Delta Sigma Phi
FoundedDecember 10, 1899; 124 years ago (1899-12-10)
City College of New York
MottoBetter Men, Better Lives
  Nile Green
  Carnation White
  Desert Gold
  Royal Purple
FlowerWhite Carnation
PublicationThe Carnation
Chapters108 active (including colonies)
233 chartered
Members6,000+ collegiate
150,000+ lifetime
NicknamesDelta Sig, DSP, D Sig, Sig
Headquarters5975 Castle Creek Pkwy Drive N, Suite 465
Indianapolis, Indiana 46250
United States

Delta Sigma Phi (ΔΣΦ), commonly known as Delta Sig, is a fraternity established in 1899 at The City College of New York (CCNY). It was the first fraternity to be founded based on religious and ethnic acceptance. It is also one of three fraternities founded at CCNY (now a part of the City University of New York (CUNY)).

Since its inception, Delta Sigma Phi has chartered chapters at 233 different colleges and universities, with 106 actively operating undergraduate chapters and colonies across the United States as of 2023.[1] The fraternity has more than 6,000 undergraduate members and more than 120,000 living alumni members.[2] More than 150,000 men have been initiated into Delta Sigma Phi since its founding.

Delta Sigma Phi is a charter member of the North American Interfraternity Conference. Its national headquarters are located in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the Fairbanks Mansion, the former home of Vice President Charles Warren Fairbanks.



At the end of the nineteenth century, most fraternities were exclusively Christian or Jewish and barred membership to individuals based on religion. When a group of friends at the City College of New York tried to join a fraternity, they were denied membership because their group was composed of Christians and Jews. In response, they organized the first Delta Sigma Phi chapter on December 10, 1899. The chapter was called Insula due to its location in Manhattan.

In late 1902, with five members from Insula signing incorporation papers, Delta Sigma Phi was incorporated with the purpose of spreading "the principles of friendship and brotherhood among college men, without respect to race or creed." By 1903 the fraternity had established chapters at Columbia University and New York University.

Delta Sigma Phi recognizes Charles A. Tonsor Jr. (Christian) and Meyer Boskey (Jewish) as its two primary founding fathers. Although Boskey was one of the original members at the City College of New York and Tonsor was one of the charter members of the chapter at New York University, it is believed the fraternity first was developed by a group of nearly a dozen men. During the short period when men of Jewish faith were barred from membership, many of the fraternity's founding documents were ruined. Given the circumstances, the national organization adopted both Boskey and Tonsor as the "founders" given their lifelong commitment to the fraternity and their service as visionaries for the development of the fraternity's ritual and national expansion.

Growth and World War I

In the two years after the 1914 Convention, Delta Sigma Phi almost doubled in size with the addition of ten chapters. In 1915, the first West Coast chapter, Hilgard chapter at UC Berkeley was installed. Hilgard Chapter was named after a dean at the university and is the fraternity's only chapter without a Greek letter designation, taking the place of the Xi Chapter.

Also in 1914, the fraternity decided to admit only white men of the Christian faith, thus rejecting the founders' vision. Many Jewish members and other minorities left Delta Sigma Phi or joined others, including Meyer Boskey, who withdrew active participation in the fraternity for an extended period.

As a testament to the geographic shift of the fraternity, the 1916 convention was held in Chicago, Illinois. By this time, Delta Sigma Phi had expanded the number of staff, and a national headquarters was created at the Riebold Building at Dayton, Ohio.

When the United States entered World War I in 1917, Delta Sigma Phi had more than 1,000 initiates and nineteen active chapters. During the war, more than three-quarters of the fraternity's membership served the government in some capacity with half of that number in combat duty overseas. Although colleges and universities remained open during the war, many chapters suspended their operations when most of their members were called to service. Some chapters never recovered from the disruptions of World War I.

Roaring Twenties

Delta Sigma Phi continued to expand during the 1920s, with many local fraternities and other social clubs petitioning for membership. Among these was Phi Nu fraternity at McGill University in Montreal, Canada. When Phi Nu was chartered as the Alpha Omicron chapter, Delta Sigma Phi became an international fraternity.

During this time, Delta Sigma Phi published its first pledge manual, the Gordian Knot. It was based upon a manual previously published by the Epsilon chapter at Penn State. The Gordian Knot is considered to be one of the first pledge manuals to be published on a fraternity-wide basis. Another tradition started at this time was the Sailors' Ball, first held at the Alpha Chi chapter at Stetson University. Today, the Sailors' Ball is an annual event that is a semi-formal counterpart to the Carnation Ball, the fraternity's formal banquet.

Depression and World War II

Two months after the Wall Street Crash of 1929, Delta Sigma Phi's yearly convention was held in Richmond, Virginia. Despite the financial uncertainties of the time, a traveling secretary was added to the fraternity payroll. During the Great Depression, the fraternity's national growth came to a halt; college enrollments declined and those who attended college were less likely to be able to afford fraternity membership. Several chapters became dormant and/or lost their equity in chapter properties. Among these were Alpha and Gamma.

The only chapters chartered during the Great Depression were Beta Kappa at the University of Alabama and Beta Lambda at Wake Forest University. During this time, Executive Director A.W. Defenderfer moved the fraternity headquarters to his insurance offices in Washington, D.C..; Delta Sigma Phi was re-incorporated in Washington, D.C. in 1929. Delta Sigma Phi banned Hell Week in 1938.[3]

Although the fraternity was rebounding by the late 1930s, World War II caused another disruption. Many members joined the war effort, leaving the chapters weak. The fraternity's only Canadian chapter at McGill University became dormant, with many of its members joining to Commonwealth Forces. By 1944, only eleven of the fraternity's 43 chapters were active.

Return to the founders' vision

The Fraternity Seal

After the war, the GI Bill allowed many veterans to attend college. With an influx of new students, many of the dormant chapters were re-activated. Another consequence of the GI Bill was the establishment of many new public universities. With more institutions open to fraternities, Delta Sigma Phi experienced a great period of growth.

In the late 1940s, college administrators across the country began to refuse expansion to fraternities with restrictive rules on membership. In response to the new rules, the fraternity's leadership amended the constitution of the national fraternity to remove all references to race or religion. However, the line "the belief in God is essential to our welfare" in the preamble was untouched and remains so to this day.

In a compromise to several southern chapters, the amendments to the constitution were approved at the 1949 convention while language barring the initiation of non-white and non-Christians was inserted into the fraternity ritual. Since the ritual was a private document and the constitution a public one, this compromise appeased those who resisted the integration of the fraternity while allowing it to expand to new universities.

The 1950s were a turbulent time for fraternities and sororities in general. While most of the national Greek-letter organizations still had rules restricting membership, a few chapters bucked the edicts and initiated Jews and African Americans. Some of those chapters were suspended by their national organizations, while others disaffiliated from their national organizations and withdrew and became local fraternities. In 1957, the California Legislature threatened to pass Assembly Bill 758, prohibiting state universities and colleges from recognizing any student organization that "restricts its membership based on either race, color, religion or national origin." Two years later, the regents of the University of California passed a regulation requiring all fraternities and sororities to sign a certificate stating the organization did not have any discriminatory policies. Failure to comply could mean the loss of recognition.

Delta Sigma Phi faced these issues at its 1959 convention. While the organization was interested in maintaining its California chapters, there was opposition to any plan to integrate the entire fraternity. Several southern chapters passed resolutions against any relaxation of racial and religious restrictions and threatened to withdraw from the fraternity. A compromise again was reached where the current rules were not to be changed but exemptions were granted to chapters in danger of losing their recognition due to fraternity policies. The California chapters immediately were given exemptions.

In 1962, the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education joined the University of California by requiring the integration of its fraternities and sororities. Exemptions were given to the chapters in Pennsylvania. While exemptions originally were granted to chapters in danger of losing recognition with their universities, the Beta Iota chapter at Wittenberg University received a special exemption. When the chapter intended to initiate an African American who was an All-American athlete and an outstanding scholar, the fraternity responded by offering an exemption, likely to avoid bad publicity.

The process of full integration was slow and awkward. As a result of several compromises the fraternity remained intact on a national level. When Civil Rights legislation was enacted, Delta Sigma Phi was once more a universal brotherhood of man, just as the founders intended.

21st century

At its 2005 convention, the fraternity adopted "Vision 2025," a plan to transform Delta Sigma Phi into "America's Leading Fraternity" by the year 2025 with aggressive goals for leadership training, alumni involvement, and new chapter development. Delta Sigma Phi also adopted the American Red Cross as its national philanthropy.

Among the initiatives laid out in Vision 2025, the fraternity provided leadership education to all of its undergraduates, developed "The Summit" to train all presidents and recruitment chairmen with professional recruitment techniques, and opened between eight and twelve chapters annually to reach 200 undergraduate chapters by 2025. Rather than closing struggling chapters with small memberships, the fraternity actively redeveloped them as they would develop a brand-new chapter.

Delta Sigma Phi established a partnership with Phired Up Productions, a fraternity and sorority recruitment consulting company, to coach its New Chapter Development team. During the second decade of the 21st Century, the fraternity began to benefit from this partnership. Twenty-two new chapter developments or redevelopments took place between 2009 and 2013. The organization-wide GPA surpassed the 3.0 mark and 100,000 dollars was made available for academic scholarships through the McKee Scholarship. The fraternity's staff grew more than 50 percent from 2011 to 2014. The fraternity also prohibited hazing.[4]

In 2014, the fraternity announced a partnership with Alpha Phi Alpha and Alpha Omicron Pi to host "Conversations on Race" at institutions where all three organizations have component chapters. The focus of these events is to create an open forum for students to discuss race and the effects of discrimination in their local and fraternity/sorority communities.


The Membership Badge

The Sphinx was the first symbol adopted by the fraternity at the time of its inception. Chosen for its longevity and stability over centuries. Other symbols include a lamp, a lute (depicted as a lyre), a Gordian Knot, and the Egyptian Pyramids. The white carnation was chosen as the fraternity's flower because it contains the fraternity's colors; white and Nile green as well as being a relatively common and sturdy flower that can grow in almost any climate. The publications of the fraternity are often named after its symbols:

The pledge emblem is a white circle with a green equilateral triangle set inside of it. Gold lines radiate from the center of the emblem to the three points of the triangle in addition to outlining the circle and triangle. The pledge emblem is very prevalent in the symbolism of the fraternity; not only is the emblem on the pledge pin, but the emblem also graces the flag, the membership badge and the basic design is also the basis of the fraternity's seal.


The Delta Sigma Phi convention is its longest-running national program. July 2015 marked the 59th Biennial & Convention.

Delta Sigma Phi's flagship leadership program is the Leadership Institute, celebrating its 20th anniversary in the summer of 2013. The Leadership Institute is based on Kouzes & Posner's Five Practices of Exemplary Leadership. Regional Leadership Academies (RLAs) were developed following the adoption of Vision 2025 to provide development and training on the business and day-to-day operations of chapters.

Developed in 2008, the Bruce J. Lowenberg Summit is a three-day retreat before the traditional start of the spring semester for vice presidents of recruitment (VPR) and new member educators. In 2014, the Summit was endowed with a $1 million donation from Bruce Lowenberg (Missouri, 1958).

In 2014, Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity hosted its first service immersion trip to Honduras in partnership with the Association of Fraternal Leadership and Values (AFLV). Fifteen undergraduate students attended along with a few staff members from the fraternity and AFLV to learn about the importance of service and intertwine it with the ritual teachings of the fraternity.


Red Cross

Blood, Sweat & Cash was developed as a national initiative to envelop the fraternity's efforts for the American Red Cross. The fraternity participates in National Preparedness Month each September and National Red Cross Month each March, the latter being the premiere focus for chapters to raise funds and host spring blood drives. Chapters are encouraged to explore opportunities to help the Red Cross and determine which fits best with their institution. This offers students a chance to innovate and differentiate what they do between chapters.

Delta Sigma Phi Foundation

The Delta Sigma Phi Foundation is a charitable and educational not-for-profit organization, separate and independent from Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity. Funds raised through the foundation covered the costs of the Leadership Institute while supporting other programs from the fraternity.


The McKee Scholarship program is made available by the late Hensel McKee, Washington 1930, and his late wife, Jeanette. Scholarships are available to undergraduate members and those alumni members who are pursuing graduate degrees.


Main article: List of Delta Sigma Phi chapters

Notable members

Main article: List of Delta Sigma Phi members

Individual chapter or member misconduct

In 2001, the Kappa chapter at Auburn University had its charter revoked after a Halloween party where members were present in blackface, Ku Klux Klan robes, and simulating a lynching.[5] After being reinstated, their charter was again revoked following numerous incidents involving hazing, vandalism, alcohol and harassment in 2017.[6]

In 2014, the chapter at San Diego State University was shut down due to a string of hazing and alcohol violations, and misconduct, including waving dildos at protestors during an anti-rape rally on campus.[7]

See also


  1. ^ "Undergraduate Chapters – Delta Sigma Phi". Retrieved 2023-06-17.
  2. ^ "Join – Delta Sigma Phi". Retrieved 2023-06-17.
  3. ^ "Delta Sig Timeline :: Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity". Archived from the original on 2013-06-05. Retrieved 2013-08-09.
  4. ^ The Gordian Knot. Delta Sigma Phi Fraternity. 2012. p. 114.
  5. ^ Batiste, Fredrick (8 November 2001). "FRATS GONE WILD!". The Southern Digest. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  6. ^ "Updating Regarding Kappa Chapter at Auburn University – Delta Sigma Phi". 8 January 2018. Retrieved 2022-11-18.
  7. ^ "Delta Sigma Phi shuts down at SDSU after string of misconduct". 16 December 2014.