Sigma Phi Epsilon celebrates 50 years at Trine

Submitted by Jim Stump BSCE 1976

Sigma Phi Epsilon at Trine University was chartered as Indiana Theta Chapter on May 4, 1968, with 57 new Initiates.  Fifty years later, we commemorated our anniversary with a long weekend of celebrations, meetings and get-togethers on April 13, 14 and 15. A total of 206 alumni returned to Trine campus, along with wives and guests. Many had not seen each other in almost 50 years, nor had they been on Trine campus since that time.

Planning for this celebration began more than eight months prior to the weekend, with decisions about timing, locations and weekend specifics. Our biggest challenge was to update our database of alumni addresses, contacting those we already had and asking to share their contact information with other alumni. Sig Ep National and Trine University also shared their databases with us and we with them, eventually allowing us to create the broadest-base alumni directory possible. Many meeting sites were contacted and inspected, but eventually we decided to hold all events on the Trine campus, allowing ease of location and cost effectiveness. Midway through the process, we agreed that there would be a three-tiered system of charges to pay for the celebration. Alumni with more than five years since graduation would pay full price, less than five years since graduation would pay less, and Actives would attend at an even more reduced rate. 

A history of our chapter was researched, printed and presented to attendees. Our fraternity at Trine began on December 17, 1927, as Delta Epsilon Chapter of Phi Sigma Chi. On May 8, 1949, this chapter became Lambda Chapter of Alpha Gamma Upsilon, and then of course on May 4, 1968, Indiana Theta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon. The history was researched using help from Sig Ep National searching their archives, and assistance from Trine University library, searching their archives, newspapers and yearbooks, producing many interesting items of information about the fraternity and the various houses it occupied in its 91-year history. Our oldest alumnus appears to be 92-year-old Norm Steury, a business major who graduated as a Phi Sigma Chi in 1945 from what was then named Tri-State College.

Preparations included event and meal planning, helped immensely by staff from the university and other support organizations. Multiple messages and mailings were sent out giving information about weekend events and encouraging alumni to attend. The Chapter House was given a clean spruced-up look for inspection and tours, with fresh paint and cleaning. One alumnus, when he arrived Thursday afternoon, commented that the Sigma Phi Epsilon lettering above the house entrance needed re-painting. At 8:45 that evening, a ladder was obtained and one of the Active Brothers ascended and did the honors.

Once messages started circulating, many alumni took it upon themselves to encourage their Brothers from their era in college to return. Thousands of messages were passed, with 818 total Chapter initiates, resulting in the 206 Alumni returning for the celebration weekend. So many alumni had not been on campus, and it had changed so dramatically, the university offered tours and updates. Tours of the new House were also arranged.

Alumni started arriving early in the week, but officially the weekend started on Friday, April 13, with a meet and greet at the university's MTI Center, a newly constructed and opened venue for basketball and golf. We were privileged to be the first large-scale event held there. As alumni arrived, many hugs, handshakes and introductions were exchanged. The evening proceeded with everyone getting reacquainted and sharing news of their life since graduating. In the background, we had a slideshow presentation of more than 1,000 past photographs that alumni had sent in playing on the TV screens. This rolling presentation provoked many memories and laughs. Many commented that it seemed only yesterday that we had all been together as Active Brothers, and it was so easy to communicate with one another.

Saturday morning began with our Lambda House meeting, our alumni organization holding title to and responsibility for the Chapter House. We had many items on the agenda including a financial update, presentation on re-financing the House mortgage, and changes to our structure and corporation By-Laws. Information was also given on how alumni could contribute to the scholarships and information on a paver program to gather funds to pay off the mortgage. The meeting was lengthy, with much discussion and many questions and comments.

Lunch followed in the campus cafeteria where the bond of Sig Ep strength was much in sight for all students to see.

Saturday evening was the highlight of our celebration with a formal meal in the Trine Athletic and Recreation Center. Once again, we were the largest non-university sponsored event held there, with 346 Alumni, Actives, wives and guests attending. The dinner prayer from the original initiation ceremony 50 years earlier was incorporated into the evening meal grace. Presentations began with an update by Dr. Earl D. Brooks II, Trine University president, who spoke about the campus and university changes, and showed a video prepared by Trine about the campus and university. This was important because so many alumni had not visited campus for years, and the Tri-State/Trine campus has dramatically changed. A proclamation from Sig Ep National was presented commemorating our 50 years of Sigma Phi Epsilon, and our annual awarding of scholarships (doubling last year’s amounts). But most importantly, the “Fraternity Man of the Year for 2018” was awarded to the members of the original 1968 Chartering of our Fraternity, some of whom were in the audience. Tables were set up around the room to display memorabilia of successes and items brought by many alumni, including scrapbooks and historical items. The original “Red Door” was displayed on stage and was a special background for many photographs.

The weekend was closed Sunday morning when we met as a group for brunch at Whitney Commons, the campus cafeteria, for our last meal before we began to part ways as we headed to our respective homes.