For over seven generations, the Rho chapter of Sigma Chi has enjoyed a successful presence at Butler University. We are the oldest continuously chartered Greek-letter society at Butler and are the fifth oldest within the entire Sigma Chi Fraternity of over 225 chapters. Our chapter traces its heritage to the closing months of the American civil war, when Butler and Sigma Chi (both founded in 1855) were in less than ten years old!
A student named George W. Galvin was enrolled at the North Western Christian University (later renamed Butler University) which at the time was located in a single building at 12th Street and College Avenue, on the “outskirts” of the small city of Indianapolis. George’s father was the proprietor of Little’s Hotel located at the corner of New Jersey and Washington Streets. Little’s was a prominent hotel and had become a favorite gathering place for Sigma Chi alumni from the previously established Xi Chapter at Depauw University. Young Galvin befriended several of these alumni, among them Leonard W. McCord (Xi ’61), William H. Riley (Xi ’62), and Joseph F. Long (Xi ’64) and was inspired to establish a Sigma Chi chapter on campus, which already had a chapter of Phi Delta Theta. McCord petitioned the headquarters chapter (then located at Ohio Weslyan University) for Rho Chapter’s charter, which was granted on April 10, 1865 and the ceremonies of initiation were conducted at Little’s Hotel
The late 19th century was a time of rapid change for the university, which moved its campus to the village of Irvington on the city’s eastern edge, south of Washington Street along Butler Avenue. Rho Chapter moved, too, occupying several private homes over the years, which was the custom at the time. By the turn of the century, the chapter was located at 130 S. Audubon Road.
In the 1920’s, Butler had outgrown the Irvington campus and plans were made to relocate the campus to its present location at Fairview Park along the White River. At the time, Fairview Park was a popular country retreat for the city’s residents and was known for its fresh air and scenic views. Rho Chapter followed the campus once again, establishing a temporary chapter house at 714 Berkley Road in 1927. As the Fairview campus grew, the men of Rho grew along with it and moved their burgeoning chapter to a larger house located at 442 W. 46th Street.
In the early 1950’s Rho Chapter had again outgrown its chapter house and a new facility was constructed on Hampton Drive between the Phi Delt house and the old Sigma Nu house, adding to that street’s nickname of “fraternity row.” Tragically, a gas explosion in November 1955 (caused by a faulty water heater) destroyed that house, leveling all but one wall. Miraculously, most of the brothers were attending the Cross & Shield dance in downtown Indianapolis and the few members who remained behind escaped without serious injury. Several neighboring fraternities came to the aid of the Sigma Chis, providing temporary shelter and food until they could be moved into the men’s dormitory.
Without a chapter house, the members of Rho Chapter banded together and were strengthened by their misfortune, maintaining the chapter’s long history of excellence. Funds were gathered to purchase the adjacent Sigma Nu chapter house at 655 W. Hampton Drive, which was completely renovated and expanded to its present form. The west half of the present structure, along with the familiar columns and portico were added during this phase. This facility was opened and dedicated in 1960 and remains Rho Chapter’s current home.
For almost a century and a half, our chapter has produced over 1500 Sigma Chi brothers and has over 1000 living alumni. Among them have been prominent business and civic leaders, bankers, attorneys, physicians, scientists, broadcasters and journalists, educators, and entrepreneurs. Each one of them carries with him a portion of our chapter and fraternity throughout their lives.
Rho Chapter of Sigma Chi is very proud of its long heritage and tradition of excellence. Its serves us as constant reminder of our current obligations and a firm foundation for future aspirations.
Daniel P. Brown (Rho’84)