Sigma Phi had its inception in 1919, when a group of students in the College of Applied Science and Engineering at Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, decided to discuss the organization of an engineering fraternity. The group adopted a badge, a Ritual and all other organization necessary for operation. In the Fall of 1927, to avoid conflict with Sigma Phi, a general fraternity, the group changed its name to Omega Sigma Phi. Grand President Maurice Nelles installed this group as Eta Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta on May 23, 1931. Fifty-four members (39 active, 11 alumni and 4 faculty members) were initiated at this ceremony. William J. Urban was Charter Chief Engineer; John J. Dunphy was Chapter Secretary.
Epsilon Chapter acted as Host to the Third General Convention in Fargo, North Dakota, on September 1 and 2, 1931. This Convention attempted to give the Province Councilors more power in the Fraternity. To enhance the position of an Honorary Member, it was decided that Honorary membership would be conferred by the General Convention. The Editor of the CASTLE replaced the Member-at-Large as a member of the Supreme Council. The Constitution and the Statutory Code were revised. The Statutory Code had been established by order of the Second General Convention. It is interesting to note that no further changes were made in the Laws of the Fraternity until the overall revision of the Fraternity in 1948. Elected as third Grand President of the Fraternity was Epsilon Chapter's Charter Chief Engineer, William A. Rundquist.
Early in 1929, Jack Cummings and Frank Gordon discussed the Possibility of forming a local social engineering fraternity on the campus of the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia. They interested several others and the first meeting of Tau Lambda Fraternity was held on February 21, 1929. An official badge was adopted and the fraternity completely organized. Through the efforts of A. Dacre Scott, Alpha alumnus, this fraternity contacted Sigma Phi Delta and petitioned for Charter. On April 24, 1932, twenty-four active and one Honorary Member were installed as Theta Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta by Walter E. Nelson (Epsilon), General Manager of the Sigma Phi Delta Fraternity, and A. Dacre Scott. Arthur J. Saunders, as Charter chapter President, and William L. Cunningham, as Chapter Secretary, lead the Chapter that made the Sigma Phi Delta international in scope.
Gamma Chapter experienced financial and pledging difficulties and on January 1, 1932, was granted permission by the Supreme Council to become inactive. A New York Alumni Chapter was established late in 1930 or early in 1931. Delta Alumni Chapter was organized in Chicago, Illinois, and was chartered on May 16, 1930.
In 1932, the Fraternity adopted an Efficiency Contest, modeled along the lines of the Contests of other fraternities. Provided were sections for a professional program; for fraternity, professional, or civic research; for service to the school of Engineering; for chapter scholarship; for individual scholarship; and for chapter history. This contest was adopted and remained in effect, without change, until 1953. A large bronze plaque was awarded to the Chapter winning the annual contest. If awarded to one chapter three times, the plaque became the permanent possession of that Chapter. Alpha and Epsilon Chapters were so honored. Plans were set up for a Manual of Procedure and a Pledge Manual to assist the Chapters in their operation. The first Manual of Procedure for the Fraternity had been edited in 1927 by Gilbert H. Dunstan, as was the second edition.
In an apparent economy move, the Engineering College of the University of South Dakota at Vermillion was continued with the consolidation of the Engineering Schools of South Dakota and the School of Mines and State College, Brookings. With the consolidation, the Charter of Beta Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta was recalled by the Fraternity late in 1934 and Beta Chapter became in-active. The new school did not permit fraternities.
The Fourth General Convention, meeting in Urbana, Illinois, in 1933, with Delta Chapter as Host, made few changes in the organization of the Fraternity. The two Provinces, Northern and Southern, were expanded to three: Northern, Southern and Western, adding one more Province Councilor to the Supreme Council. Probably the most outstanding and far-reaching decision was made in the revision of the Fraternity Crest, or coat-of-arms. The business portion of this Convention was held in Urbana, Illinois. The Convention recessed to Chicago, Illinois, on Saturday for attendance at the World's Fair and for the Convention Dinner Dance. This appears to be the only General Convention held in two different cities.
The question of a Crest revision had been brought up at almost every Convention. The Crest adopted in the very early days of the Fraternity did not conform to the Laws of Heraldry. The design, which had been submitted to the Third General Convention, was considered to be too dead and lifeless, as well as too complicated. A Committee, composed of E. Fuhrmann (Zeta) and Murvan M. Maxwell (Zeta) drew up a revised Crest in April 1934. The Fourth General Convention ruled that the undergraduate members must wear the official badge, which was at that time reduced in size somewhat from the previous badge. Its size has not changed since this Convention. There was considerable opposition to allowing only the chased border badge since it was felt that the pearls were there to represent the original charter Members of the Fraternity. This action (of only the official badge) was reversed by a later Convention due to the continued violation, which this Law experienced. The Convention attempted to provide a Nominating Committee for National Officers, but there was too much opposition to this idea.
The Fourth General Convention elected to a second term of office as Grand President the Brother who had been Epsilon Chapter's Charter Chief Engineer, William A. Rundquist. Bill was born on January 3, 1906, in Billings, Montana. He graduated from North Dakota State College (then North Dakota Agricultural College) in 1929 as a Mechanical Engineer.
In 1909, a group of young men wished to bind themselves
together not by the bond of casual friendship but with the ties of good
fellowship and brotherly love, and so organized the first fraternity
at the Chicago Technical College, Chicago, Illinois, to be known as Sigma
Beta Epsilon. Through the efforts of A. A. Wells (Delta) and Russell
C. Smith (Delta), General Manager of the Fraternity, a petition for Charter
was submitted to the General Convention in December 1934. Because of
its college location, there was some difficulty in interpretation of
the Constitution and Statutory Code. It was finally decided that the
prospective Chapter fulfilled the requirements of being at a "technical school of recognized standing, offering at least a four year course leading to a degree in one or more recognized branches of engineering".
On October 1, 1935, nine undergraduate and two faculty members were initiated
as Iota Chapter of Sigma Phi Delta. Installing officers were Cornelius
E. Hogeboom, Northern Province Councilor; A. A. Wells, Grand Vice President;
Russell C. Smith, General Manager; and Brothers E. Horning, G. W. Brown,
R. L. Gougler and D. R. Groff, Delta alumni. Charter Chief Engineer was
Peter M . Roumeliotis; Chapter Secretary was Russell H. Hanson. An interesting
sidelight is the fact that when Russell C. Smith was appointed General
Manager of the Fraternity in 1934 to succeed Walter E. Nelson, the entire
National Office treasury consisted of around thirty-eight dollars.
Almost at the same time that the Fraternity gained Iota Chapter, it lost Zeta Chapter. In October 1935, due to financial and pledging difficulties, Zeta Chapter requested permission to go inactive. Due to poor chapter management and the Great Depression, Delta Chapter became inactive in 1934. This was to be the first Chapter to become inactive and to regain continued active status. On February 26, 1939, ten alumni and one Faculty Member of the former active chapter initiated six undergraduate members to reactivate Delta Chapter on the University of Illinois campus in Urbana, Illinois.
The Fifth General Convention, meeting in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, in 1936 with Eta Chapter as Host, adopted the Crest, which had been designed by Brothers Maxwell and Fuhrmann. The Ritual was revised to conform to the new Crest. D. J. McLaurin (Theta) drew up the revision in the Ritual. The Convention removed the Office of Editor of the CASTLE from membership on the Supreme Council and reinstated the Member-at-Large as a Council member. The Class of membership of Associate Member was reinstated. The Editor of the CASTLE was made an appointive office, handled similar to that of the General Manager. The Convention made plans for a song book and instructed that it be ready for the following Convention. Elected to a precedent-setting third term was Grand President William A. Rundquist.