A group of twelve men established the Benton Literary Society at the Normal School during the years of 1891-1892. They wanted an association dedicated to the encouragement of literary efforts, particularly debate and oratory. Students named the society in honor of Thomas Hart Benton, a well-known orator and political figure who had served in the Missouri legislature, as well as in the U.S. Congress. Their motto was "Once a Benton, always a Benton."
In the early years of the college, literary societies were a very important part of the social and scholarly life on campus. As time went by, the growing need for classroom space, more interest in social life, declining interest in debate and other scholarly activities led to the marginalization of literary societies. After much discussion, fraternity houses gradually replaced literary societies. In the late 1950s, the Benton Literary Society petitioned to become a chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. On April 10, 1960, the Bentons officially became the Epsilon Phi Chapter of Sigma Chi. They were the 133rd chapter of Sigma Chi in the United States.
In the Fall of 2017 with the support of our alumni the chapter moved into it's new house, located at 1421 Show Me Dr.
Today over 1200 men have been initiated into the Epsilon Phi Chapter. Sigma Chi is also the oldest fraternity on Southeast Missouri State University's campus.
The working fraternal conceptions of Sigma Chi Fraternity have long been identified with the words friendship, justice and learning. These three elements were the basic ideals our Founders used in forming the foundation of Sigma Chi.
In their new fraternity, they held the qualities of congenial tastes, quality fellowship and genuine friendship to be indispensable. The element of thorough fellowship was regarded as a characteristic of all real fraternity endeavors, thus they sought true friendship.
In matters of general college interest, the Founders had refused to be limited simply by the ties of their DKE brotherhood. The Founders’ new association was surely not planned to prevent laudable mutual helpfulness. On the contrary it was designed in every worthy way to enhance such helpfulness. The new fraternity stood for the square deal in all campus relations. It exalted justice.
In the 19th century, the academics of college were very strenuous. College men of the day studied subjects such as spherical trigonometry; Roman history; odes and satires of Homer, Horace and Plato. A strong emphasis was placed on literature in all campus activities. In the literary exercises of the chapter, literary training was regular and rigid. Founder Issac M. Jordan once said, We entered upon all our college duties with great zeal and earnestness, studied hard, tried to excel in every department of study, contended for every hall or college prize and endeavored to make our Fraternity have a high and honorable standing. The Founders placed learning in high regard and importance.
The Founders’ unfortunate experience in Delta Kappa Epsilon, which they saw as a group focused on conformity for political gain, stirred their hearts and their spirit. They found it a necessity to allow and accept differences in points of views and opinions, realizing that doing so brought opportunities and pleasures. This spirit became documented as The Spirit of Sigma Chi. Though The Spirit calls for men who are inherently different, it is expected that the members, in their differences, remain responsible, honorable, gentlemanly, friendly—indeed all those characteristics that are also listed in The Jordan Standard.