Posted on Aug 25, 2003

The modern fraternity system at colleges and universities across the nation is generally recognized as beginning with the founding of Kappa Alpha (1825), Sigma Phi (1827), and Delta Phi (1827) at Union. Also beginning at Union were Psi Upsilon (1833), Chi Psi (1841), and Theta Delta Chi (1847).

Although a few other colleges had older societies-The Flat Hat began at William and Mary in 1750, the Porcellian started at Harvard in 1789-no other college saw the start of so many fraternities. By 1857 Union had ten fraternities.

The number has varied since then, with a high of twenty-three in 1931.

The following Greek organizations are active today:

Alpha Delta Phi fraternity was founded at Hamilton College in 1832, and the Union chapter began in 1859. Begun as a literary society concentrating on moral, social, and academic betterment within the community, Alpha Delta Phi today hosts two to three dinners each term with professors and sponsors an annual literary competition open to the entire campus. In 2002-2003, Alpha Delta Phi had 27 active brothers.

Alpha Epsilon Pi fraternity was founded at New York University in 1913 and began at Union in 1985. Although founded to promote Jewish principles, AEPi is nondiscriminatory, and about half its membership of twenty is non-Jewish. The brothers tutor young students regularly at the Kenney Center, hold a Toy Drive for the Marine Corps Reserves' Toys for Tots program, and raise money for the Big Brothers/Big Sisters program. In 2002, AEPi received the Brown Cup, awarded to the Greek organization that best embodies the spirit of Greek life on campus.

Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity was founded in 1906 at Cornell University by seven men who desired to maintain outstanding scholarship and companionship. Alpha Phi Alpha was established at Union in May of 1983 as the first black fraternity on campus. This spring the fraternity announced the establishment of the Mohammad A. Omar '94 Memorial Community Service Internship-a $2,500 stipend to be awarded to a student who volunteers at a nonprofit community organization (see separate story).

Chi Psi fraternity, which had 47 members this year, says its mission is to create and maintain an enduring society that stimulates intellectual, ethical, and social growth while encouraging leadership, respect, and responsibility to the college and the community. The organization participates in many philanthropic events such as Big Brothers/Big Sisters, Relay for Life, and Prison Basketball. The fraternity lived in the Philip Spencer Lodge from 1908 to 2003, when it is relocating as part of the development of the House System.

Delta Delta Delta sorority was founded in 1888 at Boston College and established at Union in 1981. In the 2002-2003 academic year, “Tri-Delt” had 103 active sisters. They offer financial and volunteer contributions to the research and treatment of children with cancer and also participate in the National Easting Disorder Awareness Week.

Gamma Phi Beta sorority was founded in November of 1874 at Syracuse University and started at Union in 1986 as the College's fourth sorority. Gamma Phi Beta's objective is to promote the highest type of womanhood through education, social life, and service to country and humanity.

Kappa Sigma fraternity was founded in 1869 at the University of Virginia and at Union in March of 1929. Kappa Sigma's 23 members are dedicated to performing community service and have raised money for numerous charities, volunteered at UCare day care center, and built houses for the Hill and Vale Affordable Housing project.

Phi Delta Theta fraternity, founded at Miami of Ohio in 1848, began at Union in 1883. Since that time, more than 1,000 brothers have maintained a promise of friendship, sound learning, and moral rectitude. In the 2002-2003 academic year there were 23 active members, who participated in such community service events as Special Olympics Bowling and Skiing, Youth Olympics, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, volunteering at a food pantry, and walking in the Relay for Life.

Phi Iota Alpha fraternity was founded at RPI in 1931 and established at Union in 1991 as the only Spanish- speaking fraternity on campus. The fraternity provides service to the college community through social and cultural programs based on a philosophy of Pan-Americanism. The challenge of providing these services drives their primary organizational goal of professionally developing its network of undergraduate, graduate, and professional men (also known as “La Familia”). Phi Iota Alpha had three active members this year.

Psi Upsilon began with a meeting in (old) West College on Nov. 24, 1833. Psi Upsilon is the first fraternity to build a house on campus, and now will relocate as part of the House System. In a self study this year, the fraternity said it believes the transition “will only help us to become stronger as we strive to develop a new Psi Upsilon founded on our ever-enduring ideals and principles.” As part of the move, the fraternity is donating the volumes in its library to Schaffer Library.

Sigma Chi fraternity, founded in 1855 at Miami of Ohio, began at Union in 1923. In the 2002-2003 academic year, there were 53 active brothers who strived to cultivate an appreciation of and commitment to the ideas of friendship, justice, and learning. A few of Sigma Chi's main activities include a Yates Elementary School tutoring program, a school-wide blood drive, and Youth Olympics. The brothers are required to take on at least 15 hours of individual community service per term.

Sigma Delta Tau sorority was founded at Cornell University in March of 1917 as a predominantly Jewish national sorority. The organization began at Union in 1977 as the College's first sorority. There are 90 members whose mission is to enrich the college experiences of women of similar ideas, build everlasting friendships, and foster personal growth. The sorority holds several philanthropic events each year, with all proceeds going to Prevention Child Abuse America. The group raised $500 in April for Jewish Women International.

Sigma Iota Alpha sorority was founded in 1990 at Union. The sorority is based on Latino culture, and in 2002-2003 there were four active members.

Sigma Phi fraternity had 37 members in 2002-2003, and the organization encourages leadership and friendship. Founded in 1827, it is the oldest surviving fraternity in the country. In recent years the Union chapter has participated in Big Brothers/Big Sisters, sponsored an annual golf tournament to benefit cancer research, and hosted a dinner/
fundraiser for the Family and Child Services of Schenectady.

Theta Delta Chi, founded in 1847 at the College, has offered young men the opportunity to enjoy lifelong friendships and develop important academic, business, and social skills that will prepare them for a lifetime of learning and success.

The above information was compiled from Union College archives, the
Union College Encyclopedia, and information provided by the individual fraternities and sororities.

A tribute to Mohammad Omar '94
The family of Mohammad Omar ’94 joined the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha at the fraternity’s twentieth anniversary
celebration, which announced the Mohammad Omar Community Service Internship. From the left are Victor Owusu ’96, Zohra Yousufzai, (niece), M

In the early 1980s, as war waged around them in their native Afghanistan, the family of Mohammad Omar fled to America.

They arrived in New York City, where Mohammad eventually graduated eleventh in his high school class of 337 in 1989. From there, he came to Union to study mechanical engineering. On Aug. 8, 1993, he drowned in a canoeing accident on the Sacandaga River while doing summer research aimed at improving the performance of electric vehicle batteries. He was awarded his bachelor's degree posthumously.

Mohammad was a member of the Pi Pi chapter at Union of Alpha Phi Alpha fraternity, the first intercollegiate Greek-letter fraternity established for African-American students. This spring the brothers of the Union chapter recognized Mohammad's dedication to community service by establishing the Mohammad A. Omar '94 Memorial Community Service
Internship. The internship, which will be open to all students, will award $2,500 annually to outstanding undergraduates who volunteer for nonprofit community organizations.

Announcing the internship, the fraternity said, “Before his passing, Mohammad's life could best be described as a dedication to community service, and he instilled that ethic of responsibility in all those he touched. As a remembrance of his life's work, the brothers of Alpha Phi Alpha have dedicated this internship award in his memory so that his vision of service may live in perpetuity.”

The internship was announced at the fraternity's twentieth anniversary celebration in May in Old Chapel, which was attended by members of the Omar family. Victor Owusu '96 reported that gifts and pledges to the internship total more than $55,000. Also attending the event were twenty-eight of the forty-three members of the fraternity and their families, including the eight alumni who founded the Union chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha in 1983-Gregory Bowler '85, Winston Britton '85, Philip Gist '88, Martin Glaze '86, John Johnson '85, Jim Mann '86, Larry Romaine '85, and Reinhard Walker '86.