Sigma Phi History – The first social fraternity in the country, Kappa Alpha, was founded at Union College in 1825. Sigma Phi, Union’s second fraternity was founded on March 4, 1827 when four undergraduates recognized their need for a companionship more intimate than the one comprising the college’s student body.
Of the four founders, Thomas F. and John T. Bowie (from Upper Marlboro MD.), T.S. Witherspoon (of Greensboro, AL), and Charles T. Cromwell (from Mosquito Cove, NY), three were Southern gentlemen. At the time, John Quincy Adams was the nation’s President. Shortly thereafter, these founders widened their circle and admitted a select group of their fellow students who had similar qualities of good mind, lofty character, and cordial manners. They determined to make themselves not a short-lived group of happy young men, but a Society dedicated to friendship. A friendship that would last not only through college, but through life. Ten thousand men have followed the four founders.
The Society’s attitude toward expansion has always been selective and conservative, although Sigma Phi was the very first fraternity to expand to a second chapter at another school. That first expansion, making us effectively the first “National” fraternity, took place in nearby Hamilton College in 1831. Since then, new chapters have been founded at Hobart, Vermont, Michigan, Cornell, Wisconsin, California and Virginia. Many of our chapters’ houses are architectural classics; two have been recognized as national historic landmarks and each is rich with its own local history.