Their grandfathers were veterans of the Civil War. That was a domestic quarrel. They were about to embark on a journey that would take them back to the "old country." It was the "War to end all Wars." That was the noble sentiment applied to World War I. General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing; a native son of their native state – Missouri – was selected by President Woodrow Wilson to command the American Expeditionary Force. As volunteers, they would leave their small Midwestern normal school and follow him.
They were not ordinary men. In an era when fewer than half of our nation's young people advanced beyond the eighth grade, and fewer still graduated from high school, these children of farmers, craftsmen and shop keepers in the sparsely populated rural counties of western Missouri were pursuing a normal school diploma. That was a two-year post high school education that qualified them to teach and administer public schools. Almost uniformly, they were as well qualified academically as students at the private and land grant colleges. They simply lacked the financial resources necessary for enrollment at those schools.
Together they joined what was then called an Ambulance Company. Today we would call them corpsmen and emergency medical technicians. Near the end of 1918, after 18 months of battle, the armistice came, war ended and after serving in the occupational force, by steamship they headed home.
While they were gone to war their school had become a four-year college. It was the summer of 1920. They were what we would today call non-traditional students. Emmett Ellis, their leader, was 29. These were not starry-eyed children. They were veterans who had met death face to face. Even so, they did not stare death down, for that is impossible. Rather, they fully realized the essence of a life worth living, a life that manifests itself in caring, one for the other.
They were determined to make the bonds of brotherhood expressed in the trenches of WWI manifest in the bonds of brotherhood expressed in the enlightenment of a liberal arts education. They were, these founders of Sigma Tau Gamma, hopeful people.
Thus, Sigma Tau Gamma began, on a warm summer day in a rooming house at 101 Ming Street, just blocks from a humble school dedicated as they were to the pursuit of the American dream.
Nothing has changed. Sigma Tau Gamma still values brotherhood, a liberal arts education, the pursuit of knowledge and the pursuit of the American dream for every member. And, we believe that those values apply to everyone. Sigma Tau Gamma does not discriminate. It was the first multi-racial fraternity.
You will find in Sigma Tau Gamma the values and traditions about which you can be proud.