Alpha Sigma Phi

Alpha Sigma Phi Fraternity (ΑΣΦ, commonly abbreviated to Alpha Sig) is a social fraternity with 66 active chapters, colonies, and interest groups. Founded at Yale in 1845, it is the 11th oldest fraternity in the United States.

The fraternity practices many traditions. Their Latin motto is, Causa Latet Vis Est Notissima ("The cause is hidden, the results well-known."). The fraternity's official symbol is the phoenix, as the phoenix rises from the ashes of its old body, signifying the refounding of the fraternity in the early 1900s. Due to active expansion efforts, Alpha Sigma Phi continues to offer services and opportunities to over 2,000 undergraduate students and 40,000 living alumni.



Alpha Sigma Phi was founded at Yale College in 1845 as a secret sophomore society composed of many of the school's authors, poets, athletes, and scholars. Upon rising through the ranks of the school, members shared membership with Alpha Sigma Phi in Skull and Bones, Scroll and Key, and eventually Wolf's Head.

The founders of Alpha Sigma Phi were:

  • Louis Manigault was the son of Charles I. Manigault, a wealthy rice planter from South Carolina who traced his ancestry to a Huguenot refugee who fled from Louis XIV's persecution and came to America in 1691. He served in the American Civil War as assistant to the Confederate Surgeon General. Moreover, he was a prominent plantation and slave owner in South Carolina.
  • Stephen Ormsby Rhea was the son of John Rhea, an important cotton planter of Louisiana who helped open the disputed territory of West Florida and made it a part of the U.S. and state of Louisiana.
  • Horace Spangler Weiser, of York, Pennsylvania, was a descendant of Conrad Weiser, also a refugee from Europe who became famous in the French and Indian War, representing several colonies in treaty negotiations with Native Americans.

Manigault and Rhea met at St. Paul's Preparatory School near Flushing, New York, where both were members of the same literary society and were preparing themselves for admission to Yale. Weiser attended a private school in New Haven, and he met Rhea early in his freshman year, who introduced him to Manigault.

Once at Yale, Manigault and Rhea became members of Yale's Calliopean Literary Society, and Weiser was a member of the Lininian Literary Society. Manigault was very much interested in the class society system at Yale and noted the class fraternities provided experience for their members and prepared them for competition in literary contests. The sophomore class there had only one society, Kappa Sigma Theta, which displayed an attitude of superiority toward non-fraternity men.

Manigault revealed to his friend Rhea a plan for founding another sophomore society. Rhea agreed and enlisted Weiser to become the three founders of Alpha Sigma Phi. Their first official meeting was held in Manigault's room on Chapel Street on December 6, 1845. The constitution and ritual were then written and the fraternity pin was designed. The first pledge class, of 14 members, was initiated on June 24, 1846.

After the birth of Alpha Sigma Phi, an intense rivalry began with Kappa Sigma Theta. The rivalry expressed itself in their publications, Kappa Sigma Theta's "The Yale Banger" and Alpha Sigma Phi's "The Yale Tomahawk." In 1852, the editors of The Tomahawk were expelled after violating faculty orders to cease publication. However, the rivalry between the organizations continued until 1858, when Kappa Sigma Theta was suppressed by the faculty.

Beyond Yale

The first charter was granted to Amherst College as Beta Chapter, but it only lasted about six months, at which time the parent chapter requested that it dissolve and return the constitution. However, a fragmentary document in the Yale library suggests that Beta was chartered in 1850 at Harvard but lived a very short life due to a wave of puritanism. The chapter at Harvard was revived in 1911 as Beta Chapter but only survived about 20 years; the charter was withdrawn due to Harvard's anti-fraternity environment. When Amherst was restored in 1854, it was designated as Delta Chapter. However, when the chapter at Marietta College was chartered in 1860, it too was given the Delta designation, despite the parent chapter being aware of this discrepancy.

When the Civil War broke out across the United States, almost every member of Delta at Marietta enlisted in the Union Army. Three of the brothers gave their lives fighting for the Union cause. Former chapter presidents William B. Whittlesey and George B. Turner fell on the battle fields of Chattanooga and Lookout Mountain. They willed their personal possessions and their swords to the chapter, which treasured those mementos until the chapter closed in the mid 1990s.

During the Civil War, the mother chapter at Yale was torn by internal dissension. Because less attention was being given to the sophomore class societies, some Alpha Sigma Phi members pledged to Delta Kappa Epsilon, a junior class society, and attempted to turn the control of Alpha Sigma Phi over to Delta Kappa Epsilon. However, the attempt was thwarted by members of Alpha Sigma Phi who had pledged to the other two junior class societies. A conflict ensued, and the faculty suppressed Alpha Sigma Phi to end the disorder. However, the traditions of Alpha Sigma Phi were carried on by two new sophomore class societies, Delta Beta Xi and Phi Theta Psi. Louis Manigault sought to renew his loyalty and friendship with his brothers of Alpha Sigma Phi, and agreed with Rhea and Weiser to consider Delta Beta Xi its true descendant. They were unaware at the time that Delta Chapter at Marietta still existed as Alpha Sigma Phi.


The second founders were:

  • Wayne Montgomery Musgrave, an honors graduate of New York University, Yale and Harvard. He provided the organizational spark that fanned Alpha Sigma Phi into national prominence.
  • Edwin Morey Waterbury, born in Geneseo, New York on September 26, 1884, son of Dr. Reuben A. and Frances Waterbury. Dr. Waterbury was an educator, and vice-principal of the New York State Normal School at Geneseo from 1873 to 1895.

With the inactivation of Delta Beta Xi at Yale, Alpha Sigma Phi was kept alive only at Marietta by Delta. At Yale, four friends agreed in a conversation over a card game that an organization was needed that was open to all students, instead of representing only the sophomore or junior classes. The four friends were Robert L. Ervin, Benjamin F. Crenshaw, Arthur S. Ely, and Edwin M. Waterbury.

Other members soon joined the group in their mission, the first of which were Fredrick H. Waldron and Wayne M. Musgrave. Ervin knew some of the alumni brothers of Delta at Marietta and asked them to send the first letter to Delta. On March 27, 1907, Ely, Crenshaw, Musgrave, Waldron, and Waterbury traveled to Marietta and were initiated into Alpha Sigma Phi. Upon returning to New Haven, they initiated the other friends they had recruited into the new Alpha chapter at Yale.

Many of the old Alpha members returned to Yale upon hearing the news of the refounding, and helped acquire the fraternity's first piece of real estate, the "Tomb", a windowless two story building. No non-member was allowed entrance. No member could speak of the interior of the building, and were even expected to remain silent while passing by the exterior of the building.


A new national organization was formed at an Alpha Sigma Phi conference at Marietta in 1907, and within a year there were three new chapters: Zeta at Ohio State, Eta at the University of Illinois, and Theta at the University of Michigan. In 1910 another convention was held with the members of the former chapters at Yale, Amherst and Ohio Wesleyan University, and a delegation from the Yale Delta Beta Xi fraternity. All of these pledged to anew their loyalty to a restored Alpha Sigma Phi.

Alpha Sigma Phi survived World War I fairly easily and even recruited many new members during those years. In the post-war era, Alpha Sigma Phi expanded at the rate of one chapter per year. In 1939, Phi Pi Phi merged with Alpha Sigma Phi, as the Great Depression left that fraternity with only five of its original twenty-one chapters. World War II hit Alpha Sigma Phi hard, with many brothers losing their lives due to the conflict, forcing many chapters to close.

On September 6, 1946, Alpha Kappa Pi merged with Alpha Sigma Phi. Alpha Kappa Pi had never had a national office, but was still a strong fraternity. During the war, they had lost many chapters and realized the need for a more stable national organization. Alpha Sigma Phi expanded again in 1965 by five more chapters when it merged with Alpha Gamma Upsilon.

The 1980s found a younger generation of leaders taking the reins of the fraternity. Keeping in mind one of its oldest traditions, being a fraternity run by undergraduates, the leadership and undergraduates began expanding in new directions. In 2006, Alpha Sigma Phi won the North-American Interfraternity Conference's Laurel Wreath Award for the Ralph F. Burns Leadership Institute for new members.

In addition to the chapters in the United States, over 80 chapters have been chartered at universities and colleges throughout the Philippines.

Symbols and traditions

The Old Gal - Traditionally, Alpha Sigma Phi has been referred to as \"The Old Gal\", an affectionate term so old that its origin is unknown. Alfred Dewey Follett, the first Grand Senior President of the fraternity, addressed the 1918 National Convention with his visualization of \"The Old Gal.\"

Annual Traditions - Most chapters hold an annual \"Sig Bust\", when alumni brothers return to renew fraternal ties and meet the current undergraduate membership. The highlight of the reunion is a traditional dinner. On or near December 6 each year, chapters hold a banquet or other observance of Founder's Day to honor the anniversary of the founding of Alpha Sigma Phi. Alumni brothers and special guests are invited to attend. It is a time of rededication of the fraternity to the pursuit of its goals and objectives.

Chapter Designations - Chapters of Alpha Sigma Phi are given Greek-letter designations, assigned in order of installation into the Fraternity. No chapter of Alpha Sigma Phi is designated Omega, the last letter of the Greek alphabet that traditionally signifies \"the end.\" Deceased brothers are respectfully referred to as having joined Omega Chapter.

The Badge - The Badge of Alpha Sigma Phi is almost exactly the same design as that created by Louis Manigault in 1845. It is the only fraternity badge that is rectangular with right-angle corners. The badge of Alpha Sigma Phi is never to be modified in size or jeweled in any way. Every member of Alpha Sigma Phi wears exactly the same badge. Inscribed on the back of each member's badge is the brother's name, initiation date, chapter name (in Greek letters), and chapter founding date. No Brother ever allows any person not a member of the Fraternity to wear his Badge, except for the wife or fiancee of a brother. It is a tradition that the Badge of the Fraternity is willed at death to the Fraternity and returned to its archives.

The Pledge Pin - The Pledge Pin of Alpha Sigma Phi is an adaptation of the Badge of Alpha Kappa Pi, which consolidated with Alpha Sigma Phi in 1946. It is worn on the left lapel of a suit or sport coat or over the heart on sweaters or shirts. The Pledge Pin is the property of the Chapter and is entrusted to the Pledge in accordance to the instructions given to him. The symbolism of the Pledge Pin is explained in the Pledging Ritual.

The Black Lantern Processional - One of the oldest traditions of the Fraternity, dating to Alpha Chapter at Yale, is the Black Lantern Processional to induct new members. Led by the chapter's Marshal, robed and cowled in white and the members, robed and cowled in black, all marched in single file, approximately ten feet apart. Each carried a black Diogenes lantern with a single candle. The procession was made in strict silence with no word being spoken. The candidates for initiation were placed in the procession annd taken to the chapter room to be initiated. The record for the longest continuous use of the Black Lantern Processional was held by Delta Chapter at Marietta College following their annual Sig Bust. The earliest initiate present leads the procession followed by all members in attendance. As used by Delta Chapter, the procession is enacted in memory of Brothers who have passed into Omega Chapter. Some chapters re-enact the procession in observance of Founder's Day, others at the anniversary of their chartering.

The Delta Beta Xi Key - A special key, a replica of the Delta Beta Xi badge worn by Alpha Chapter at Yale from 1864 to 1875, recognizes outstanding service to the fraternity. It is worn only by brothers who are recipients of the Delta Beta Xi award. The award is given to no more than ten brothers each year by the Grand Council, based on nominations by chapters. The Delta Beta Xi key is suspended by a cardinal-and-stone ribbon, similarly to a military medal.


Alpha Sigma Phi has a collection of traditional songs, many of them written over the years by Alpha Sig brothers. One of the first publications of the fraternity was a songbook. The Songs of Alpha Sigma Phi is available through National Headquarters as both a song book and a cassette tape.

For He's an Alpha Sig

For he's an Alpha Sig,
He's a man you ought to know,
For he's an Alpha Sig,
He's not too fast and not too slow,
He's a gentleman and a scholar
with a heart beneath his vest;
He looks like all the others,
but he's better than the rest!
For he's an Alpha Sig,
He's a man you ought to, a man you want to,
a man you're sure to know!

The Sweetheart Song

Who says sweetheart to you,
who calls you all his own?
Who stands lonesome and blue,
talking of love to the moon up above?
Tell me whose eyes are gazing in yours,
Make all your dreams come true?
Who has the right to kiss you goodnight?
Tell me, whose Alpha Sig Girl are you?

The Loyalty Song

Now everyone knows Alpha Sigma Phi,
That they are the best just cannot be denied;
They have that style, that smile, that friendly way,
No matter where you'll go you'll recognize them,
and you'll say, "Now they're the Greeks I'd like to know
They've got that Alpha Sig fight, zip and go,
And just to see them smile is quite a treat,
Can't be beat, Alpha Sigma Phi!

Other notable songs include A Toast to Alpha Sigma Phi, Wake Freshmen Wake, The Table's Set, and Come Let's Gather.

Notable alumni

Name Chapter and Year Known For
Samuel Wright Bodman Cornell University 1961 United States Secretary of Energy (2005-)
Warren Buffett University of Pennsylvania 1948 CEO of Berkshire Hathaway, one of the richest men in the United States
Ted Cassidy West Virginia Wesleyan 1939 Actor, Lurch on The Addams Family
Ray Eliot University of Illinois 1932 American football coach
Arthur Flemming Ohio Wesleyan University 1927 United States Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare (1958-1961)
Burton Jastram University of California, Berkeley Gold medalist in Rowing at the 1932 Summer Olympics
Billy Johnson Widener University 1971 American football player
Bob Houbregs University of Washington 1953 NBA Hall of Fame Player
William Stone Hubbell U.S. Army Captain, Medal of Honor recipient
Skip Humphrey American University 1962 Minnesota Attorney General (1983-1999)
John Kasich The Ohio State University 1974 Congressman from Ohio (1983-2001)
C. Everett Koop Dartmouth College 1938 Surgeon General of the United States (1982-1989)
Press Maravich Davis and Elkins College 1941 College basketball coach
John Ogden Merrill University of Wisconsin 1914 Partner of architectural firm Skidmore, Owings and Merrill
Jon Mittelhauser University of Illinois 1992 Co-founder of Netscape Communications
Reinhold Niebuhr Yale University 1914 Protestant theologian
Bennie Oosterbaan University of Michigan 1927 American football player and coach
Vincent Price Yale University 1930 Film actor, The Inventor in Edward Scissorhands
Gardner Rea The Ohio State University 1914 Cartoonist for The New Yorker magazine
Robin Reed Oregon State University 1926 Gold medalist in Wrestling at the 1924 Summer Olympics
Stephen Schnetzer University of Massachusetts 1967 Actor, Cass Winthrop on Another World
Willard Scott American University 1946 TV personality, weatherman on The Today Show
Tom Shipley Baldwin-Wallace College Member of 1970s folk rock duo Brewer & Shipley
Ross Swimmer Oklahoma University 1962 Special Trustee for American Indians at the U.S. Bureau of Indian Affairs
Ratan Tata Cornell University 1962 Chairman of the Tata Group, India's wealthiest business group
William H. Ward U.S. Army Captain, Medal of Honor recipient
Tom Watson Stanford University 1971 Pro golfer, three-time Vardon Trophy winner
Frank Wolf Penn State 1960 Congressman from Virginia (1981-)
Andrew Dickson White Yale University 1850 Co-founder and first president of Cornell University

Active chapters, colonies, and interest groups


External links

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