The History of Theta Delta Chi - Sigma Triton

The Sigma Triton Charge of Theta Delta Chi is one of the oldest continuous fraternities at Penn State.  Originally founded as Iota Chi Delta on March 13, 1915.  Since that time, the name of our organization has changed, but the lasting bonds of brotherhood have remained.  Our alumni have gone on to lead Fortune 500 companies, lead our armed forces and hold various other positions of trust. 


We are one of the few Penn State fraternities that owns our fraternity house.  Our House on the corner of Locust and Prospect Avenue has stood for more than 90 years and has been the home for many of our more than 1,000 brothers that have joined our Brotherhood. 


Please feel free to review more of our history below.

Roots in Iota Chi Delta:


Theta Delta Chi's Sigma Triton Charge, located at Pennsylvania State University, is rich in history.  Sigma Triton was originally founded as Iota Chi Delta (March 13, 1915) as a local architectural fraternity.  Brothers of Iota Chi Delta had chosen for their pin and emblem a gold Ionic capital upon a maroon column.  Early in 1916 it was deemed desirable to enlarge the group, so the brothers of Iota Chi Delta opened their doors to civil engineering and landscape gardening students. In 1916 Iota Chi Delta had moved into their first house located on the corner of Beaver Ave and McAllister Street in downtown State College.  

Entry Into Sigma Phi Sigma:


With this increased size, the brotherhood began to look for a national affiliation. After several letters of inquiry to existing national fraternities, the group received satisfactory offers from 3 different national organizations. It was decided to petition Sigma Phi Sigma. Sigma Phi Sigma National Fraternity was founded at the University of Pennsylvania April 13, 1908 as a fraternity with no professional discrimination and which selected its members on their intrinsic worth, which involved scholarship, activities and congeniality. This philosophy of recruitment is the same one used today in Sigma Triton. On May 24, 1919, the membership of Iota Chi Delta was formally installed as the Beta Chapter of Sigma Phi Sigma at Penn State.


The national allowed the various chapters considerable latitude in handling their own governmental and financial affairs. It had conservative view on expansion with an ultimate goal of 25 to 30 chapters evenly disbursed through the country. By 1941 26 Chapters of Sigma Phi Sigma were founded, including chapters at the Universities of Pennsylvania, Maryland, California, Illinois, Maine, Nevada, Missouri, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nebraska, and Washington; Cornell, Ohio State and Brown, at then Oregon and Washington State Colleges; and Auburn.

Construction of House at 305 East Prospect:


The Beta Chapter of Sigma Phi Sigma moved into its present home on the corner of Locust Lane and Prospect Avenue in 1923 after having purchased the land from the Acacia fraternity and building the structure for a cost of nearly $40,000.  The funding for the purchase of the land and construction of our house was obtained through the benevolence of our alumni, a trend that continues today. Our house, built in 1923, is thought to have been designed at least in part by Brother H.O. Smith^20, an alumnus of Iota Chi Delta and Sigma Phi Sigma. After construction of our house, Brother Smith built a beautiful house next door to our house and continued to watch over our beloved house over the years.

War World II:


On February 1, 1943, the U.S. Army took over our house and occupied the facility until September 1945.  During this time, the Army Air Force used the house as a barracks in their pre-flight training program at the University.  This period time is the only period of time that our brotherhood did not occupy our house.  Brother H.O. Smith and other alumni offered a rooming house on Allen Street for the actives to live in through the end of the Spring 1943 semester.


During 1943 most of the brothers and pledges either volunteered for service or were called up.  Since Penn State was an Army Air Force pre-flight training center, most of our brotherhood served in the Air Force.  Many served as navigators such as Brother Fielder N.. Newton^48, or as bombardiers, or as both, as did Brother Lou Arabia^49.  Brother Howard C.. Karr^51 became a B-26 bomber pilot and Brother Dave R.. Bailey^49 became a P-51 fighter pilot.  Brother Jim F.. Lynn^49 was the lone Marine.

Post War World II:


Brother Harry Craft^48 was a pledge for two weeks before he was called up for duty in 1943. He served as a navigator with the Eighth Air Force and survived many bombing missions over Germany.  When he returned to Penn State in September 1945, the Army had vacated the house.  While Brother Craft was peering in a window of our house, Brother H.O. Smith approached him and asked who he was.  Brother Craft responded, “I’m Harry Craft and I was a pledge here for two weeks before I was called up”.   Brother Smith smiled, handed Brother Craft the keys to the house and said “Now you’re the President, get everybody back here.”  Brother Craft carried out Brother Smith’s request.


In the Spring of 1946, 8 brothers, recently out of the service, moved back into the house and began to reactivate our chapter.  With the support of our alumni that included individuals such as Brother Smith, the house underwent $20,000 in remodeling to bring it back to the suitable conditions.

Induction into Theta Delta Chi:


While the Beta Charge of Sigma Phi Sigma prevailed and thrived, the national Sigma Phi Sigma fraternity suffered from a period of disorganization following World War II, which ultimately led to the dissolution of the national fraternal organization.  The individual chapters eventually joined other nationals. Beta Chapter at the then Pennsylvania State College was the only one to retain the old name of Sigma Phi Sigma and to exist as a local fraternity post the war.


In 1952 Active President Brother Ed A.. Bush SigTri^52 investigated joining a new national organization, because the fraternity, as the sole surviving chapter of Sigma Phi Sigma, had thus become a local fraternity.  While our brotherhood was doing very well financially, had a full house, and was very competitive in intramurals and in GPA, Brother Bush and others realized that time was likely to take its toll in membership and incorporation into a national fraternal organization was in the best interest of the longevity of our house.

While several national organizations offer us membership, Theta Delta Chi under the leadership of Brother Norm Hackett, stood out to us. Theta Delta Chi was equally impressed with Sigma Phi Sigma because it had a full house of responsible members and a supportive alumni corporation. After a period of courtship, the Beta Charge of Sigma Phi Sigma became the Sigma Triton Charge of Theta Delta Chi on May 22, 1954.  Brother George G.. Schneider SigTri^54 served as the first President of the Sigma Triton Charge. Brother Schneider’s father, Brother Robert Schneider^21, was a member of Iota Chi Delta in 1917 and later Sigma Phi Sigma.  George remembers hearing from his father about HO Smith and the fraternity while he was growing up.

Sigma Triton Today:


Since joining Theta Delta Chi, Sigma Triton has inducted more than 800 new members into out brotherhood. Our charge has also become a leading organization at Penn State through its involvement in charities such as THON or community events such as Homecoming and Greek Week. Our charge has also developed a new generation of leadership for Theta Delta Chi National that continues in the footsteps of Brother Norm Hackett. Through all these years, the bonds of brotherhood within our membership are as strong as they were in that March day in 1915 when a few college students decided to form Iota Chi Delta and start an organization that has continued for nearly a century.

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