Phi Kappa Sigma - Alpha Theta Colony
National History

Phi Kappa Sigma was founded by Samuel Brown Wylie Mitchell (pictured below) at the University of Pennsylvania on August 16, 1850.

Samuel Brown Wylie MitchellMitchell set out to found a new, secret order in the restricted life of the university at that time. Between August 16 and October 19, 1850, Mitchell sought six other men to constitute the Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma.

Establishing other chapters at receptive institutions in the area became a priority for Dr. Mitchell and his fellow brothers. Princeton and Lafayette were added in 1853, and Jefferson (now Washington & Jefferson), Dickinson, Franklin and Marshall, and the University of Virginia were added in 1854.

In the 1850's, the southern chapters of the Fraternity inaugurated the custom of wearing silver skulls on their badges, and thus were known as the "Silver Skulls." Iota Chapter, at Columbia University, adopted a smaller badge in 1861 than had been worn previously by the membership of any chapter, and also copied the southern custom of utilizing the silver skull. The silver skull on the badge was never reinstituted by any chapter after the Civil War, and is now a legend in the Fraternity.

Conventions of delegates were called by the Alpha Chapter until 1858. No permanent executive body existed during the interim between the annual or biennial meetings, and so the officers of Alpha Chapter served as the officers of the Fraternity. At the Convention of 1858, the Supreme Consistory and the High Arch Tribunal were established to provide legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government. These in turn were supplanted by the Grand Chapter and the Executive Board in 1869. It is noteworthy that Phi Kappa Sigma was the first Fraternity to organize a Grand Chapter system and establish a democratic system of government based on chapter representation.

Brotherhood, quality, and commitment are the fibers that comprise a strong International Fraternity. With one-hundred fifty years of experience, Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity continues to produce loyal and outstanding members and remains capable of meeting every challenge that the future may hold.

Lewis F. Powell – Supreme Court Justice
David F. Nolan – Founder, Libertarian Party
Tom Wolfe – Renowned Novelist/Journalist
Adolphus A Busch IV – Anheuser Busch Company
John J. Curley – President, USA Today
E. Cardin Walker, CEO Walt Disney
Derek C. Bok – President, Harvard University
Jeff Mullins – NBA player


  • October 19, 1850 - Alpha Chapter founded at UPenn
  • August 9, 1854- First convention, in Philadelphia
  • 1857 - Alpha Chapter publishes Phi Kappa Sigma Magazine, the first fraternity-wide newspaper or magazine
  • 1859 - James W. Barrow established the Phi Kappa Sigma Male College in Monticello, Arkansas - the first institution of higher learning in the state, making Phi Kappa Sigma the only Fraternity ever to have had a college named in its honor
  • 1869 - The Grand Chapter was established at the Fraternity's convention of this year, making Phi Kappa Sigma the first fraternity to organize a Grand Chapter and establish a democratic system of government based on chapter representation
  • 1888 - Alpha Chapter establishes the Samuel Brown Wylie Mitchell Prize in English Literature at the University of Pennsylvania, representing the first scholastic award offered by a fraternity in any American college or university
  • 1895 - The Fraternity establishes itself as an International Fraternity with the establishment of Alpha Beta Chapter at the University of Toronto
  • 1898 -1906- Grand Alpha James Hartley Merrick implements the Chapter Advisor system, as Phi Kap became one of a few fraternities to help pioneer this system
  • 1906 - The Fraternity's Chapter Rolls reaches 30.
  • 1909 - The Fraternity becomes a charter member of the National Inter-Fraternity Conference (NIC).
  • 1915 - The Fraternity establishes the International Headquarters in Philadelphia
  • 1977 - U.S. Supreme Court Justice, Lewis F. Powell (Alpha Alpha, '29), is named the Fraternity's first Alumnus-of-the-Year.
  • July 1, 2000 - The Fraternity adopts an alcohol-free housing initiative as part of a healthy living and learning environment for its members. Phi Kappa Sigma helped start this practice, which is currently a national trend for fraternities and campuses.
  • July 2000 - At the 90th Grand Chapter in Philadelphia, PA, the Fraternity adopted The Statement of Core Values, reaffirming Phi Kappa Sigma's commitment to its founding principles.
  • August 16, 2000 - The Fraternity proudly celebrates the sesquicentennial (150th) anniversary of its founding date.
  • January 2001 - Phi Kappa Sigma held the first Men of Honor leadership development program.
  • July 2004 - At the 92nd Grand Chapter in Chicago, IL, the Fraternity adopted the Doctrine of Excellence, providing our membership with a roadmap to excel in today’s fraternal community.
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