Sigma Phi Epsilon at Texas A&M University was formed on March 31, 1973 after the local fraternity of Phi Delta Sigma decided to become part of a national fraternal organization. This decision made Sigma Phi Epsilon the first national fraternity on the A&M campus. Phi Delta Sigma was formed in 1965 and had 120 alumni at the time of the initial initiation into the brotherhood of Sigma Phi Epsilon, which occurred on February 17, 1973 at the First Methodist Church of College Station. A banquet was held afterwards at Briarcrest Country Club with the Sigma Phi Epsilon Grand National President, Dr. Eric Weise, in attendance for the day’s activities. The initiation fee was $52.50 with 40 Charter Members being initiated, 11 who were graduates, and 2 who are still very active on the current Alumni Board for the Texas Mu Chapter. In the Spring semester of 1973, the chapter had a roster that consisted of 38 members and dues were $11.50 a month per member.
The onset of a national fraternity did not go over without some controversy at A&M. In an article on January 19, 1973, in The Battalion (the school newspaper), one student expressed that “Aggies have always felt that the entire school is of fraternal nature. If you want to join a social fraternity, go to Dallas, Austin, or Baton Rouge, because Aggies don’t need them.” In response to that article, another editorial was written, saying, “People need to be involved. Not only in the Corps, CSC, .and countless other organizations, but in something new and different. Different in a sense that it is not peculiar to A&M. It is my belief that A&M will be like T.U. socially, in 40 or 50 years. This will be after you and I have been long gone from A&M and maybe this earth. Fraternities are not hideous and evil. They accomplish worthwhile goals and represent a university well.” Sigma Phi Epsilon at Texas A&M has played an integral role in the development of the Greek system and continues to be an organization full of leaders.
Carter Ashton Jenkens, the 18-year-old son of a minister, had been a student at Rutgers University in New Jersey, where he joined Chi Phi Fraternity. When he transferred to Richmond College in the fall of 1900, he sought companions to take the place of the Chi Phi brothers he had left behind. He found five men who had already been drawn into a bond of friendship and urged them to join him in applying for a charter of Chi Phi at Richmond College. The request for a charter was forwarded to Chi Phi only to meet with refusal. Chi Phi felt that Richmond College was too small for the establishment of a Chi Phi chapter.
Wanting to maintain their fellowship, Carter Ashton Jenkens, Benjamin Gaw, William Carter, William Wallace, Thomas Wright, and William Phillips decided to form their own local fraternity.
The six original members found six others also searching for a campus fellowship neither the college campus nor the existing fraternity system could offer. The six new members were Lucian Cox, Richard Owens, Edgar Allen, Robert McFarland, Franklin Kerfoot, and Thomas McCaul.
The 12 met in October, 1901, in Gaw and Wallace’s room on the third floor of Ryland Hall. They discussed the organization of a fraternity they would call “Sigma Phi.” The exact date of this meeting is not known. However, the meeting was probably held before the middle of the month, because the 12 Founders are named as members on November 1, 1901, in the first printed roster of the Fraternity. Jenkens is listed as the first member.
A committee of Jenkens, Gaw, and Phillips was appointed to discuss plans for recognition with the faculty at the college. These men met with a faculty committee, where they were requested to present their case. The faculty committee requested that the new group explain:
- The need for a new fraternity since chapters of five national fraternities were on the campus and the enrollment at Richmond College was less than 300.
- The wisdom of this attempt to organize a new fraternity, with 12 members, seven of whom were seniors.
- The right to name the new fraternity Sigma Phi, the name of an already established national fraternity.
Jenkens, Gaw, and Phillips answered:
“This fraternity will be different, it will be based on the love of God and the principle of peace through brotherhood. The number of members will be increased from the undergraduate classes. We will change the name to Sigma Phi Epsilon.”