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Epsilon Phi Chapter History

During the years 1891 and 1892, 12 students at the Cape Normal School, now Southeast Missouri State University, organized a society dedicated to encouraging literary efforts, especially in the form of debate and oratory, among its members. Since it was the custom in those days to name such a society in honor of an outstanding orator, these students selected Thomas Hart Benton, a famous Missourian who had served in the state legislature and the U.S. Congress.These men adopted a motto, "Once a Benton, always a Benton," and chose purple and gold as their colors.

The Benton Society was the oldest men's fraternity on the campus. In 1960 the alumni of the society totaled nearly 2,000. The large number of Cape Girardeau businessmen and civic leaders who were alumni of the group gave much support for the Bentons.

Prominent Missourians who were members of the Benton Society include: former Governor Sam A. Baker, James Fullbright, Rush Limbaugh Sr., former U.S. Representative Orville Zimmerman, former Senator Albert Spradling Jr., and past representative A.C. Magill. There had been many Bentons in important positions in the U.S., including an under secretary in a past Presidential cabinet, a member of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve System in Washington, D.C., a dean of the University of Tennessee, and many outstanding lawyers, educators, scientists, and businessmen. A Benton worked on the development of the atomic bomb.

The alumni had given the undergraduate chapter a great amount of support through the years, making it possible to purchase the Benton House in 1958 at 1030 Broadway, directly infront of the college stadium and field house.

The Benton Society was not content to rest on the merits of its alumni. The society continually promoted leadership among its members, who always held positions of campus leadership and responsibility. At the time of the Installation, the student body president was a member of the group. For the previous several years, the Bentons had held more seats on the student council than any other fraternity. The editor, business manager, sports editor and Greek editor of the college annual were all Bentons. Several members wore the black and crimson letter symbolizing varsity athletics. The society also had held the traveling trophy presented each year to the social organization with the highest scholastic average. The Benton brotherhood was a close, congenial group of college men who had the ability and desire to provide a spirit that could be called fraternal.

The Installation of Epsilon Phi Chapter began at the chapter house on the evening of April 9, 1960. The Initiation ceremonies at the Student Union Building were performed for the 71 charter initiates by the members of Tau Tau Chapter, Washington University, and several members of Delta Tau Chapter at Westminster College. Missouri Governor James T. Blair Jr., Missouri-Columbia '23, the guest speaker at the banquet, commented:

"As one whose recent efforts have been concentrated in public office and politics, I can say that this chapter's history constitutes a strong platform and a good record. Having been associated with the insurance business, I also say that your remarkable achievements and this great moment of today write one of the most stable and reliable policies of insurance for future security and well-being."

Grand Trustee Norman C. Brewer Jr., was chief installing officer, assisted by Grand Consul Doyle; Grand Historian Robert Collett; Missouri Province Grand Praetors Fred Armstrong and Sherman Senne, both Order of Constantine Sigs; Chapter Advisor Jack Chapin, Washington (St. Louis) '23; A.E.S. Murray McComas, who coordinated the installation and initiation events; and Assistant Editor Fred F.Yoder.

Among the many interesting and significant moments of the Installation banquet were: the presentation of the plaque to the chapter to annually recognize its outstanding student, by Robert D. Evans, president of the St. Louis Alumni Chapter; the laugh-provoking toast mastering Carl Weber, Washington (St. Louis) '30; the presentation of the charter by Chief Installing Officer Brewer to Consul Jim Robison; and the greetings of college President Dr. Mark F.Scully, who congratulated the chapter members and urged them never to lose sight of the fact that "to this campus, and to Southeastern Missouri, you are Sigma Chi." Dr. Scully's son John was among the charter initiates of the new chapter.

Taken from "The History of Sigma Chi," by Douglas Carlson


 


 

The Benton Literary Society was named in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a famous Missouri political figure and orator. The Benton Literary Society petitioned to become a chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity in the late 1950s.

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