Founders of Sigma Chi

The founders

  • Benjamin Piatt Runkle (September 3, 1836 – June 28, 1916) was born in West Liberty, Ohio. Runkle helped design the badge of Sigma Chi based on the story of Constantine and the vision of the cross. Runkle was known for having a fierce pride and was suspended from Miami University when he fought a member of Beta Theta Pi for sneering at his badge. When the Civil War began Runkle joined the Union Army. He was badly wounded at the Battle of Shiloh and left for dead on the battlefield. Runkle stayed in the army as a career and retired as a major general. After the army he was ordained an Episcopal priest. He was the only founder to serve as Grand Consul. He died on Sigma Chi’s 61st birthday in Ohio. He is now buried in Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia.
  • Thomas Cowan Bell (May 14, 1832 – February 3, 1919) was born near Dayton, Ohio. He was twenty-three years old when Sigma Chi was founded, second oldest of the founders. He graduated from Miami University in 1857 and began teaching. In 1861 he enlisted in the Union army and rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel. After the war he returned to his career in education, serving as the superintendent of schools in Nobles County, Minnesota as well as the principal and president of several preparatory and collegiate institutions in the Western United States. Bell died the day after attending the initiation of alpha beta chapter at University of California Berkeley on February 3, 1919. He is buried at the Presidio of San Francisco in San Francisco National Cemetery in California.
  • William Lewis Lockwood (October 31, 1836 – August 17, 1867) was born in New York City. He was the only founder who had not been a member of Delta Kappa Epsilon. He was considered the “businessman” of the founders and managed the first chapter’s funds and general operations, becoming the first Quaestor of Sigma Chi. After graduating from Miami University in 1858 he moved back to New York and began work as a lawyer. He joined the Union Army at the breakout of the Civil War and suffered serious wounds, from which he never recovered. He was the first founder to enter the Chapter Eternal. He named his son after Franklin Howard Scobey.
  • Isaac M. Jordan (May 5, 1835 – December 3, 1890) was born in Mifflinburg, Pennsylvania as Isaac Alfred Jordan. His family later moved to Ohio where Jordan met Benjamin Piatt Runkle and became close friends. After graduating from Miami University in 1857 he went onto graduate school, where he graduated in 1862. He then began work as an attorney and was elected to the United States Congress in 1882. He proceeded to change his middle name, Alfred, to just the letter “M” to help distinguish himself from his brother and law partner, Jackson A. Jordan. He died in 1890 after accidentally falling down an elevator shaft while greeting a friend. He is buried in Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati, Ohio.
  • Daniel William Cooper (September 2, 1830 – December 11, 1920) was born near Fredericktown, Ohio. Cooper was the oldest founder and was elected the first consul of Sigma Chi. After graduating from Miami University in 1857 he became a Presbyterian minister. Cooper’s original Sigma Phi badge came into the possession of the Fraternity at the time of his death. It is pinned on every new Grand Consul at their installation. Cooper is buried at the Allegheny Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pa.
  • Franklin Howard Scobey (May 27, 1837 – July 22, 1888) was born in Hamilton, Ohio. Scobey was considered The Spirit of Sigma Chi for being friendly with everybody and not just a select group of people. After graduating from Miami University in 1858 he went on to graduate again in 1861 with a law degree. He worked as a journalist in his hometown until 1879 but went on to become a cattleman in Kansas until 1882. Scobey then moved back to Ohio where he took up farming until his death. Never physically robust, Scobey was afflicted with hearing loss in his final years.
  • James Parks Caldwell (March 27, 1841 – April 5, 1912) was born in Monroe, Ohio. By the age of thirteen Caldwell had completed all academics which could be offered at his local academy. He was then sent to Miami University with advanced credits. Caldwell was just fourteen at the time of the founding making him the youngest of the founders. After Caldwell graduated from Miami University in 1857 he practiced some law in Ohio but moved to Mississippi to begin a career as an educator. When the Civil War broke out he joined the Confederate Army. During the war he was taken prisoner but later, due to the influence of General Benjamin Piatt Runkle, was offered freedom on the condition that he renounce his allegiance to the Confederacy. He rejected this offer and remained loyal to the south. He was later released, again due to the influence of General Runkle. After the war he moved back to Mississippi and was admitted to the bar. He moved to California in 1867 and practiced law. In 1875 he began to travel frequently practicing law and editing newspapers. He died in Biloxi, Mississippi where the latest issues of The Sigma Chi Quarterly were found in his room.

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