History of Fraternities


The first Greek letter organization was Phi Beta Kappa, which was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, VA, the second oldest institution of higher learning in America.

Phi Beta Kappa had all the characteristics of today's fraternities: a motto, a ritual, a badge, principals of high idealism, a bond of friendship and camaraderie, and an urge to share the organization's values through expansion to other campuses.

The society was formed for social as well as literary purposes but it's members also discussed highly charged and controversial subjects such as taxation and freedom. In this period of revolution, these debates could only be held secretly.

In 1779, the parent chapter authorized the establishment of chapters at Yale and Harvard, and in 1781, as the British and American armies battled along the Virginia peninsula it ceased it's own operations.

Owing to the prejudice against secret societies aroused by the anti-Masonic sentiment, which began in 1826 when a Freemason, William Morgan, disappeared after threatening to expose the secrets of the Masonic Fraternity. Later Phi Beta Kappa became the most prestigious honor society in North America.

Other new fraternity's were inspired after phi beta kappa like Kappa Alpha Society. The new fraternity purpose was social more than literary. Although the faculty opposed the new society, students embraced the new fraternity and founded two more Greek organizations: Sigma Phi and Delta Phi in November 1827. Together these three fraternities formed the "Union Triad" and were the basis for the expansion of the American college fraternity.

Sigma Phi was the first of the union Triad to establish a branch organization at Hamilton College in 1831. One year later Alpha Delta Phi was founded by the students at Hamilton to rival the Sigma Phi's. In November 1833, Psi Upsilon was formed at Union, and that same year Kappa Alpha established a chapter at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, being followed one year later on that campus by Sigma Phi.

The importance of the triad comes from the expansion of these three fraternities throughout the West and South, making them the first truly national Greek organizations.

The Civil War interrupted most fraternity operations, and as Americans chose sides in the United States' most devastating war, fraternity brothers often found themselves pitted against each other. Fraternity bonds however, often accounted for many prisoners being exchanged or given better treatment.

After the war, northern fraternities were reluctant to expand to the South, so many southern Greek societies were founded during this period. Alpha Tau Omega, was founded at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, VA in 1865, as were Kappa Sigma in 1869 and Sigma Nu in 1869. Across town at Washington and Lee University, Kappa Alpha Order was founded in 1865. Other significant foundings are Delta Chi 1890, Tau Kappa Epsilon 1899, Sigma Phi Epsilon 1901 and Lambda Chi Alpha in 1909.

Although the majority of Greek-letter societies were founded between 1865 and 1900, more chapters were charted in the 1900's than in the preceding century and a quarter. The American college fraternity rapidly spread to campuses across the U.S. and Canada.

Many obstacles appeared on the fraternities' road to progress, including two world wars, the Great Depression, and the sociopolitical upheaval in the 1960's, but fraternities have seen steady growth. Now, fraternity membership now numbers nearly five million.

Despite the growth of fraternities charges of hazing, alcohol abuse and anti-intellectualism threatened the institution of fraternities but, they have overcome such obstacles through accountability, connecting with the community and humanitarian campaigns.

In 1909, the men's groups formed the Inter-fraternity Council (IFC) and also held several previous meetings to discuss inter-fraternity rivalry versus cooperation.

Today, the North-American Inter-fraternity Conference (NIC) sponsors a variety of fraternity programming aimed at educating Greek undergraduates on topics such as alcohol awareness, inter-fraternity recruitment, membership education, and other important issues.

Source: http://www.sjsu.edu/getinvolved/frso/history/usfslhistory/

Sigma Alpha Mu (SAM) was founded in 1909 at the City College of New York as a fraternity of Jewish men. Currently they are no longer just integrating men of the Jewish faith. They welcome all men of good character. In this fraternity, SAM members will have an opportunity to not only build a brotherhood of friends, but help build the students into a stronger individual through community service, philanthropy, and leadership skills that will help through all your stages of life. Fraternities

Alpha Gamma Delta they work together to ensure that their living quarters feels like home. Each member contributes to the residence and the opportunity to participate in the growth of the chapter and continue sisterhood. Sororities

Omega Psi Phi founded in 1911 by three young black men at Howard University. The name was derived from the initials of the Greek phrase "friendship is essential to the soul." Overtime the fraternity has grown and there are over 700 chapters throughout the world including places like Germany, Bermuda and even Japan. One of the great things about this fraternity is the opportunities that it affords to the brothers who join not only career opportunities but chances to travel the world and meet all types of people who share the same ideals as them. Fraternities

Alpha Chi Omega has developed a great pride and a strong sense of sisterhood. A diverse group of individuals involved in many aspects of college life including academic honor societies, tutoring, drama, and varsity athletics to name a few. It is the bond at Alpha Chi Omega that is strengthened by love, loyalty, and friendship. Sororities