History Of The Beta Phi Chapter Of Sigma Chi Fraternity

“For the purpose of advancing the scholastic standing of its members, furthering the intimate ties of friendship among its fraternal brothers, and upholding the ideals and traditions of the University” was the main text of the constitution of the Tau Delta Psi fraternity. Nine men, then students of the University of Arizona, met and conceived the idea of bringing another fraternity to the UA campus.

Tau Delta Psi, which sprung from their hearts and minds on the evening of February 13, 1917. A week later these men bought pins, drew up a fraternal charter, and made a public announcement of the formation of Tau Delta Psi as a new local social fraternity on the University of Arizona campus.

This small group was hampered by the outbreak of World War I as many of its membership of 47 men joined the ranks of the country’s armed services and they were forced to limit their activities. By April of 1919, the Tau Delta Psi’s had purchased a chapter house, in which they lived until after their installation. Here, they enlisted the help of Charles Christy, commonly known as the founding father of the Beta Phi Chapter. During this year the members of the fraternity had climbed to new heights on the campus- leading the school in all sports, and claiming the editors of the two college publications. It is little wonder that when they petitioned the Sigma Chi Fraternity for a charter that they were received with welcome arms.

On March 18, 1920 the Tau Delta Psi chapter received the approval by Sigma Chi Fraternity to start preparing for initiation. The Beta Phi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity was founded at the University of Arizona a mere nine years after the Arizona became a State. A Charter establishing the Beta Phi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity was issued on April 23, 1921. Our Founding Members included:

Ralph Brady Charles Hobart Hess Seaman
Peter Campbell Wendell Jantzen Donald Scott
William Christy Lorain Leppla Orren Teague
George Clark Chas Mahoney Bob Thomas
Brice Cobb Cecil Marks Elbert Thurman
Clark Core Leslie McDaniel Harold Tovrea
Allan Elder Howard McGibbeny Bradford Trenham
Herbert Ensign Don Moore Franklin Walker
William Field Gus O’Conner Harold Wilson
William Gransmoen Julian Powers Ardath Wightman
William Hill Alva Roberson James Wood

“Thirty Three Men of Good Character” April 23, 1921

In the years after that installation the Beta Phi Chapter climbed steadily in the eyes of the national fraternity and that of the university. In 1923 Gene C. Quaw, Beta Phi ’27, who later become a member of the Order of Constantine, wrote an original musical show for the students at the U of A which included the song “The White Rose of Sigma Chi” which is now one of our national fraternities favorite songs. It was in that same year that Beta Phi one the first of many intramural championships at the U of A.

The Beta Phi Chapter during the years 1921 to 1972 produced future U.S. Senators and Congressmen, State Political Leaders, Mayors, Judges, Anthropologists, Publishers, Academicians, Real Estate Developers, Bankers, Coaches, Doctors, Lawyers, Olympic Athletes, Authors, and Engineers and Businessmen.

These included Barry Goldwater ‘32, George Gregson ‘24, Karl Butler ‘31, Frank Sancet ‘31, Robert Svob ‘41, Morris “Mo” Udall “49, Marvin “Swede” Johnson ‘50, Bruce Larson ’50, Earl Carroll ‘51, Eddie Lynch ‘57, S. Jack McDuff ‘51, Peter Corpstein ‘52, Donald Breckenridge ‘53, Jerry Patterson ’56, Burt Kinerk ’57, Paul Muscenti ’58, Leo Corbet ’59, Lisle Payne ’64, Luke Helms ’66, and many other distinguished Brothers.

The Chapter committed itself to scholastic endeavors as evidenced by numerous memberships in University of Arizona Honoraries, Student Government, and Intramural and Varsity Sports. Their achievements consistently placed the Beta Phi Chapter as one of the top Fraternities at the University of Arizona.

In the Spring of 1972, during the turmoil of the 60’s and 70’s the Chapter lost its recognition by the University of Arizona, its Charter from the Sigma Chi Fraternity and the Chapter House first occupied in 1931at 1510 East First Street was sold to the University and demolished.

In 1976, 19 men who were then students at the University of Arizona came together and decided to re-establish the rich tradition of the Beta Phi Chapter. Like the 33 men of 1921, these young men assiduously worked to claim the honor of being recognized as a Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity. By April of 1976, those students had enlisted for their endeavor the counsel and support of Marvin D. “Swede” Johnson (Arizona 1950), Charles “Bumps” Tribolet (Arizona 1932), Ed Fisher (Illinois 1928), Robert Schock (Northern Arizona 1973), Harry Munyon (Tulane 1962), and James Langston (Eastern New Mexico 1969). Established in their newly founded Chapter House at 1610 East First Street by August 1976, the prospective Sigma Chi members were busy with pledge activities, chapter meetings, fund-raising projects, and social events.

With the start of 1977 came the culmination of their efforts. Indoctrination Week for the Pledges of Beta Phi began on Saturday, January 8, 1977, with Initiation Coordinator Thomas Smith, Jr., and Assistant Executive Secretaries Joe W. Martin and Scott P. Sawin acting as Magisters.

With the assistance of the Zeta Omicron Chapter from Northern Arizona University, the Epsilon Upsilon Chapter of Arizona State University conducted the initiation ceremony on Saturday, January 15, 1977. The watchful eyes of four original charter petitioning members of Beta Phi- Cecil J. Marks, N. Bradford Trenham, Donald W. Moore, and Harold C. Tovrea, Sr., along with six other 50 year Sigs, Harold R. “Cedar” Bowen, F. T. Gibbings, Rollin T. Gridley, L. Max Connolly, Edward D. Mott and Waldo M. Dicus, saw the same spirit and tradition established in 1921 were again rekindled in 1977. Thirty new members were initiated into Sigma Chi.

“Thirty One Men of Good Character” January 15, 1977

Donald C. Buckley Michael L. Reynolds Warren A. Grossetta
Michael A Ceballos Thomas E. Scott Robert E. Preble
Mitchell A. Chalpin Michael M. Stanley Bert M. Roberts
Mark F. Disabato Kenneth J. Tolman Grant E. Smith
Herbert “Randy” Dixon Mark A. Weisbart William Smitherman
Richard E. Eampietro Douglas Whitney Randall J. Summers
Douglas W. Ehrenkranz Ben B. Vallefuoco Charles M. Thatcher
Thomas C. Harland   Morris “Mo” K. Udall**
Daniel E. Kaminskas HONORARY SIGS* Judge Harry F. Westover
Peter J. Knez James E. Durbin Roberto J. Martinez
Joseph W. Markling Michael J. Harrold  

*Initiated but not as Undergraduates

** Morris Udall has been named a “Significant Sig”

An impressive gathering of Sigma Chi Brothers honored the new initiates and welcomed the return of Beta Phi to the University of Arizona at a banquet on the evening of the initiation. Lewis C. Murphy (Arizona 1955) and a Significant Sig, Mayor of the City of Tucson and the evening’s Toastmaster introduced: Dr. Charles M. Thatcher, Grand Consul of Sigma Chi (Michigan); Charles S. “Bumps” Tribolet, Grand Praetor for the Southwestern Province (New Mexico and Arizona); S. Jack McDuff, Grand Quaestor of Sigma Chi Fraternity and a Significant Sig (Arizona 1951); Marvin D. “Swede” Johnson, Grand Trustee and Chairman of the Leadership Training Board and a Significant Sig (Arizona 1950); William T. Bringham, Executive Secretary of Sigma Chi Fraternity (Illinois Wesleyan); P. Brandt McCool, Executive Committee member (Kentucky); Robert Lamkin, Grand Praetor for Utah-Nevada Province (Utah State); Donald E. Walker, past Grand Praetor for Oklahoma-Arkansas Province (Oklahoma & Pittsburgh); Thomas B. Freeman, Past Chairman of the Executive Committee (Arkansas); Philip B. Vito, Past Grand Praetor for the Southwestern Province (Northern Arizona); and Edwin C. Fisher, Past Grand Quaestor and Chief Installing Officer (Illinois).

At the banquet, the Green Valley Alumni Club, the only such group of Sigma Chis in a retirement community, presented a check to the Beta Phi Chapter. The evening’s highlight, the presentation and acceptance of the Beta Phi Charter, was complimented by the presentation by the Chapter of awards of special recognition to that key group of alumni who worked so diligently from the beginning with the now newly initiated Brothers to make the University of Arizona once again Wildcat and Sigma Chi country.

During the years 1976-2003, once again, the Brothers of Beta Phi set out to set themselves apart from other University of Arizona fraternities by committing themselves to scholarship, leadership, campus involvement, and person development.During those years the Chapter was presented with 21 Peterson Significant Chapter Awards (see Awards), The Daniel William Cooper Award for scholarship and other Sigma Chi Fraternity individual and chapter awards, numerous campus awards and during that period numerous (see Leadership) Brothers distinguished themselves by their activity with ASUA (The Associated Students of the University of Arizona) activities and Committees including Spring Fling, Concerts, Activities Board, etc.Additionally, numerous Brothers participated in Primus, the Freshman Honorary; Sophos, the Sophmore Honorary; Chain Gang, the Junior Honorary; and Bobcats, the Senior Honorary. Additionally, the Chapter was well represented in numerous National Scholastic and College Scholastic Honoraries.The Chapter committed itself to community service by raising hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations and innumerable civic charity participation. Beta Phi consistently ranked as one of the top Chapters in the nation for Sigma Chi Fraternity.

In February 2003, after some unfortunate pledge training activites, the chapter was placed on probation and in April of 2003 lost its recognition by the University of Arizona and its Charter was surrendered to the Sigma Chi International Fraternity and the chapter house sold to the U of A Foundation. All undergraduates were converted to alumni status.

The Beta Phi Chapter was re-chartered by Sigma Chi Fraternity on January 31, 2009. The White Cross is once again …..

The future……