KINGSTON, R.I. – September 17, 2015 – The new, gleaming white Sigma Chi chapter house with four classic columns stands out on Fraternity Circle as a reminder of traditions and achievements for generations of brothers.
Those traditions began with the installation of the Delta Sigma Chapter of Sigma Chi at URI on June 17 and 18, in 1949 at 73 Upper College Road. The new structure at the University also stands as a signal to its newest members that those traditions and leadership can only be maintained with a commitment to Sigma Chi’s values, standards, aspirations and zero- tolerance policy on hazing.
Sigma Chi Fraternity, now located at 13 Fraternity Circle, will celebrate its history at URI and launch a new era for its members when it dedicates its new $2.85 million chapter house, Saturday, Sept. 26 from 2 to 3 p.m. Tours will be offered following the dedication.
Hundreds are expected for the ceremonies at the house, which has been designed to incorporate many elements from its original chapter house, but also includes the latest technology and safety features, including fire safety and suppression and access for students with disabilities. It also features the latest in its living spaces, commercial kitchen and dining area.
“This house is a reflection of the memories and aspirations for a group of guys who treasured their experiences and who lived lives committed to the teachings of the Ritual of Sigma Chi,” said Dale Harrington, president of the Sigma Chi URI Alumni Corp. “Alumni, including some from the University of Connecticut and Brown University, as well as many URI alums, have made significant contributions to our URI chapter, with both time and money. All share in our success story of resurrecting the Delta Sigma Chapter of Sigma Chi from the closing of December 1996. We got it done!”
Sigma Chi Chapter President Nicholas Medley, an accounting major from Portsmouth, said active members of the chapter are lucky to have the alumni support that led to “this beautiful chapter house. It has allowed us to grow tremendously as a chapter and has set us up for success in the years to come. Even when I joined Sigma Chi I had always heard aspirations for a new chapter house and at first was skeptical, but sure enough the house was built. We cannot thank the alumni enough for the sacrifices they made to bring this dream to fruition. As a chapter, we are happy to welcome all those who participated in the planning, fundraising, and building of this house to our dedication ceremony.”
Not only is the building striking from the outside with its lighting that replicates the same exterior fixtures as the White House, it is beautiful on the inside with a social room that has a hardwood floor, grand piano, six plush couches, two plush chairs, four large coffee tables and two well-filled trophy cases dating back to 1949.
The chapter house library will be dedicated to all chapter members who have served our country and will honor First Lt. Parker D. Cramer, a URI Sigma Chi ‘59 who is believed to be the first commissioned officer killed in Vietnam on May 6, 1963. A replica of his sword will hang in the room, along with a copy of his original portrait painted by the famous comic strip artist Milton Caniff (1907-1988), also a Sigma Chi. A copy is also on display in the Memorial Union. The URI Army Reserve Officers Training Corps has a unit called Cramer’s Sabers in his honor, and a Cramer Saber is awarded to the top ROTC cadet each year upon graduation and commissioning into the U.S. Army.
The dining and chapter rooms are on the ground floor. Both the chapter room and the first-floor social room are equipped with a gas fireplace. Behind the house, just off the interior dining room, is a patio with a commercial charcoal grill and four picnic tables, all engraved with the Greek letters for Sigma Chi.
The new chapter house represents a major departure from the chapter’s recent past when Sigma Chi headquarters closed the house at 73 Upper College Road in December 1996 after active members committed numerous violations of URI and Sigma Chi policy and behavior. The corporation sold the house to the University in 1999, which razed the structure to build the University’s Alumni Center.
The new chapter house opened in January 2015 with 38 active members moving in to the 26-bedroom house.
Harrington said numerous changes have been made to ensure that the chapter attracts and retains outstanding members.
“We have Sigma Chi values driven into these students during our eight-week pledge program,” said Harrington a member of URI’s Class of 1958 who earned his bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering and who went on to a successful career with the General Electric Company. All brothers must wear a jacket and tie to all chapter meetings. This house and Sigma Chi nationally have an aggressive campaign to eliminate hazing in all chapter houses. And when it comes to assignments to keep the house clean, everyone from the chapter president to the newest pledge will be involved.
“Our pledge training, followed by our ritual ceremony, make all initiated brothers think a great deal about who they are, what kind of leaders they wish to be, and how they are going to be of service to their brothers, family members, friends and career associates,” Harrington said.
Back in 2001, a few Sigma Chi alumni discussed bringing the chapter back to URI. The corporation president at the time, Chuck Harrington, who is no relation to Dale, asked, “What do we have to do to bring a chapter back to the campus and how do we get a house built?”
By 2009, 31 pledges committed to the fraternity, which was enough for the Sigma Chi headquarters to bestow colony status on the URI unit. On Dec. 3, 2011, 38 members were initiated into Sigma Chi and the Delta Sigma Chapter at URI was back, after an absence of exactly 15 years.
“Prior to this reinstallation of our chapter, my predecessor Chuck Harrington established an alumni support team and fund raising committee in 2007, a building committee in 2008, and selected the architect and contractor in 2010,” Dale Harrington said.
The group, which consisted of Chuck, along with fellow URI Sigma Chi alumni Don Wilkinson and Dave DeStefano, worked with Union Studios in Providence on the design and hired Stand Corp. of Warwick as the builder.
Active and alumni members of the chapter held groundbreaking ceremonies in November 2013. Harrington said “the house never would have been built were it not for Dick Mayoh URI ’65 and his incredible fund-raising team, which raised more than $750,000 from Delta Sigma Chapter alumni for the project.”
Thomas R. Dougan, vice president for Student Affairs, congratulated the Sigma Chi brotherhood on the opening of its new house.
“We are celebrating the opening of the new fraternity house of Delta Sigma Chapter of Sigma Chi fraternity, but even more importantly we are celebrating the return of an undergraduate fraternity chapter that was initially chartered in 1949,” Dougan said. “Sigma Chi has done everything we have asked of them to earn the opportunity to return to the University of Rhode Island after a 15-year absence. We are excited about the accomplishments of the undergraduates and the incredible dedication and commitment of our URI Sigma Chi alumni.”
NEW HOME FOR SIGMA CHI: The new Sigma Chi Fraternity house at 13 Fraternity Circle at URI will be the site of official dedication ceremonies Saturday, Sept. 26 from 2 to 3 p.m.
FOUR HAPPY BROTHERS: These four Sigma Chi brothers are all smiles on the lawn outside their new fraternity house at 13 Fraternity Circle on the University of Rhode Island’s Kingston campus. From left are: Sam Milder of Warwick, a junior communication studies major; Brendan Goff of Bristol, an English and communication studies double major; Jacob Newel of Warwick, a sophomore supply chain management major and Billy Batchelder of Sterling, Mass., a sophomore criminal justice major.
University of Rhode Island photographs by Nora Lewis.