History of Phi Kappa Sigma


Phi Kappa Sigma was founded by Dr. Samuel Brown Wylie Mitchell at the University of Pennsylvania on August 16, 1850.

Fascinated by the prospect of fraternal relations with his fellowman, Mitchell set out to found a new, secret order in the restricted life of the university at that time. His papers indicate that on August 16, 1850, he had determined to install a new order on the campus in the fall of 1850.

Between August 16 and October 19, 1850, Mitchell sought six other men to constitute the Alpha Chapter of Phi Kappa Sigma. The formal organization of Alpha Chapter occurred at the home of James Bayard Hodge on October 19, 1850.

At the Convention of 1860. After three days of sincere debate, the chapters of the Fraternity unanimously voted that no discriminatory clauses should be included in the Constitution of the Fraternity. This Phi Kappa Sigma policy from 1860 has never been modified in any way. This was in response to Theta Chapter at Centenary College, circulating a petition among the southern chapters, asking for an amendment to the Constitution providing that the Fraternity “be an organization for white men, and for white men only.” It was further requested that the attitude of the northern brothers on the slavery question be ascertained and all chapters be informed. [1]

While the official founding date of the Fraternity is August 16, 1850, Phi Kappa Sigma began celebrating “Founder’s Day” on October 19 as a commemoration of the establishment of Alpha Chapter.


The fraternity’s badge was designed by its founder, Dr. Mitchell. Outside of changes in size, its official design has remained the same. In the shape of a Maltese cross , the badge is old gold with black decoration. The center of the cross is anchored by a skull and crossbones. The four leafs of the cross display, individually, the Greek letters Phi , Kappa, and Sigma , starting at the left leaf and rotating counter-clockwise. The fourth and top leaf display a six-pointed star. The back of the badge has an engraved serpent echoing the serpent from the Fraternity’s coat of arms .

In the 1850s, the Southern chapters inaugurated the custom of wearing silver skulls on their badges, and thus were known as the “Silver Skulls.” Iota Chapter, at Columbia University , adopted a smaller badge, in 1861, than had been worn previously by the membership of any chapter and also copied the Southern custom of utilizing the silver skull. The silver skull on the badge was never re-instituted by any chapter after the Civil War, and is now a legend in the Fraternity.[2]

Public Mottos

Phi Kappa Sigma has taken on multiple public mottos, each pertaining to a different aspect of the fraternity:[4]

  • “Brotherhood is more than skin deep”: Brothers are chosen based on the worth of their character, not their religion, race, or wealth.
  • “Once a Phi Kap, always a Phi Kap”: Phi Kappa Sigma is a life-long commitment not limited to college years.
  • “Stellis Aequus Durando”: Latin for “equal to the stars in endurance”, this motto honors the many tribulations Phi Kappa Sigma has survived, and its determination to overcome future challenges.
  • “Men of Honor Since 1850”: Phi Kappa Sigma was established in 1850 and has always enforced the idea of “Men of Honor”
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