In the early 20th century, Sigma Phi Epsilon was founded at Richmond College, where a mere 200 students attended. Between a third and a half of this number belonged to one of five fraternities: Kappa Alpha, Phi Kappa Sigma, Phi Gamma Delta, Pi Kappa Alpha, and Kappa Sigma.
Most of the national fraternities, as the history shows, have been established simply because they were needed. Sigma Phi Epsilon was founded because twelve young collegians hungered for a campus fellowship based on Christian ideals that neither the college community nor the fraternity system at the time could offer. It was founded because the leadership which is required for such a project asserted itself in fortunate ways.
From Chi Beta Chi to Sigma Phi Epsilon
In the winter of 1928, there was a feeling on the University of Toledo campus that fraternity life was becoming much too social. This feeling was the basis for a new organization on intellectual aspects of college life. This organization, known as Chi Beta Chi, let character, brotherhood, and culture become their watchwords.
In 1929, this new fraternity was registered with the Secretary of State in Columbus, and entered into college life at UT. The first advisor and founder was Dr. Charles J. Bushnell. He organized the first rush in the fall of 1929 at the Collingwood Presbeterian Church. That semester the Chi Beta’s took 11 pledges.
Chi Beta Chi remained an academic fraternity until 1931, when they rented an eight room house and began a full scale social program. In 1933 they continued to expand by taking 27 pledges. In 1938, the fraternity almost died wihen only seven men returned. These men had an enthusiastic rush program and took 44 new pledges!
In the 1941-42 academic year, Chi Beta Chi member Robert McDermott returned and began work to rebuild Chi Beta Chi. By 1946 there were 10 brothers back and the fraternity began a social program once more. The chapter received a tremendous boost when they bought a house on 335 Winthrop Street for $17,500. Most of the money from this house came from M. Thomas Campbell. Rush began soon after with 26 pledges. The date of the purchase was November 1, 1947.
On September 30, 1950, under the leadership of president Robert Gates, Chi Beta Chi was granted permission by the grand chapter of the Sigma Phi Epsilon fraternity to become a chapter. They became the Ohio Iota chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon, the eighth chapter in Ohio to join the national fraternity. Months earlier Bowling Green State University had become the Ohio Theta chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
In the spring of 1974, the fraternity sought to look for a facility closer to the University Of Toledo campus. The Chapter found 3530 Dorr Street, a former boarding house and brothel. The dedication ceremony was held May 5, 1974. The house was obtained through the efforts of an outstanding Alumni Organization, with the help of a past president, Harry McGovern. With the house came 3.5 acres of land, a six car garage, and an activities barn. The house had ten bedrooms, an attic, an activities room with a loft, and a full chapter meeting room in the basement.
In October 1987 the mortgage on 3530 Door Street was paid off. A mortgage burning ceremony attended by all the past presidents of the chapter was conducted. In 1988 the alumni board sold the three acres behind the house. In the fall of 1990, the chapter was offered the opportunity to reside in the new facilities on campus. With considerable debate, the chapter voted to move to the new facilities.
The new fraternity house (Unit D-1, 3020 Village Loop) was occupied in the fall of 1990. Seven fraternities and seven sororities now live in McComas Village. Moving on campus was a big decision by the chapter. Today numerous renovations have occurred to the chapter house, including renovations to the basement and new carpeting.
Sigma Phi Epsilon has been very successful at the University of Toledo. Over the years membership has fluctuated anywhere from 12 to 120, but the chapter has continued to be very successful and influential in the development of the campus Greek life.
Since 2000, The chapter has been awarded four consecutive Buchanan cups, the highest honor a SigEp chapter can receive from the National Fraternity. The chapter has consistently placed in the top three for UT’s Dean Parks Awards within the last decade. SigEp is a well rounded fraternity, with a huge emphasis on the concept of “The Balanced Man.”
As for tomorrow, we strive to reach new heights, to look forward to the challenges of our society, to meet the requirements of fraternity life and to live up to the standards our founding fathers based our existence as members of both Chi Beta Chi and Sigma Phi Epsilon.