Rho Chapter History

John William Arnold, Jr., who was chiefly instrumental in the establishment of Rho Chapter, was initiated into Phi Kappa Sigma at the Upsilon Chapter. He came to the University of Illinois in his sophomore year with a keen appreciation of the fraternal comradeship to be enjoyed from membership in the fraternity, and guidebook to organize and secure a charter for a chapter in his new alma mater. His efforts were crowned with success when on October 29,1892, under charter from the Grand Chapter, Charles Southgard Bardsall, Frederick Gage Brown, Frank Arthur Miller and Luther Edward Roby were initiated into Phi Kappa Sigma as the charter members of Rho.

The chapter began its existence at a difficult time. The absolute ban against Greek letter fraternities had been removed by the Board of Trustees of the University in 1891, but prejudice against and opposition to them still moved many of the faculty to discourage their growth. The university at that time had less than eight hundred students, of whom all the upper-classmen had entered college with a signed pledge to join no fraternity. Despite the fact that they had been released from that pledge, faculty opposition and the fact that their college career had nm more than half its course rendered inadvisable any attempt to interest them in fraternity life. Therefore, of necessity, the charter members as well as the next year's initiates were underclassmen who lacked in great measure the experience necessary to carry the chapter through the trying times to follow.

The panic of 1893, together with increased faculty opposition to fraternities, and the departure from school in the first year of its existence, of the majority of its members, all combined to crush for the time being the infant chapter. Three years later when the last of the early members left the school, what is known as the "old chapter" went out of existence, and Rho temporarily became inactive.

In its brief span of life this chapter of the nineties enjoyed to its fullest extent the social life and fraternal friendship afforded in Phi Kappa Sigma. While the chapter was too small in membership to support a house, fraternity rooms were secured and furnished in the K. P. Building in Champaign. In this small circle of brothers was born a love, and loyalty for their chapter which has known no limit, for today she counts those brothers among her best loved and must loyal alumni.

Despite the fact that for a period of seven or eight years no member of Phi Kappa Sigma was in attendance at the University of Illinois, the charter was not withdrawn, thereby making the later re-organization of the chapter easier.

(This re-organization of Rho was first conceived by Brother Charles Ralph Rounds of Alpha Theta. Brother Rounds, as a member of the faculty in the Department of Oratory and Public Speaking, came to the University of Illinois in the fall of 1901, before he himself had become a member of the Fraternity. He had formerly, however, attended the University of Wisconsin, where as the chief lieutenant of Brother Arthur R Crathorne, he had assisted in the organization of a group that later received a charter as Alpha Theta Chapter, and his work there under the tutelage of Brother Crathorne aroused a deep enthusiasm for Phi Kappa Sigma which he carried with him to Illinois. Brother Rounds was initiated into Alpha Theta Chapter as one of its charter members in December, 1901, and immediately began active steps toward the re-establishment of Rho.

Brothers F. Stanley Boggs and Ross L. Trevett, two of the earlier members of Rho, initially aided and encouraged this enterprise. After considerable correspondence with the Executive Board, Brother Rounds was advised that as the charter was not withdrawn, no vote of the several chapters would be necessary for Rho's re-establishment. The Executive Board looked with favor on its re-establishment and Brothers Rounds, Boggs, and Trevett were entrusted with the re-organization.

The University by 1902 had grown from the few hundred students of 1892 to an excess of two thousand, and the prospects for a rapidly growing university both in size and prestige were excellent. Despite this number of students. but half a dozen chapters of national fraternities were then in existence at Illinois.

The work of re-organization proceeded slowly, but surely. Some half a dozen men who by reason of their character, ability, and personality were leaders in the University, were selected from the student body to constitute a working organization. The revival of the chapter was effected in December 6, 1902, when at the home of Brother Boggs, with ceremonies under the direction of Brother L. S. Rice of Upsilon, six men were initiated.

For the next year meetings were held at the homes of various members, sometimes with Brother Boggs, and more often at the home of Brother Clyde E. Stone of Springfield Avenue. New men were gradually attracted by the good fellowship of this small band of Phi Kaps, and as the chapter grew in size, it became more and more a force in college affairs. The members soon felt the need for a home of their own, and the aid of Brother Fredrick G. Brown, a charter member of Rho, then an architect in Danville, Illinois, was enlisted. Plans for the construction of the fraternity house were drawn, which in 1903, a local contractor erected at 40 I E. Green Street and leased to the chapter. The chapter members lived in this house until 1913, when the present beautiful and commodious house at 313 East Chalmers Street was erected.

The entrance of the United States in the world war in 1917 did not find Rho lacking in honor and patriotism. Over fifty percent of the living members engaged in the conflict and were found in all arms of the service, in rank from private to field office. and in the armies of England, Canada, and France, as well as of the United States. The active chapter almost ceased to exist, for at one time there were but four men to carry on the chapter affairs. With the establishment of an S. A T. C. unit at the University, the house was turned over to the Government for use as barracks. Rooms in which chapter meetings could be held were secured at 400 East Chalmers Street, and the chapter, although at times with difficulty, was kept in existence.

On the honored list of those who died in service of their country, are to be found three members of Rho: John Edward Burroughs, '08; James Burr Hickman, '15; and Bruce Nutter Culmer, '16. They went forth with the same high spirit of loyalty that had distinguished their fraternity careers, and their names are forever graven in the hearts of their brothers.

The years since the World War have been fortunate. Many years ago, the chapter purchased a frame house on the next lot south. It was obtained with the idea of getting a site large enough for any sort of building the chapter might want to erect. The size of the complete tract was 200 feet by 130 feet. This tract of land is what makes up most parking lots and the Delta Upsilon chapter house.

Brother F. S. Boggs had been of great service to the chapter in his capacity as trustee of the Building Fund and financial advisor. He held the position for more than twenty years and had always given unsparingly of his times and talents. Dr. Lewis T. Gregory as president of the Corporation had rendered many services to the chapter. His work ranged all the way from writing fraternity songs to overseeing the legal affairs of the corporation - all of which he sandwiched in between a large medical practice.

In the long history of the members of Rho there are many who have been honored in their several professions and in their communities. Of these, the record of their achievements tells their own tale. Many brothers of Rho are noted for their exceptional loyalty to the chapter, for their counsel, earnest support and unselfish labors in her behalf. The enumeration of their names here could add nothing to the love, respect and honor which they now receive as their just due.