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.
"The History of Sigma Chi," by
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.