1969 Vince Wasilewski ('48) became the Executive Vice President of the National Association for Broadcasters in Washington D.C. and served in that role until his retirement.

The 1970's and 1980's

The 1970's and 80's continued to show the ups and downs of the fraternity. The chapter remained strong in intramurals in football, basketball, hockey, soccer, and volleyball. Homecoming house decorations were won three years in a row-1970, 1971, and 1972. Fundraisers were held to help the Heart Fund and several campus charities. In 1970, there was further remodeling to the first floor of the chapter house with new tile put in the poolroom, entryway, and stairs. New furniture was purchased and a new trophy case was installed in the library.

The mid 70's saw the chapter begin a "Little Sister" program for the first time. In 1973 the chapter hosted a meeting and party for a prospective SigEp colony at Western Illinois University. The chapter also began to hold an open house during the state high school basketball tournament finals for the contending teams. The members assisted in acquainting future Illini with the campus, fraternity life, and other aspects of college.

Due to low manpower and poor scholarship, the national fraternity suspended the charter in 1974. With alumni board and national support, a plan of action was adopted to help the chapter regain their charter. Diligent work in rushing, studying, and campus activities helped the chapter get their charter back in 1976. The "restored" charter was returned to George Papas (' ), president of the chapter on March 31st of that year. At the time of the charter being returned the chapter had shown a great growth in manpower and a climb towards the top in scholarship.

The kitchen was renovated in 1977. The next year Illinois Alpha became the third chapter to reach 75 years of existence. A diamond anniversary banquet was held on December 2, 1978 to celebrate this occasion. Grand President John Hartman spoke at the banquet and congratulated the chapter on their hard work in regaining their charter and in rising to the top of fraternities on campus. The 1980's saw the chapter have great growth and become well known on campus. It was during this time that they became a one hundred man chapter. They continued to win awards for house decorations at Homecoming and to be active in intramurals and campus activities.

On May 20, 1981 disaster struck Illinois Alpha. A fire started on the third floor and destroyed most of the roof, gutted the third floor, and caused major water and heat damage to the other floors and rooms in the house. Thankfully, the house was closed for summer, and only a few members were around. No one sustained any injuries in the fire, but total damages came to approximately $300,000.00; many alumni contributed funds to help replace damaged furniture, rugs, pictures, and other needed repairs.

In the mid 80's, Illinois Alpha continued to achieve many Excelsior Cups from national for academics and manpower. It maintained the one hundred-man chapter level and ranked high in scholarship among fraternities on campus. In 1987, the chapter had the largest pledge class in the history of the chapter- 34 pledges. Peter Kim ('87) was understudy to Chief Illiniwek in 1986 and was awarded the Outstanding Greek award by the University for his many campus activities. The chapter continued strong in helping and serving on campus boards and charities.

In the late 1980's the chapter started a campus wide program called Ebony and Ivory. This was a program to promote better relations and understanding between African American students and other nationalities. This was the first program of its kind across all SigEp chapters. The local new media did many news releases and stories. The university gave full support for the program and helped obtain speakers and other programs to make this a success. Headquarters also spread the word of this program across the fraternity world and awarded honors to the chapter. On January 15th, 1990 the chapter was awarded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Unity Award by the University of Illinois for promoting better race relations on campus and in the community for this program.

The End of a Century and a New Beginning

The 1990's began on a high note. The chapter still was a 100-man chapter, was active in intramurals and campus, and ranked in the higher level of fraternities in scholarship. The national headquarters had started a new concept called the "Balanced Man". This consisted of honoring entering freshmen for excelling in scholastics, sports, and activities during their high school years. In other words, they were honoring those who were "balanced" in several different fields. Illinois Alpha adopted a Balanced Man Scholarship plan in 1992. At one of the earlier banquets, the national president, Bruce Hasenkamp, was the featured speaker. Other notables that spoke at the banquets were deans from the university and other dignitaries in the community. At each banquet, three scholarships were given.

In the mid 90's a decay crept into the chapter. Some internal problems arose as well as problems with drugs and alcohol. Efforts by the national headquarters and a select group of alumni working the chapter failed. On November 15, 1995 the national fraternity suspended the charter of the chapter with directions of how to get the charter back. A plan to regain the charter failed to work and the charter was revoked in January 1996. The chapter house was closed at that time.

The Alumni board was then faced with a large dilemma. The chapter house had a large mortgage on it and utility and tax bills were to be paid. There was no income to pay for these. Then, through the efforts of D. Shawn Dalgleish ('81) and Lloyd Murphy ('79 Bradley) and a few others, the Alumni Board began efforts to find a source of income to prevent losing the house. During early 1996, the house was vandalized several times. Thefts of various items in the house also took place. All composite pictures and paddles from the various years disappeared. To stem the flow of loses and to pay the outstanding bills, the board had to borrow an extra $100,000.00 from the mortgage lender.

Several alumni volunteered their time to clean up the house and do some demolition work in the summer of 1996. Efforts continued to find someone to rent the house for the next school year. Due to the timing (most rentals being done in the late fall), the board could not find a group to rent the house. With the help of a rental agency, the board managed to rent eight rooms. Additional funds were raised from alumni to help save the house from being lost.

In October 1996, Kappa Sigma had a fire in their house, and the alumni board executed an eight-month lease for them to live in the house. This gave the board additional time to work on efforts to keep the beloved 1105 S. Fourth St. residence. The Kappa Sigs did some damage to the house and much of the new furniture was stolen or vandalized. At this juncture, the alumni board lobbied national to help start a recolonization effort.

In the fall of 1997, the national provided some manpower to begin the effort of starting a new chapter. A huge rush effort was put forward to recruit to a new concept- the balanced man. Two resident scholars assisted in this effort: Chad Dingman and Lyle Simonton. From these efforts, sixteen men were recruited to give the chapter a new beginning. The alumni board helped with this effort by sponsoring a Balanced Man Banquet to help get everything started. The chapter was re-established at Illinois on October 5, 1997 on the second floor of Noyes Lab. A few weeks later four more brothers joined and the new foundation of Sigma Phi Epsilon was established.

The first year was very difficult for the chapter. There was no communal living place, and most of the chapter's energy was spent recruiting and figuring out how to create and run a fraternity. This took a tremendous toll on the chapter. When SigEps celebrated their first anniversary in the fall of 1998 only Founders Phil Bernard, Nathan Butcher (the first president), Mark Cochran, Luke Funk, King Roy, Amish Shah, Dan Teefey, Mike Wojcikiewicz, and Brandon Bax (who transferred to the SigEp chapter at Eastern Illinois) remained. They were joined by three of the four original members: Matt Kelso, P.J. Klopfenstein, and Drew Parker.

At first, members used the house at 1105 S. 4th St. for the meetings and ritual work of the chapter. However, the house was not rented and the Alumni Board had little income to pay expenses. The effort to save the house was in dire straits. Talk of selling the house was discussed, and after much debate, a decision was made to sell if all other efforts failed. There was one caveat to this - Tau Kappa Epsilon (TKE) had lost their house years ago and was looking for another facility to house their newly formed chapter.

After much negotiating, a lease with TKE was finally obtained. It was a three-year lease with an option for a fourth and fifth year. The TKE's moved in August 1998 and rented the house until May 2001. The TKEs took good care of the house and even made some improvements.

Despite not having a house, the chapter continued to build a solid game plan for the future. It used university classrooms and members residences for meetings and ritual. The chapter continued its work with the Balanced Man Scholarship and started doing volunteer work and holding social events like Spring 1998 formal, which was regarded as one of the biggest successes of the first year. The chapter made strides in grades as well. The group ranked number one in academics for fraternities on campus. Members made strides beyond the chapter as well. Several brothers participated in activities ranging from the Illini Union Board to Orange Crush. This includes John Hemingway ('02) who served as President of the Inter Fraternity council for 2000-2001.

In the fall of 1998, the chapter obtained the first unofficial SigEp residence at 803 S. Second St. Although not a true fraternity house, nine members got together and signed a lease for the 1999-2000 school year in hopes that it would give the chapter a place to meet and call their own. This house served as a center of fraternity life for the school year. The new chapter continued with the Balanced Man Scholarships in the fall, and this group ranked #1 in academics at the University for the Fall of 1998 and continued to be #1 on campus thru the Fall of 2000. It is believed that this is the first time that Sig Ep was ranked #1 in scholastics at the University of Illinois. The chapter faired even better the next year. The Phi Tau house on East Gregory St. became available for rent in the Fall of 2000. The alumni board reached an agreement with them to rent the house for the 2000-2001 school year. Illinois Alpha now had a house of their own. Even after the City of Champaign condemned the Phi Tau house on move-in day that fall, several of the members moved into the house and helped clean and paint. The chapter meetings and ritual were now held in this house. The door to the house was painted red and William Tragos, the Grand National President, applied the first brush of red paint. Brother Tragos was in Champaign-Urbana to speak at the Balanced Man Scholarship Banquet.

At this time (Spring '01) it is anticipated that a rechartering banquet will be held in 2001; a new beginning for one of SigEp's oldest chapters. New Ideas, New Brothers, New traditions but the old SigEp Ideal of Brotherhood lives on. Illinois Alpha is back!

Respectfully Submitted,
Vance L. Fraley, '56 & '58

The History of Illinois Alpha, 2001-2006

Even after officially becoming Illinois Alpha again on May 19, 2001 and moving back into the house at 1105 S. Fourth St., SigEp at the University of Illinois was not satisfied. The years 2001 and 2002, marked by Presidents Mike Duff, '03 and Brian Huffman, '04 saw a significant focus on recruitment. The chapter was barely known on campus as anyone who was around in the mid-1990's had long since left Champaign. Members knew that recruiting balanced men was the only hope to begin the long process of growth. The chapter joined with Kappa Alpha Theta sorority in its spring philanthropy event, Jog 4 Josh, to raise money to fight lymphoma, and traditions such as the winter break service trip, barndance in the fall, and formal in the spring were started. Most importantly, the chapter won a Buchanan Cup at the 47th Sigma Phi Epsilon Grand Chapter Conclave in Washington, D.C. – no easy feat for a chapter that barely existed at the preceding Conclave.

By 2003, SigEp began to make waves again. The membership role reached 100 and the chapter earned the respect of the large Greek community at Illinois. Most importantly, it celebrated its 100th anniversary in early September. In addition, the chapter earned a second Buchanan Cup at the San Antonio Conclave and its President, Adam Hallihan, '05, journeyed to Greece as a member of the Quest To Greece contingent. The Fall 2003 Sigma class was its largest to date, at 33 members. Momentum grew as the chapter used sound execution of the BMS scholarship banquet, the ideas of sound mind and sound body, and a prime campus location to attract quality recruits that led to quality members.

The payoff of hard work was realized quickly. Membership climbed over 120 and SigEps continued to grow a tradition of excellence. In April of 2004 President Randall J. Payleitner, '05, accepted the award for Chapter of the Year at the Greek Excellence Awards at Foellinger Auditorium. From that moment onward, SigEp reclaimed its place as the top fraternity in the largest Greek community in America. The next Fall, a class of nearly 40 men joined and were immediately absorbed into a culture of success that radiated from the chapter house.

2005 was an eventful year not only for SigEp, but also for the University of Illinois. With the enormous success of the #1 ranked Fighting Illini mens' basketball team came the attraction of the sports media. A contest at ESPN's website won by John Malysiak, '06, brought senior writer Jim Caple to the chapter house for 3 days during the "March Madness" of the NCAA tournament. Though wary of Caple's intentions, the Alumni Board and undergraduate Executive Board decided to use the visit to highlight the success of the chapter. Caple left SigEp thoroughly changed in his outlook on the American College Fraternity. He even wrote in his column that the men of Illinois Alpha were "the absolute salt of the earth," and "the kind of men you would elect to Congress." Soon after, SigEp sent a large group to South Dakota to complete a spring break service trip, and won the Chapter of the Year Award for the second year in a row in April of 2005. The energy from a successful visit from the national media and this honor carried Illinois Alpha into the 49th Grand Chapter Conclave in August of 2005.

In Nashville, Illinois Alpha held a mystique that was apparent each time a member came into contact with other chapters. In the elevators and halls of the Renaissance Hotel, SigEps from around the country congratulated the brothers for the work they had done to turn everything around in less than 10 years. At that Conclave the chapter won its third straight Buchanan Cup, received recognition for excellence in Alumni publications, and was recognized as the largest contingent from any chapter in the nation. In addition, President Jeff Harden, '07, served as Committee Chairman for the Bylaws and Administrative Procedures Committee during the legislative sessions, which, among other resolutions, successfully pushed a bill to raise the national minimum chapter GPA requirement from 2.5 to 2.6, and the national minimum member GPA from 2.2 to 2.5. Both figures set SigEp's standards as the highest among fraternities in the United States.

Back in Champaign, the fall 2005 class reached 40 members and Illinois Alpha grew to 155 members – the largest fraternity on campus. Despite this, the chapter also managed to earn the highest GPA on campus, an astounding 3.41 average, while still finding time to begin a new fall philanthropy, "Strike Out Aids," to benefit YouthAIDS, a national partner of Sigma Phi Epsilon.

As 2006 began, the chapter was led by President Rick Nowak, '07, and continued to set new goals for itself. Over spring break more than 20 SigEps, led by Eric Holmer, '06, traveled to New Orleans to assist in relief efforts in the wake of Hurricane Katrina. In addition, the chapter held its first out-of-town formal, in Oak Brook, IL, and recruited a strong class of 18 men. The Greek Excellence Awards saw numerous individual awards: Shawn Dalgleish, '81, won Outstanding House Director, Dan Wenhold, '09, won Outstanding New Member, Jeff Harden, '07, won Outstanding Chapter President, and Rick Nowak, '07, won Greek Man of the Year. As summer came, the chapter house received the biggest face lift in recent history as a new floor was put into the Great Hall and a large brick grill was added to the front porch. With a beautiful house to back up its stellar reputation, Illinois Alpha was well prepared for the fall semester under the leadership of President Mike Labelle, '08.

As I write this (September 2006) the recruitment process is in full swing and the first chapter priority is to continue to improve both grades and manpower. Of all the successes of the past 10 years, no achievement has been more significant than the creation of a culture of success at Illinois Alpha. Nothing is more important than maintaining this environment. As long as the chapter expects the very best from members, it will flourish.

Respectfully Submitted,
Jeffrey J. Harden, '07

Alumni & Volunteer Corporation

  • About the AVC
  • Officers & Members
Red Door Open

The Illinois Alpha Alumni and Volunteer Corporation (AVC) is an independent, non-profit corporation established to serve and benefit the alumni, volunteers and undergraduates of the Illinois Alpha chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. The AVC serves to:

 

Mentor and advise undergraduates

 

Engage and cultivate alumni and volunteers

 

Manage and grow assets

Learn more about AVC's...

 

Officers

President
Lloyd Murphy ’78 (Bradley), J.D. ’82

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Chapter Counselor & VP Housing
D. Shawn Dalgleish ’81

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Treasurer
Ken Naatz ’74

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Secretary
John Vercellino ’75

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Historian
Vance Fraley ’56, J.D. ’58

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Directors

Residential Learning
Chris Dillion ’03

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Christian Hildebrand ’07
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Dave Mangian ’06, J.D. ’09
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Robert Pierce ’81
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Joe Vance ’06
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Bill Van Der Laan ’02
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Matt Weber ’05
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