Drury celebrates 100 years of the Epsilon Beta chapter of Sigma Nu
Drury’s chapter of Sigma Nu celebrates its 100th anniversary this year in conjunction with Sigma Nu Fraternity’s 150th birthday. The Epsilon Beta chapter has instilled the values of love, honor and truth to its members since its founding on Drury’s campus in 1919.
History of Sigma Nu
After the Civil War, Sigma Nu Fraternity was established at the Virginia Military Institute in Lexington, Va. Three of the Institute’s cadets, James Frank Hopkins, Greenfield Quarles and James McIlvaine Riley, resolved to end the underclassman hazing that had intensified following the end of the war. These men founded a secret brotherhood with a code of ethics that emphasized qualities of moral rectitude. This brotherhood was known as the Legion of Honor, and it officially became Sigma Nu Fraternity on January 1, 1869.
Over 20 years later, on a small liberal arts campus in Southwest Missouri, an organized group of men known as the Obelisk Fraternity were determined to become a chapter of Sigma Nu. From 1894 to 1919, the men of the Obelisk Fraternity worked to become affiliated with the national fraternity. There were already Sigma Nu chapters at the University of Missouri, Missouri S&T and Washington University, and many at the national level questioned whether a chapter at a small, liberal arts school would thrive. Despite the initial reluctance from Sigma Nu, the members of Obelisk refused to give up.
After 25 years of persistence—and several classes of determined undergraduates later—the members of the Obelisk Fraternity were recognized as the Epsilon Beta chapter of Sigma Nu. Forty-nine of the active and alumni members of Obelisk were initiated into Sigma Nu on December 17, 1919. Several of the original members of the Obelisk Fraternity returned to campus for the charter installation to celebrate the fulfillment of what they had started many years before.
Epsilon Beta Chapter
Greek life at Drury fosters academic achievement and connection with community, which challenges students to achieve their highest potentials and provides them with a lifelong support system. Members of Drury Greek life are often campus leaders and change-makers who help shape Drury’s student culture.
Throughout its 100 years on campus, the Epsilon Beta chapter of Sigma Nu has been known for its academic merit and its development of student leaders. In the 1950s, many Sig Nus were members of Drury’s student government and were recognized through campus honors as students with high GPAs. A few decades later, in the 1980s, the Sigma Nus were the first to begin five-course etiquette dinners catered by Drury’s food service. These dinners quickly became an annual staple for each fraternity on campus.
Today, Sigma Nu’s LEAD program teaches the principles of honor and ethical leadership development that inspired the fraternity’s founding. Sigma Nu members are involved in organizations across Drury’s campus and the Springfield community, as well as devoted to their national and local philanthropies.
Brothers of Sigma Nu make lasting connections and gain valuable leadership abilities that stay with them for the rest of their lives, and the experiences of the Epsilon Beta chapter are no exception. Two of Sigma Nu’s national presidents have been Drury graduates. These men were recognized in Sigma Nu’s Hall of Honor for their service to the fraternity: Flavius Freeman in 1970 and Michael Long in 2006. Four members of the Epsilon Beta chapter have achieved places of distinction in Sigma Nu’s Hall of Fame. Those men include Bob Barker in 1998, Johnny Morris in 2004, Larry O’Reilly 2006, and David O’Reilly in 2016.
“The better end of the deal”
“Sigma Nu brought me out of my shell, gave me the confidence and capability to lead, and taught me how to fear nothing,” said Dan Jenkins ‘01.
Jenkins pledged his sophomore year in 1998 and never regretted his decision. After graduation, Jenkins received what he referred to as “a golden ticket.” This ticket wasn’t just to a job at Sigma Nu’s national headquarters. It was to the beginning of countless, unforgettable adventures had while visiting collegiate chapters around the country and sharing the ways in which Sigma Nu has changed his life.
“Most importantly, I had the chance to give back to the organization that had made such a significant impact on my life, and help it have the same impact on the lives of other young men across the country,” said Jenkins.
Like Jenkins and many others, Springfield native Jon Sprenger ’05 began working for Sigma Nu headquarters after graduation. For two years, he was an expansion consultant, who established new chapters of the fraternity. Later, Sprenger worked for Sigma Nu’s educational foundation, raising money for programming and student scholarships. Along the way, he met his wife, who was working for her sorority at the time.
Now, Sprenger serves local chapters in the region as the division commander. From his time as an undergraduate at Drury to his many roles working for Sigma Nu, Sprenger considers the connections he has made through Sigma Nu to be one of the most important aspects of his life.
“I tell people all the time that outside of my family and my faith there’s not a whole lot that means more to me than Sigma Nu and the connections that I’ve made,” said Sprenger.
Sigma Nu shapes characters and creates career opportunities, but the finest thing Sigma Nu has to offer is the chance to form irreplaceable mentorships and friendships that exist beyond Drury’s 90-acre campus. Sprenger said, “We were all just the best of friends. It was one of the closest groups I’ve ever been a part of. That to me is what’s most important: the friendships and the people, the mentors and the connections.”
To Sprenger, Jenkins, and countless active and alumni members, those four years—or more, if one is lucky—spent in Sigma Nu will always be with them.
Jenkins sums it up best: “In total I spent about a decade giving back to Sigma Nu, as both an employee on the national scene and as a volunteer chapter advisor for my home chapter, Epsilon Beta, but I’m still convinced I got the better end of the deal.”
For many, becoming a brother of Sigma Nu is the best deal one can make.
Sigma Nu in the 1919 Sou'wester, Drury's yearbook.
Sigma Nu in the 1929 Sou'wester.