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The Founding of Sigma Zeta

Sigma Zeta was founded at Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois, in the autumn of 1925 through the efforts of three members of the science staff. These three men, who may be justly regarded as the founders of the society, are Elmer E. List, professor of biology and geology; J. Ellis Powell, mathematics; and Ralph K. Carleton, chemistry. All were young men, just out of graduate school and imbued with the ideals of sound scholarship.

Following a series of preliminary conferences between these instructors and the student science majors early in the fall semester of 1925, the formal establishment of the society took place at the home of Professor Powell on Thursday, October 1, 1925. The name of Sigma Zeta was selected at this meeting, and a preliminary draft of a constitution was begun. A ritual for the initiation of new members was developed during the first year.

At that time the Shurtleff group had no objective other than that of providing a local recognition society for Shurtleff science and mathematics students. However, the activities of the group attracted favorable attention from other colleges in the area during the first year of its existence. In the spring of 1926, a meeting was held in Loomis hall on the Shurtleff campus with representatives of Sigma Zeta, and of Eureka and McKendree Colleges. The possibilities of an association of Illinois science clubs was discussed and favorably received. Later in the same meeting, the suggestion of an honor society for science students was made and substituted for the proposal of an association of science clubs. Mr. Carleton was asked to discuss the matter with the Sigma Zeta students and staff. If their reaction was favorable, the project was to be brought under way before the end of the semester. This was done, and the first conclave of Sigma Zeta was held in June of that year in Alton.

The First Conclave

Following the conferences and meetings during the winter and spring of 1925-6, the Shurtleff group formally announced the national charter of Sigma Zeta at the first conclave that was held in Alton, Illinois, in the spring of 1926. The business session was held in Loomis Hall on the Shurtleff campus.  The constitution of the local group normally was amended to conform to the needs of a national organization and the Shurtleff group became the Alpha Chapter.  A slate of national officers was elected under the titles of Grand Master Scientist, Vice Grand Master Scientist, Grand Recorder – Treasurer, and Grand Historian.  The first presiding officer was Lester K. Meyers, a junior at Shurtleff; the other officers, in the order listed above were Margery Fish, Professor List, and Mary Helen Walton.

              After the formal organization of the Society, the first business considered was the petition of a McKendree College group for a charter.  It was voted to grant the petition, and a charter for Beta Chapter was issued under the date of June 9, 1926, over the signatures of Mr. Meyers and Professor List as national officers. Following the business session, the first banquet of the society was held at the Stratford Hotel in Alton.  Dr. H. L. Davis, a Shurtleff alumnus, gave the address of the evening and the announcement of the chartering of Beta Chapter was made at the close of the banquet. 

Early Growth of the Society

The second conclave was also held in Alton, with Alpha Chapter as host, on May 21, 1927.  By this time the society had been incorporated as a non-profit organization under the Illinois Statutes, and was able to inaugurate a policy of limited expansion as a national society.

              Largely through the efforts of Dr. Carleton, petitions were received from groups at the Medical College of Virginia, in Richmond, and from the Northeast Missouri State Teachers College, in Kirksville.  Both the petitions received favorable action and charters were granted to Gamma and Delta Chapter. It was voted at this meeting to hold the national meeting biennially.  Accordingly, no conclave was set for the following year, 1928.  However, an informal meeting which was designated as the third annual conclave, was held at Shurtleff on May 13, 1928, to elect officers for the following year. 

              In 1929, the fourth conclave was held at Kirksville, Missouri, with Delta Chapter entertaining the delegates.  Three petitions were received at this meeting, and charters were granted to Epsilon Chapter at Otterbein College in Westerville, Ohio; to Zeta Chapter at Central State Teachers College in Stevens Point, Wisconsin; and to Eta Chapter at the Southeast Missouri State Teachers College in Cape Girardeau, Missouri.

              The first issue of SIGMA ZETAN was printed under the date of April 1929, with the note that Professors List and Carleton at Shurtleff had edited it.  It was a three fold sheet of newsprint, printed to make a 9×6 inch bulletin.  Assembled in it were reports of chapter activities and alumni notes, as well as an editorial on the place and function of the society as an honor organization.  A statement followed this on the progress made during the years following 1925.  The Sigma Zetan was recognized as the official publication at the 1930 conclave, and the first Grand Editor was elected at that meeting.

              By 1930, after five years of substantial growth, Sigma Zeta had chartered seven chapters.  It had survived the perilous formative years, so critical in all such organizations, and had matured on a substantial basis.  It was prepared for the problems of its growth in size, standards, and policies.

The Pre-War Decade

The decade from 1930 to 1940 was a period of expansion; there were seven chapters at the opening of the period and fifteen at the end.  At the 1932 conclave, Theta Chapter was established in Elizabethtown College in Elizabethtown, Pennsylvania.  A chapter was also granted to a group at the Indiana State Teachers College at Terre Haute, Indiana.  However, this later chapter (Iota) failed to organize and was never formally installed.  Kappa Chapter was chartered in 1935 at Western Illinois State Teachers College in Macomb, Illinois.  During the following year, Lambda Chapter was chartered at the State Teachers College in Mansfield, Pennsylvania.  In 1937, petitions were approved for Mu Chapter at the State Teachers College in Mankato, Minnesota, and for Nu Chapter at Northern Illinois State Teachers College in DeKalb, Illinois.  Xi Chapter was chartered at Ball State Teachers College in Muncie, Indiana, in 1938, and during the following year a charter was granted to Omicron Chapter at Wilson Teachers College in Washington D.C.

The fifth conclave of the society was held on the campus of Otterbein College on April 11 and 12, 1930; here for the first time at a national meeting, chapter sponsors met for a discussion of chapter problems.  The following year the conclave met at Stevens Point, and again faculty sponsors gave much attention to internal affairs of the society.  The 1932 conclave at Cape Girardeau determined a number of important phases of the society’s affairs.  An official jeweler was selected, and a coat-of-arms, designed by Dr. Henry W. Olson of Eta Chapter, was officially approved.  (This design was never much used, and has been lost.)  At this meeting the matter of rituals for initiation was also discussed, and a committee was appointed to draw up an outline of an induction ceremony that would be in keeping with the needs of organization. Another committee at this conclave was charged with the design and wording of a charter for newly installed chapters and of a certificate of membership for individual initiates.  Finally, the decision reached previously to publish the Sigma Zetan semi-annually was realized during this year.

              No conclave was held in 1933; in 1934 the society was again the guest of Otterbein College and Epsilon Chapter.  It was at this meeting that the national constitution was adopted.  After a discussion of the proposed ritual, the committee was asked to reconcile the different views represented and to continue with the development of a ritual. It was during this period, for the first time that a chapter of Sigma Zeta became inactive.  Eta Chapter found that the competition of special departmental clubs and the lack of active and interested faculty sponsors were handicaps which it could not overcome.  However, the chapter was not retired until 1948, after efforts to revive the group had been unsuccessful.

              The conclave of 1935 marked the tenth anniversary of the society and appropriately was held at Shurtleff and McKendree Colleges, whose chapters were the two oldest in the organization. Interest at Elizabethtown College did not continue and the last member of Theta Chapter was initiated in 1939.

              The gradual strengthening of the working structure of the society continued to receive attention of both the national officers and of special committees.  The policy of appointing representative committees to study problems in the interim between conclaves and to recommend action to the national council was inaugurated during this period.  Committees to deal with publicity, with policies of expansion, with alumni relations, and “to formulate a standard procedure of initiation’ were active in these years.  Progress along some of these lines was disappointingly slow at times, since most of the work was carried on by correspondence among the committee members located at different chapters. However, by the time of the sixteenth conclave held at Turkey Run State Park at Marshall, Indiana (1942), substantial progress was reported on each item; the society was listed in Baird’s Manual and suitable newspaper and journal coverage had been secured; the preceding of the conclaves were printed in the Sigma Zetan for the information of chapters and their sponsors; satisfactory alumni relations had been arranged and sanctioned; and even the perennial ritual committee had presented a tentative ritual.

              Perhaps the most significant development was the decision to open the conclave program to students’ papers; this feature has proved an attractive one to student delegates, and quite possible has done as much as any one other activity to encourage and recognize scholarship among the active members of the various chapters.

The War Years and the Post-War Period

Like most college organizations, Sigma Zeta felt keenly the impact of World War II; however, it not only survived, but also actually made consistent progress during the war years.  The officers chosen at the Turkey Run conclave continued in office and managed the affairs of the society, generally under unusual difficulties, and often in addition to heavy teaching loads during the period.

              A most disastrous loss of the society was the death in 1944 of Mr. Thomas Arthur Rogers, who had served one year as national president and ten years as national-recorder-treasurer.  He had relinquished the office to Gilbert W. Faust, who was elected in 1942, with the understanding that he would resume the duties of the office if Mr. Faust left for the Navy.  In this emergency, Dr. A. S. Lyness, the national editor, agreed to assume the duties of the national-recorder-treasurer as well, and he carried the work of both of these offices until 1942.  The services of these men were a large factor in the continued development of the society during the war period.  Other members of the national council at this time were W. H. Eller, president; D. E. Miller, vice-president; S. M. McClure, historian; and J. L. Glathart, past-president.

              The faculty sponsors, if not called into service or into other war work, frequently found themselves with only the skeleton organization of a chapter and little material available for initiation.  Alpha Chapter at Shurtleff was probably the hardest hit of all, since not a single student member or faculty sponsor remained on the campus at the close of war. On the other side of the ledger, the society did make some advances.  It was during this period that Pi Chapter was established at James Millikin University of Decatur, Illinois, and Rho Chapter was chartered at Indiana Central College in Indianapolis, Indiana, in 1943.  In 1944 Sigma Chapter was organized at Our Lady of the Lake College in San Antonio, Texas. The Sigma Zetan, under the editorship of Dr. Lyness was issued regularly and did much to keep the chapters and sponsors in touch with each other during the war years.

The 1946 meeting of the American Association for Advancement of Science provided the opportunity for the first post-war national meeting of Sigma Zeta; President Eller convened the seventeenth conclave on March 20, 1946, in St. Louis. Under the circumstances, the meeting was well attended; twenty-five faculty sponsors represented six of the chapters.  President Eller called it a “good meeting” and expressed the belief that “it would open the way for increased activity and interest” among the chapters. A new slate of national officers was elected to assume office on July 1 of the same year.  The chapter reports showed that almost all groups had been reduced to a minimum of active members and that several chapters had been forced into inactivity during the war years.  All the chapters which reported expressed the determination to reorganize during the coming school year.

              The eighteenth conclave was held on the campus of Otterbein College on April 16, 17, and 18, 1947.  It was the fourth occasion on which Epsilon Chapter served as host to the national meeting of the society. The Founders Cup was presented to the society as a traveling trophy to be awarded annually to the most outstanding chapter during each year.  It was presented by the three former Shurtleff professors who founded the organization in 1925: J. Ellis Powell, E. E. List, and R. K. Carlton.  The conditions of the award were read and adopted.  The initial award was made to the host chapter, Epsilon, for “its consistently good relations with the national office; for its excellent record as host to the national conclaves in 1930, 1934, 1941, and 1947; for the unusual support of its faculty members; and for its high degree of student participation both in chapter affairs and in the conclave.” The long deferred report of the ritual committee, including the ceremonies for the initiation of student members, for the induction of faculty sponsors, and for the installation of new chapters was discussed and adopted.  The ritual thus became a reality. The petition of the East Stroudsburg Teachers College in East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania, was received favorably, and Tau Chapter was chartered.

The 1948 conclave was held at Muncie, Indiana with Xi Chapter of Ball State Teachers College as host.  The return to more nearly normal school conditions was shown by the large attendance and the renewed interest in the work of the society.  Two petitions for charters were submitted to the conclave, one from Anderson College in Anderson, Indiana; and the other from Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois.  Both petitions were granted and Upsilon and Phi Chapters were chartered.  Discussion of the policy of considering petitions from colleges not recognized by a regional accreditation agency took place at this meeting, and resulted in a movement toward a more careful examination of petitioning groups. 

The 1949 conclave was held at Stevens Point, Wisconsin, on April 21, 22, and 23.  As this meeting was the last one before the 25th anniversary conclave, much of the work of the delegates, aside from routine business, was concerned with plans for the 1950 conclave.  To encourage attendance, it was voted to allocate $25.00 to each chapter located at a distance from the meeting place of the 1950 conclave to help defray expenses of a delegation to the anniversary meeting. The practice, initiated the previous year, of asking for student reports of various phases of conclave activities was again enacted.  These reports were published in the Sigma Zetan as part of the record of conclaves. The Founders Cup was awarded to Xi Chapter, and the conclave accepted the invitation of Alpha Chapter to hold the twenty-first national meeting at Shurtleff College in Alton, Illinois. The silver anniversary meeting was one of the largest in attendance.  Alpha Chapter was awarded the Founders Cup in recognition of a quarter-century of leadership in Sigma Zeta.  Professor R. K. Carleton, one of the founders, reviewed the growth of the organization over the twenty-five years.

The Fifties and Sixties

It is interesting to note that a report given at the 1951 meeting in Anderson, Indiana predicted decreased college enrollment for a period of some years, and a consequent period of difficulty for such organizations as Sigma Zeta.  The predicted “emergency” of course, never came.  At this meeting the petition of Chi Chapter at Missouri Valley College, Marshall, Missouri was approved.  Chi Chapter did not survive its first year; it was reactivated in 1967.

              The 1953 convention at DeKalb, Illinois was the best attended to date, with thirteen of the seventeen active chapters represented.  Thirteen chapters were also present in 1954 at Macomb, Illinois.  At this meeting the Sigma Zeta Development Fund was established to receive contributions, the interest from which would be used to “foster and promote the growth and development of the society.”

              The 1956 the convention at Stevens Point, Wisconsin approved the application for a chapter of Psi Chapter at Central Missouri State College in Warrensurg.  At this same meeting Sister Mary Clarence of Sigma Chapter completed ten years as National Editor, and was given special recognition for her years of service. Since the organization had been operating at a deficit for some four years, at this meeting constitutional amendments increased the initiation fee to five dollars and the associate fee to one dollar.

              Shurtleff College became the Alton Residence Center of Southern Illinois University in 1957, and Alpha Chapter passed out of existence.  This chapter had seen thirty-two years of active participation in Sigma Zeta and its departure from the affairs of the Society was regretted by all. 

              At Macomb, Illinois, in 1958 it became necessary to revoke the charter of Omicron Chapter at Wilson Teachers College, Washington, D.C.  The institution had merged with another in 1955 and the chapter was inactive.

              Over the years there had arisen some difference in interpretation of membership qualifications, and in 1959 at the convention in Decatur, Illinois, constitutional amendments clarified the matter.  The status of faculty membership in the organization was also reviewed and the differences in practices of the various chapters reconciled.  At this same meeting a uniform set of standards to be followed by students presenting papers at the conventions was established.

              In 1959 Gilbert W. Faust, who had been National Recorder-Treasurer for seventeen years, relinquished the position.  He did not cease his affiliation with Sigma Zeta, however, for he was subsequently elected National President twice and Past National President twice.  He was succeeded as Recorder-Treasurer by Duane E. Deal, who held the position until 1966, when Kenneth E. Cook was elected to the office.

              At the 1961 meeting in Stevens Point, Wisconsin, The Sigma Zeta Honor Award was established.  This award is granted by the national Council to not more then one member of each chapter per year for outstanding scientific achievement and promise, as well as chapter leadership.

              Omega Chapter at the State Teachers College, Frostburg, Maryland, and Alpha Alpha Chapter at the State University College, Oswego, New York were both chartered in 1961.  Early in 1963 charter ceremonies were held for Alpha Beta Chapter at Campbellsville College, Campbellsville, Kentucky.

              In the spring of 1969, four chapters were installed; Alpha Gamma Chapter at Malone College, Canton, Ohio; Alpha Delta chapter at Sacred Heart College, Wichita, Kansas; Alpha Epsilon Chapter at Marion College, Marion, Indiana; and Alpha Zeta Chapter at Indiana State University, Terre Haute, Indiana.  That fall, Alpha Eta Chapter was installed at Olivet College, Olivet, Michigan. At the 1969 convention, approval was voted to establish associate chapters at two-year schools on a trial basis.

The Seventies

In 1970, installations were Anne Arundel Associate Chapter at Anne Arundel Community College, Arnold, Maryland; Alpha Theta Chapter at Asbury College, Wilmore, Kentucky; Illinois Central Associate Chapter at Illinois Central College, East Peoria, Illinois, Alpha Iota Chapter at Wisconsin State University, LaCrosse, Wisconsin; Alpha Kappa Chapter at Indiana State University, Evansville, Indiana; and Alpha Lambda Chapter at Suffolk University, Boston, Massachusetts.

              The spring of 1971 included installations of Alpha Mu Chapter at Immaculata College, Immaculata, Pennsylvania; Alpha Nu Chapter at Oglethorpe College, Atlanta, Georgia; and Alpha Xi Chapter at Clinch Valley College of the University of Virginia, Wise, Virginia; while Alpha Omicron Chapter was installed at Baptist College at Charleston, Charleston, South Carolina, in the fall. Constitution revision voted at the 1971 convention included abolishment of associate membership and inclusion of graduate membership.  The active membership requirements were changed so that associate chapters would be able to elect active members.

              During 1972, Alpha Pi Chapter was installed at Trevecca Nazarene College, Nashville, Tennessee; Alpha Rho Chapter was installed at Stonehill College, North Easton, Massachusetts; and Alpha Sigma Chapter was installed at Dakota Wesleyan University, Mitchell, South Dakota.

              Alpha Tau Chapter was installed at Annhurst College, Woodstock, Connecticut, in the fall of 1973.

              Alpha Upsilon Chapter at Union University, Jackson, Tennessee and Alpha Phi Chapter at Marist College, Poughkeepsie, New York were installed in 1975.

              Alpha Chi Chapter at Eastern College, St. Davids, Pennsylvania; Alpha Psi Chapter at Hillsdale College, Hillsdale, Michigan, and Alpha Omega Chapter at Saint Mary-of-the-Woods, Indiana were installed in 1976.

              Beta Alpha Chapter at Lyndon State College, Lyndonville, Vermont, was installed in 1977.

              Beta Beta Chapter at George Fox College, Newberg, Oregon, and Beta Gamma Chapter at Columbia College, Columbia, Missouri were both installed in April of 1978.

              Beta Epsilon Chapter was installed at Beaver College, Glenside, Pennsylvania, in March of 1979.

The Eighties and Nineties

During the eighties the following chapters were added to the Society. Beta Zeta Chapter was installed at Cabrini College, Radnor, Pennsylvania, in November of 1981. In 1983, Beta Theta Chapter was installed at Belhaven College in Jackson, Mississippi and Beta Iota Chapter was installed at Bethel College in St. Paul Minnesota. Beta Eta Chapter was installed at Evangel College in Springfield, Missouri in 1985.

              During the nineties, the following chapters have been added to the Society:  Beta Kappa Chapter at Kentucky Wesleyan College, Owensboro, Kentucky, in 1991; Beta Lambda Chapter at Messiah College, Grantham, Pennsylvania in 1993; Beta Mu Chapter at Costal Carolina University, Conway, South Carolina in 1994; Beta Delta Chapter at Gwynedd-Mercy College, Gwynedd Valley, Pennsylvania in 1996. Beta Nu was installed at Houghton College, Houghton, New York in 1997. Beta Xi was installed at Pikeville, College, and Pikeville, Kentucky in 1999.

              Sigma Zeta had reasons to be optimistic while at the same time having cause for concern through the 1980s and 1990s.  There was a substantial decline in the number of members from 1977 to 1988.  This decline was thought to be due to competition from other organizations on campuses and a significant decline in the number of science majors on most college campuses.  Despite this decline in individual memberships, 10 new chapters were added to the national roster and by 1999 there were 50 recognized chapters still in existence.  In one unusual occurrence, Alpha Tau chapter became inactive when its host school, Annhurst College closed at the end of the 1979–1980 academic year.

              Two of the new chapters, Beta Iota (established in 1983 at Bethel College in St. Paul, Minnesota) and Beta Lambda (established in 1993 at Messiah College in Grantham, Pennsylvania) have been active at the national level since their induction.  Both chapters have hosted National Conventions and regularly send students and advisors to the conventions.  Nearly every convention has had presenters from these schools since the formation of their chapters.

              A number of efforts were made at the national level to increase the level of participation at National Conventions and to encourage chapters to become more active nationally.  These included adding a student representative to the list of national officers, allowing the publication of peer-reviewed student papers in the Sigma Zetan, changing duties (and titles) of some national officers, and extensive efforts on the part of national officers to contact inactive chapters and potential sites for new chapters.

              At the 1983 Convention, a pilot project was initiated in which a National Student Representative was elected to infuse fresh “plans, ideas, etc.” into the national organization.  The first student to hold this position was Rick Merrin of Alpha Gamma (Malone College, Canton, Ohio).  He was replaced by Bruce Hoffman of Mu (Mankato State University, Mankato, Minnesota).  This position was discontinued in 1985.

              Attendees at the 1989 Convention agreed to accept up to three refereed student papers for inclusion in the Sigma Zetan.  The first such paper, authored by Stephen D. Ebbs of Beta (McKendree College, Lebanon, Illinois), was published in 1990.  Despite the value of this opportunity for students, only two other papers were published by 1999.

              In 1998 the National Editor position was replaced by the Publicist.  The Publicist’s duties were similar to those of the Editor and also included maintenance of the national web site.  The National Recorder-Treasurer was replaced by the Executive Director whose responsibilities included day-to-day business matters of the organization and communication with local chapters through various reports.  The first Executive Director was Harold Wilkinson (Pi Chapter, Millikin University).

              Sigma Zeta lost a number of people during these two decades who had been active at both local and national levels.  Kenneth Cook (Upsilon, Anderson University) was honored in 1984 for his work as National Recorder-Treasurer, a position he held from 1966 to 1982.  George Welker (Xi, Ball State University) finished his 10-year run as National Editor at the 1985 Convention.  He had served Sigma Zeta in various capacities for 35 years and was given a special Honor Award at the 1985 Convention.  Two national officers announced their retirement from teaching at the 1993 Convention—Ted Platt (Alpha Psi, Hillsdale College) had served 10 years as National Editor and David Dautenhahn (Chi, Missouri Valley College) had been a dedicated Historian for many years.  Lastly, “Mr. Sigma Zeta”, Millard Niver  (Alpha Gamma, Malone College) retired after 16 years of leading the organization as its last National Recorder-Treasurer.

              A number of historically interesting things occurred at the national level during the 1980s and 1990s.  In 1979 the national dues were $6 and by 1999 they had risen to $25.  At the 1981 Convention, President Joe Sheldon (then at Eastern College and later at Messiah College where he started Beta Lambda Chapter) gave a slide presentation on the eruption of Mount St. Helen’s.  One of the student papers presented at the 1985 Convention was by Glenn McQuaide of Alpha Beta (Campbellsville University). He later became a faculty member at Campbellsville and served as a national officer in Sigma Zeta for a number of years.  The historic gavel was lost sometime between the 1985 and 1986 conventions and was not found until just prior to the 1992 meeting.  The 1989 edition of the Sigma Zetan was the first to be generated entirely by computer.  Medallions were available for purchase for the first time at the 1994 Convention.  At both the 1983 and 1993 conventions, attendance was impacted by blizzards.  A national web site was seriously considered for the first time at the 1997 Convention.

              It is obvious that the 1980s and 1990s were decades of change for Sigma Zeta on a national level.  Membership was a concern, though efforts by a number of officers kept the organization healthy and led to the induction of new chapters and active faculty in many locations.  The advent of personal computing and the Internet began to have an impact on interactions between the national office and local chapters beginning in the late 1980s and had become crucial to a number of activities by the end of the 1990s.  And though many long-time advocates and servants of Sigma Zeta retired and were no longer active in the organization, a number of new faculty began to fill their shoes and to lead Sigma Zeta into the new millennium.

The New Century

The new century, which has been a time of remarkable growth for the society, officially began with the 2000 National Convention celebrating the 75th year since the establishment of Sigma Zeta.  A motion was passed to send anniversary mugs and pens to all advisors as a token of appreciation.  Another initiative was the establishment of a mutual fund account in the amount of $10,000 to provide interest income for various national awards. 

              In 2001 Beta Omicron was installed at Madonna University, Livonia, MI.  Efforts began to place all issues of The Sigma Zetan on an expanded and updated Sigma Zeta website published now at  A decision was made to upgrade the honor award pin to a larger form usable as a keychain or necklace pendant.  The Gamma chapter asked the executive council advice on the disposition of $3000 in their bank account because the chapter had been inactive.  Plans were made to try to reactivate the chapter and hold the funds for 5 years.

              At the 2003 Convention, student presentations were videotaped for the first time.  Mileage allotment for travel to the convention was raised from $0.20/mile to $0.30/mile.  Choices of tie tacks were added to the list of jewelry.  The Sigma Zeta fiscal year was changed to July 1 to June 30.  Web forms for submission of abstracts and meeting registration were developed.  All issues of The Sigma Zetan, along with historical archive documents and scrapbooks were published to the website.  Historian Bob Moffitt (Alpha Gamma, Malone University) developed a CD with this same information.  President Jim Reynhout (Beta Iota, Bethel University) made a plea for the organization to infuse new blood, new visions and new and younger faculty to lead the National Organization.  He also presented six steps to help chapters reach a new level of excellence (The Sigma Zetan, vol.69:24).

              Poster presentations were introduced at the 2004 convention and Cary Guffey (Sigma, Our Lady of the Lake University) published his first issue of The Sigma Zetan as National Editor that year.  A new high of 579 new members were initiated.  A set of guidelines for the annual audit was published in The Sigma Zetan (vol. 60, p. 20-21).  A report on reactivating the Gamma chapter was made.  Beta Pi was installed at the University of Arkansas/Monticello, Monticello, AR.  At the 2005 convention, Dr. Millard Niver (Alpha Gamma, Malone University) was presented a $200 award in honor of his many years of service as National Recorder/Treasurer.  Also at the convention, it was moved that copies of the Sigma Zetan be sent to each chapter annually.  The Beta Eta chapter at Evangel University was reactivated that year and the following chapters were installed: Beta Rho Chapter at Castleton State College, Castleton, VT and Alpena Associate Chapter at Alpena Community College, Alpena, MI.

              In 2006, the national officers/advisors meeting was snowed in at Philadelphia and at that meeting, travel reimbursement was increased to $0.40/mile.  An awards committee was formed to judge oral and poster presentations and the first annual $100 awards were presented for best presentations at that convention.  Items of business completed at the 2007 Convention included official recognition of the Web Master as a national officer with office duties to be added to the constitution.  Bob Kistler (Beta Iota, Bethel University) had been serving as the unofficial webmaster since 2000.  A presidential newsletter, Sigma Zeta Connections was initiated by President-Elect Mike Henshaw (Beta, McKendree University).  A recommendation to revise the “Introducing you to Sigma Zeta” pamphlet was made.  Also that year the Beta Sigma Chapter was installed at Baker University, Baldwin City, KS.

              At the 2008 convention, Harold Wilkinson (Pi, Millikin University) was honored with a special thank you as he retired after ten years of service as Sigma Zeta’s first Executive Director.  The Upsilon and Alpha Gamma chapters were new attendees at that convention.  Cary Guffey (Sigma, Our Lady of the Lake University) stepped down as Historian and suggested his position be separated into Publicist and Historian.  Changes to the constitution regarding the Webmaster position and other National officer duties were voted into effect unanimously.  Beta Tau Chapter was installed at Gardner-Webb University, Boiling Springs, NC that year.  In 2009, Beta Upsilon was installed at Marygrove College in Detroit, MI and Beta Pi was installed at College of the Ozarks in Point Lookout, MO.

A National Service Project shared by all Sigma Zeta Chapters was a new annual activity initiated in 2010.  At the 2011 national convention, annual Research Awards were established to support and encourage student research.  Dues were increased from $25 to $35 to provide for grants ranging from $250 to $500 per award.  Student Research Award guidelines were drafted and sent to all chapters, and that fall the first three Research Awards were presented.  Also that year, five new chapters joined the roll of Sigma Zeta: Beta Chi at Martin University, North Canton, OH, Beta Psi at Martin University in Indianapolis, IN, Beta Omega at Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk, VA, Gamma Alpha at Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia, PA and Gamma Beta at Concord University in Athens, WV.  All official documents including the website were changed to include the mission statement of the society: “A national undergraduate honor society to encourage and foster scholarly activity and recognize academic scholarship in the natural and computer sciences and mathematics.”   The society’s rapid growth continued with the addition of five new chapters in 2012: Gamma Gamma at Concordia College in Moorhead, MN, Gamma Delta at The Master’s College, Santa Clarita in CA, Gamma Epsilon at Franklin Pierce University, Rindge, NH, Gamma Zeta at St. Thomas Aquinas College in Sparkill, NY and Gamma Eta at Marian University in Indianapolis, IN; two new chapters in 2013: Gamma Theta at Georgian Court University in Lakewood, NJ and Gamma Iota at Neumann University in Aston, PA: and two new chapters in 2014: Gamma Kappa at Southwest Baptist University in Bolivar, MO and an associate chapter at College of the Canyons in Santa Clarita, CA.

              This decade continued to be one of growth and new innovations.  Five new chapters were welcomed in 2015: Gamma Lambda at Missouri Baptist University, St. Louis, MO, Gamma Mu at Baptist College of Health Sciences, Memphis, TN, Gamma Nu at Chowan University, Murfreesboro, NC, Gamma Xi at King’s College, Wilkes-Barre, PA and Gamma Omicron at Saint Joseph’s University, Philadelphia, PA.  At the 2016 national convention at the Beta chapter in McKendree, IL, two new exciting initiatives were initiated.  The first was the creation and announcement of the first three selections for the Harold Wilkinson Distinguished Alumni Award, named for the first Executive Director of Sigma Zeta.  This award is selected by individual chapters to honor one of their alumni who has achieved noteworthy success.  Also at the 2016 convention a constitutional amendment was passed to add a ninth member to the Executive Council, a Student Representative.  Duties of this exciting new position are detailed in the 2016 edition of the Constitution. Change best describes the latter half of this decade.  In addition to welcoming 6 new chapters: Gamma Pi at Warner University in Lake Wales, FL, Gamma Rho at Miami Dade College InterAmerican Campus in Miami, FL, Gamma Sigma at Colorado Christian University in Lakewood, CO, Gamma Tau at Faulkner University in Montgomery, AL, Gamma Upsilon at Wilmington University in New Castle, DE, and The Olive-Harvey Associate Chapter at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago, IL, major changes have occurred in the National leadership due to the retirements of members of the Executive Council.  In 2017, Cary Guffey (Sigma, Our Lady of the Lake University) retired as National Publicist after 14 years of service and Joseph Whittaker (Gamma Gamma, Concordia University) was elected to the position. In the following year, Bob Kistler (Beta Iota, Bethel University) who pioneered the position of National Webmaster, retired after 18 years of service.  During Bob’s tenure as webmaster there were multiple innovative changes to the website to keep it updated with the ever changing technology.  Not coincidentally, the most rapid growth in Sigma Zeta’s history coincided with Bob’s time of service. Belarmino Gonzalez (Gamma Rho, Miami Dade University) volunteered to take on the extremely important duties of National Webmaster at the 2018 National Convention.  In 2019, James Hall (Sigma, Our Lady of the Lake University) retired as the National Executive Director after 12 years of service.  During his service to Sigma Zeta, 29 new chapters were charted and the funding of Student Research Awards was launched.  Robb Van Putte (Beta, McKendree University) assumed the leadership role of the organization when he was elected as National Executive Director at the 2019 convention.

The Gavel
The Gavel

The official gavel, used at national meetings as well as at the installation of new chapters and other official occasions, is of historical significance since the woods of which it is composed represents the first few chapters of Sigma Zeta.

The gavel is the contribution of F. A. Hanawalt, faculty sponsor of Epsilon Chapter and national president in 1936-7, and in 1952-3.  It was constructed under his supervision from wood contributed by the seven original chapters.  The velvet case was presented to the society by Zeta Chapter.

              A gavel anvil prepared by Alpha Gamma Chapter was presented at the 1977 convention.  Six chapters donated wood to be used in the anvil.

The head of the gavel is composed of seven sections of wood, one from each of the seven first chapters.  In the center of the head is a cylindrical piece of oak, turned from a beam at the home of the Rev. John J. Peck, founder of Shurtleff College.  This house was built in 1821, only a few years before the founding of Shurtleff College, the home of Alpha Chapter.

              There are six segments around the center cylinder, and into one of these the handle of the gavel is set.  This segment is a piece of mahogany from the case of a battery of Leyden jars used in the physics laboratory of Otterbein College soon after its founding in 1847. It represents Epsilon Chapter.

              The light colored wood next to the mahogany was originally a part of a stair rail in the Central State Teachers College building, and represents Zeta Chapter.  Next in order is a spruce segment representing Eta Chapter.  It is from the original flooring of the science hall, one of the oldest buildings on the campus at Cape Girardeau.

              The Beta Chapter at McKendree College is represented by the next segment; it is walnut from the frame of an old piece of laboratory apparatus, believed to have been purchased in 1835.  The wood next to the walnut is a piece of yellow pine from the flooring of the Egyptian Building, the oldest building on the campus of the Medical College of Virginia.  It represents Gamma Chapter.

              Completing the circle around the central cylinder is a piece of a walnut from Delta Chapter at Northeastern Missouri State Teachers College.

              Silver bands around the gavel head serve not only to give it strength but also to afford a suitable place for the identification of the other chapters of the society.  The Greek letters designating the additional chapters are engraved on the bands around the gavel head.

The Founders Cup
Founders Cup

To encourage and recognize chapter scholarship and related activities, as contrasted to individual achievements, Sigma Zeta has established a chapter award in the form of the Founders Cup.  This trophy is the gift of the three founders of the organization at Shurtleff College in 1925: E. E. List, professor of biology and geology from 1923-46; J. Ellis Powell, professor of mathematics, 1924-26; and Ralph K. Carleton, professor of chemistry, 1923-31.

The cup was first presented to the society at the 1947 conclave, through P. D. Edwards, chairman of the Founders Cup Award Committee, representing the donors.

              The award is made annually at the conclave and is held by the recipient chapter for one year; this chapter is not eligible to receive the award for the succeeding year.

              Although the donors left the manner of determining the winner of the award to the society, they approved the following basis for selection of the chapter as suggested by the committee: first, the worth of student papers presented before the conclave; second, chapter achievements on the home campus, as well as the number and scholarly quality of programs presented at chapter meetings.

The initial award of the Founders Cup was made in 1947 to Epsilon Chapter at Otterbein College.  Since then, the Cup has been awarded to Zeta Chapter in 1948, Xi in 1949, Alpha in 1950, Upsilon in 1951, Mu in 1952, Sigma in 1953, Tau in 1954, Pi in 1955, Kappa in 1956, Pi in 1957, Tau in 1958, Xi in 1959, Sigma in 1960, Mu in 1961, Kappa in 1962, Phi in 1963, Sigma in 1964, Rho in 1965, Xi in 1966, Tau in 1967, Upsilon in 1968, Kappa in 1969, Omega in 1970, Xi in 1971, Psi in 1972, Chi and Alpha Xi ( tie ) in 1973, Psi in 1974, Chi and Illinois Central Associate ( tie ) in 1975, Xi and Alpha Gamma ( tie ) in 1976, Alpha Tau in 1977, Chi in 1978, Xi in 1979, Alpha Gamma in 1980, and Mu in 1981, Xi in 1982, Phi in 1983, Alpha Chi in 1984, Alpha Beta in 1985, Alpha Upsilon in 1986, Beta lota in 1987, Beta in 1988, Beta lota in 1989, Alpha Psi in 1990, Alpha Gamma in 1991, Beta lota in 1992, Alpha Beta in 1993, Alpha Psi in 1994, Alpha Beta in 1995, Alpha Gamma in 1996, Beta Lambda in 1997, and Alpha Pi in 1998, Alpha Beta in 1999, Beta in 2001, Alpha Beta in 2002, Rho in 2003, Alpha Beta in 2004, Beta Xi in 2005, Beta in 2006, Rho in 2007, Sigma in 2008, Beta in 2009, Rho in 2010, Pi in 2011,  Beta Iota in 2012, Beta in 2013, Gamma Eta in 2014, Gamma Gamma in 2015, Alpha Gamma in 2016, Gamma Gamma in 2017, Gamma Eta in 2018, and Gamma Gamma in 2019. (No chapters submitted applications in 2000 so the cup was returned to the National Office.)

The Constitution of Sigma Zeta

This constitution was originally adopted on May 19, 1934, and was subsequently amended in 1935, 1939, 1942, 1947, 1952, 1953, 1956, 1959, 1971, 1977, 1998, 2005, 2008, 2010, and 2016.  This 2016 edition incorporates these amendments.


              The name of this organization shall be SIGMA ZETA – A National Science and Mathematics Honor Society.


The purpose of this society is two-fold: (1) to encourage and foster and (2) to recognize and honor scholarly achievement in the natural sciences, computer sciences, and mathematics.


              Section 1. Collegiate Chapter.  A collegiate chapter of this society may be organized in any institution of college or university rank offering a curriculum leading to the baccalaureate degree.

              Section 2.  Associate Chapter.  An associate chapter of this society may be organized in an institution of junior college rank offering a two year curriculum which may be applicable toward a baccalaureate degree.


              Section 1.  Membership Types.  Membership shall be of three types: regular, graduate, and honorary.  Any person elected to membership in the society shall remain a member unless he resigns from the society.  Members who are alumni are encouraged to help the society and its local chapters whenever possible.

              Section 2.  Regular Membership. (a) Any college student whose major is in any of the natural sciences, computer science, or mathematics, who has completed the equivalent of 25 semester hours toward his degree, including 15 semester hours in the natural sciences or mathematics and who has a grade point average of 3.00 (A=4.00) in the sciences and mathematics and a grade point average of 3.00 in all subjects including the sciences and mathematics, shall be eligible for election to active membership.  If other rating scales are used, an equivalent grade point ratio shall be required.  If the student has previously attended other institutions of higher education, the grades attained there shall be included in computing the science-mathematics ratio and the cumulative ratio mentioned above. (b) All faculty members who teach any of the natural sciences or mathematics shall be eligible for election to active membership.

              Section 3.  Graduate Membership.  Any graduate student majoring in any of the natural sciences or mathematics upon recommendation by a faculty member and after satisfactory completion of one semester or one quarter of graduate work meets the minimum qualifications for active membership.

              Section 4.  Honorary Membership.  Persons of distinction in the natural sciences or mathematics may be elected to honorary membership.  All honorary memberships must be approved by the National Council.

              Section 5.  Certificate.  A certificate of membership shall be issued to all members by the Executive Director. 


              Section 1.  Description.  The insignia for members shall be the official badge of the Society which consists of an open book on which is superimposed the Greek letters “S“ and “Z“; three erect books; a fourth book leaning against the others; and a retort.  Behind the open book is a key.

              Section 2.  Colors.  The official colors shall be blue and white.


              Section 1.  The Society.  The Society of Sigma Zeta shall consist of the Executive Council and the collegiate or associate chapters as chartered. 

              Section 2.  National Chapter.  A National Chapter shall be organized during the annual convention.  The National Chapter shall consist of the Executive Council and all collegiate or associate chapter members attending the convention.

              Section 3.  Executive Council.  The Executive Council shall consist of a President, President-elect, Past President, Executive Director, Treasurer, Publicist, Historian, Webmaster, and Student Representative. The members of the Council shall be elected by delegates of the National Chapter during the annual convention and will begin service at the time of election.  The President shall be elected to serve for three years, first as President-elect, then the following year as President and then as Past President.  The Past President, President, and President-elect may not succeed themselves except in the event an eligible successor is not available; and in no event shall these officers serve more than two successive terms in the same office.  The Executive Director, Treasurer, Publicist, Historian, and Webmaster may be elected to successive terms.  The Student Representative shall be elected to serve for one year.  

              Section 4.  No person shall be eligible to election to a national office other than an alumnus or a faculty member of the society, with the exception of the Student Representative, who must be a current active member of the society.


              Section 1.  The National Chapter shall be the supreme governing body of the Society, and in the interim between conventions, the Executive Council shall perform this duty.

              Section 2.  A National Convention shall be held annually at such time and place as the National Chapter may decide.

              Section 3.  Upon all matters except the election of officers and amendments to the constitution the delegates to the Convention shall vote as individuals.

              Section 4.  Each attending chapter should appoint one of its members as a voting delegate for the purpose of representing the chapter where appropriate.  The election of officers and amendments to the constitution shall be determined by a vote of these delegates at the national convention.

              Section 5.  The actions of the National Chapter or the Executive Council are not subjected to ratification by the regular or associate chapters unless otherwise corrected in the constitution.


              Section 1.  President.  The duties of the President shall be to enforce and uphold the constitution of the Society, to preside at meetings of the Society, to appoint national committees, and to call, when occasion demands, special meetings of the Executive Council.

              Section 2.  President-elect.  The duties of the President-elect shall be to perform the duties of the President in the absence or disability of that officer, to function in such positions as assigned by the Executive Council, and to become familiar with the operation of the National Chapter in preparation for assuming the office of President. 

              Section 3.  Past President.  The duties of the Past President shall be: to supplement and advise the President, to promote the expansion of the Society through recruitment of new chapters, to reactivate inactive chapters, and to promote regional activities.

              Section 4.  Executive Director.  The duties of the Executive Director shall be: (1) to maintain a complete list of the active and honorary members of the constituent chapters and to issue certificates of membership from the national office; (2) to carry out all correspondence of the society; (3) to select and maintain supplies of appropriate stationary, jewelry and related items which carry the Sigma Zeta logo; (4) to carry out the responsibility of representing the organization in official matters or public relations; and (5) to select and supervise the national office staff.

              Section 5.  Treasurer.  The duties of the Treasurer shall be: (1) to keep accurate account of all income, receipts and expenditures; (2) to pay out money as ordered by the National Chapter and the Executive Council; (3) to maintain and submit appropriate non-profit documentation; and (4) to make a written report of said accounting to the Executive Council at each National Convention, where this report will be audited by an appointed committee.

              Section 6.  Historian.  The duties of the Historian shall be: (1) to collect material and complete a faithful history of the Society; (2) to be responsible for all books, papers, and writings of the Society committed to his/her care; and (3) to produce the annual edition of the Sigma Zeta scrapbook.

              Section 7.  Publicist.  The duties of the Publicist shall be: (1) to edit and supervise the publication of all official papers of the society and (2) to keep a faithful record of all of the proceedings of each meeting.

Section 8.  Webmaster.  The duties of the Webmaster shall be: (1) to maintain and update news, information, pictures, documents, forms, the public chapter and advisor list, National Convention information, and links on the society’s web site and (2) to maintain and update the society’s e-mail list.

Section 9.  Student Representative.  The duties of the Student Representative shall be: (1) to elicit feedback and suggestions from student and alumni members for improvements to the society; (2) to be a full voting member of the Executive Council; and (3) to be able to serve his/her entire one-year term prior to graduation.  

            Section 10.  Each National Officer shall make a report to the National Convention at its annual meeting and an interim report at the business meeting of the Executive Council.


              Section 1.  New chapters may be admitted to the Society on petition to the Executive Council.

              Section 2.  This petition shall be signed by not fewer than ten persons qualified for active membership, including two or more faculty members of department of the natural sciences, computer sciences, or mathematics; it shall give such information as the Executive Council shall designate.

              Section 3.  The charter fee shall be determined by the Executive Council.

              Section 4. Upon receipt of a petition, subject to approval of the Executive Council, the charter shall be issued. 

              Section 5. A new chapter shall be installed at the site by a member of the Executive Council or their representatives.

              Section 6.  (a) Collegiate chapters shall be named from the Greek alphabet in the order of their installation. (b) Associate chapters shall be named according to the name of the school at which they are established. 


              The initiation fee for each category of membership shall be determined by the Executive Council with the approval of the National Chapter assembled in convention.             


              The Executive Council shall be responsible for publishing the constitution, ritual, certificates of membership, and all other forms for the transaction of business.


              Each local chapter shall submit an annual written report of their activities to the Publicist before June 1 of each year.


              Any proposed amendment to this constitution shall be submitted to the Executive Council, and if approved by a majority of the Council, shall in turn be submitted to the constituent chapters at least 30 days in advance of the National Convention, at which time this amendment shall be considered for adoption; if approved by two-thirds of the chapters reporting to or represented at the National Convention, it shall be adopted and become immediately effective.

Current National Executive Board

How do I join Sigma Zeta?

If your institution is already a chapter of Sigma Zeta National Math and Science Honor Society, please contact the chapter’s advisor and ask the advisor to fill out the new member application form.

How does my institution join Sigma Zeta?

If your institution is not a chapter of Sigma Zeta National Math and Science Honor Society, please fill out the chapter application form.

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