A group of Methodist men in the Wesley Foundation at the University of South Dakota, Vermillion, South Dakota, had been carrying on a program as a religious fraternity, which they called Phi Lambda Phi, for some time when it occurred to them that perhaps the men in other Wesley Foundations had similar groups which could be mutually helpful if they should form a union. The idea was brought up at the student council retreat at Ames, Iowa, in 1924 and 1925. They sent an invitation to all Wesley Foundation units asking those interested to send representatives to an organizational meeting. This meeting was held at Lincoln, Nebraska on February 6-7, 1925. The delegates drew up articles of federation and elected National Officers, thus a National Religious Fraternity for Methodist Men became known as Phi Tau Theta (meaning "Friends of God").
On October 8, 1936, another group of Christian men met and started a fraternity. The meeting was held at Indiana University, and Sigma Epsilon Theta was formed.
In 1939, a delegation of Phi Tau Theta approached the National Officers of Sigma Epsilon Theta and proposed a merger of the two National Fraternities. During Thanksgiving break, 1941, Delta Sigma Theta was formed. The transition from two fraternities to one was smooth, largely due to careful preparation by the officers.
"When all seemed to be going well, Delta Sigma Theta (a sorority) threatened suit against the fraternity..."
When all seemed to be going well, Delta Sigma Theta (a sorority) threatened suit against the fraternity for use of their name. The name "Sigma Theta Epsilon" was selected during Easter break 1949.
Inactivity of the chapters (high in number - low in spirit) persuaded the National Conclave of 1968 to appoint a committee to examine the philosophy of the fraternity. The committee suggested that the fraternity change from a National Religious Fraternity for Methodist Men. This change saw a decrease in enrollment due to decreased support by the Wesley Foundation. The National Cabinet Meeting of 1972 realized that Sigma Theta Epsilon had evolved into a National Christian Service Fraternity, and thus adopted purposes centered on three main areas: religious, service , and social. These purposes were revised at the Conclave of 1975 into the four Purposes of Sigma Theta Epsilon we have today.
An all-time low was reached in 1975 with only two active chapters: Alpha Gamma at West Virginia Wesleyan College and newly formed Epsilon Chapter at Ohio Northern University. The following years almost saw the dissolving of Sigma Theta Epsilon as a National Fraternity. The addition of Delta Chapter at Mount Union College in April 1980 stimulated new optimism and growth for the fraternity.
In 1988 Sigma Theta Epsilon struggled again through some growing pains. Delta Chapter had all but disappeared while Alpha Gamma Chapter's numbers began to fall. But 1988 also saw the start of the Beta Alpha Chapter in Oklahoma City. This new chapter grew rapidly, and soon joined Epsilon Chapter as the fraternity's largest.
"Beta Alpha's designation marked what was hoped to be a re-birth for the fraternity..."
Beta Alpha's designation marked what was hoped to be a re-birth for the fraternity, and all chapters from this point on would be named in succession following Beta Alpha.
This excitement carried into Spring 1993, when Beta Beta Chapter at Miami University of Ohio was formed. An excited group of men gathered together and quickly grew to be as solid as any chapter. In the fall of 1993, Delta Chapter put together its first Pledge Class in almost five years. Led by an alumnus of Epsilon Chapter, who had been teaching at Mt. Union College, these men revived the Delta Chapter just weeks before the National Fraternity was to absorb their charter and assets.
The fraternity didn't see National Growth again until 1998, when on January 31, the Beta Gamma Chapter was initiated at the University of Cincinnati. Thus began a substantial period of National Growth that continues today.
Spring Conclave 1999 saw the formal initiation of a group of men from Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas as Beta Delta Chapter. This group of men would mark them selves as one of the most active chapters in the Nation.
At the 2000 Spring Conclave, a group of men from Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois pledged as a temporary club. These same men were formally initiated as Beta Epsilon Chapter at The English Chapel at Ohio Northern University during the East Regional Fall Gathering on October 21, 2000.
At the West Regional Fall Gathering at Oklahoma City University, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; a group of men from Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma were formally initiated as the Beta Zeta Chapter on October 26, 2002. Their road to establishing a chapter was a rocky one to say the least, but their persistence prevailed.
"The current period of growth continues to look promising..."
On April 5, 2003, the Beta Eta Chapter was formally initiated at Spring Conclave in St. Louis, Missouri. These men from West Virginia University were blessed to have pledged under the supervision of the sitting National President, Chad Burdette, while he was completing graduate studies there.
The addition of the Beta Eta Chapter brings the number of chapters nationally to 10. This is the highest number seen since the 1960's. The current period of growth continues to look promising, as reports of groups interested in forming chapters at their own schools continue to surface.