History of the fraternity system

The college fraternity  as an institution is precisely as old as our nation. It was in 1776, at the College of William and Mary, that Phi Beta Kappa, the first fraternity, was organized. Today, in the restored beauty of Colonial Williamsburg, you can stand in the Apollo Room of the historic Raleigh Tavern where the Phi Beta Kappa charter was drafted. Although established as a general fraternity, and as such expanded to Yale, Harvard and Dartmouth, Phi Beta Kappa soon became an honorary scholarship society, and has maintained this position for a century and a half.

The next fraternity, Kappa Alpha Society, was founded at Union College in 1825, and is the oldest surviving secret general fraternity. Two years later, Sigma Phi and Delta Phi were founded at Union, and with Kappa Alpha constitute the Union Triad.

Alpha Delta Phi, founded at Hamilton in 1832, placed the first chapter beyond the Alleghenies in 1833 at Miami University in Ohio. Three great national fraternities, now known as the Miami Triad, were founded at Miami beginning in 1839-—Beta Theta Pi, Phi Delta Theta and Sigma Chi.

“I shall never be able to compensate my fraternity for all that it has done for me, no matter what service I may be allowed to give. In it I have found my most intimate friends.  As undergraduate chapter president, I gained broad administrative experience, and from my fraternity I have derived my most cherished ideals of conduct.”

Dr. Herman B. Wells, Sigma  Nu
Former Indiana University President


By 1860 the fraternity system was firmly established.  Twenty-two of the present-day orders had been founded, and had 237 surviving chapters. The Civil War closed many colleges and interrupted the development of fraternities. Following the war, however, men of both South and North, struggling for order in an unprecedented social vacuum, felt the need for fraternal organizations, and their influence spread rapidly.

For many years, particularly prior to 1900, fraternities were vigorously opposed (likely with good reason in some instances) by college faculties and by the public.  They were everywhere confronted with problems of internal administration, of adequate financing and of alumni support. All of these demanded able leadership, which, in most cases, was forthcoming.

“Maturity crowds upon youth of college age.  Among the firsts in college is the adjustment of living in close companionship and harmony with fellow students of varying interests, talents and characteristics. Fraternity life presents this opportunity under leadership, along with the valued experience of financial responsibility of successfully operating a home-like environment.”

George Murray Campbell, Phi Sigma Kappa
Former Vice-President,
Baltimore and Ohio Railroad

why phi sigma kappa?

At Phi Sigma Kappa we live by the “Golden Rule”.  In fact, we claim it as the official motto of Phi Sigma Kappa…

“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you”

The Cardinal Principles of Phi Sigma Kappa


Justice, Harmony, and Brotherly Love are essential to the spirit of fraternity.  We promise to set an example of true brotherhood not only in our relations with each other but in our association with people everywhere


Wisdom comes with learning.  Complementing the mission of higher education, we seek to help our members to combine formal and informal learning experiences; and, by broadening their understanding of human relationships, to produce men of wisdom who will be better prepared to make positive contributions to society and all mankind.


Honor is the basis of fraternal relationships.  We resolve to instill in each member a devotion to those values which will guide him to ends that are noble and right, so that in all that he represents and in all that he does, he shall be known as a man of honor who inspires others by his example and thus wins admiration and respect for himself and for Phi Sigma Kappa.

The Core Values of Phi Sigma Kappa


Phi Sigma Kappa embraces the belief that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.  Our actions, policies, and decisions are based on what is best for the Fraternity rather than what is best for one or a few individuals.  Our contributions to society, our host institutions, our alumni, and our undergraduate members are more important than acting for the benefit of only a few.

For example, Phi Sigma Kappa strives to have all of its members work together as a whole on various projects, from homecomings to philanthropies, from campus cleanups to academic enhancement programs, even if the effort given to such programs may impinge from time to time upon the personal time and/or desires of its individual members.


Phi Sigma Kappa expects its leadership, alumni, and undergraduates to strive to do their best.  Excellence, rather than perfection, is our goal.  Phi Sigma Kappa expects excellence in our colleges, universities, and inter-fraternal peers … but the Fraternity demands excellence from our members.

For example, even though there are minimum academic standards for various membership levels, and even though most institutions require a minimum grade point average for its fraternities and sororities, Phi Sigma Kappa believes that each member should strive to achieve the highest possible academic achievement, regardless of any minimum expectations set by others.


Learning is fundamental to the Fraternity, not for the degrees or accolades, but in the journey towards enlightenment.  Phi Sigma Kappa is an intentional component of the college campus and an adjunct to the learning process.  While much of that learning occurs when our members are undergraduates, we continue to provide learning opportunities for our alumni.

For example, many of our chapters hold career planning sessions where alumni bring their expertise into the chapter for our members and their friends, providing helpful information to those in attendance and giving alumni the chance to learn about the future leaders of their professions in our country.

A Focus on Scholarship

Scholarship should be your child’s number one focus while in college and is a Cardinal Principle of Phi Sigma Kappa. Phi Sigma Kappa requires a minimum 2.5 GPA to obtain membership. Although, each chapter has an elected official responsible for keeping track of members and their scholastic performance during their new member period. Furthermore, Phi Sigma Kappa supports local educational programs, such as tutoring and study sessions, which can assist the entire chapters in excelling scholastically. Many of our chapters also offer member scholarships. Make sure your student understands and appreciates that acquiring a degree is the primary motive for attending college.

Your Son’s Financial Responsibility

Members will have financial responsibilities when it comes to joining Phi Sigma Kappa. There is a one-time new member fee and an initiation fee at the end of their associating semester. Local chapters will have semester-based membership dues as well. The Fraternity does not control these, and requesting this information from the local chapter officers will help clarify your son’s responsibilities. If your son is truly interested in becoming a member of Phi Sigma Kappa or Greek Life in general, you will want to sit down with him and work out a college budget to determine the overall investment.