The History of Delta Phi

"Over one hundred and seventy-five years ago, on a crisp November evening, nine young men huddled closely against the evening chill underneath the old Scotia Bridge..."


On that night in 1827, our founders contemplated and laid the foundation for the Delta Phi Fraternity. When those nine men reconvened in North College Hall at Union College on the seventeenth of that November, they consecrated an organization based on study, friendship, and lifelong bonds that has lasted to this day.

The Union Triad
The Delta Phi, along with Kappa Alpha Society and Sigma Phi Society, comprise the hallowed Union Triad--the first three social college fraternities. From these three fraternities at Union College (regarded as the "Mother of Fraternities") can be traced the extensive greek system seen on college campuses today. Much as now, anti-fraternity sentiment was rampant in the college administration. Adding to the challenges facing the nascent fraternities was the authority of the man seeking their destruction, Dr. Eliphalet Nott, president Union College and the most esteemed educator of his day.



The Man Who Saved the Greek System
Under extreme duress, both Kappa Alpha and Sigma Phi removed their badges and attempted underground existences. Because The Delta Phi refused to disband and continued on in the open, it stakes its claim as the oldest, continuous fraternity. The Delta Phi took up the defense of the fraternity movement and it was a Delt, John Jay Hyde Alpha 1832 (Union 1834) who so convincingly argued the case of the fraternities before the faculty that Dr. Nott, rescinded his proscription of fraternities, allowing them to grow, flourish and expand to other campuses. In turn, Nott's own son would join The Delta Phi during his college days.

John Jay Hyde was to make yet another lasting contribution to his fraternity, the Badge of The Delta Phi, pictured below. This design, worn by members of The Delta Phi continuously since it's adoption in 1833, replaced the fraternity's first badge. This badge, based on the Maltese Cross worn by the Knights of St. John (later, the Knights Hospitalers and finally the Knights of Malta), has many symbolic meanings to members of the fraternity. This design was also to give birth to one of the most enduring traditions of The Delta Phi, the use of the name St. Elmo in association with the fraternity.

About Delta Phi Brothers
The Delta Phi has remained a small fraternity. Rather than engaging in the wholesale expansion policies that have marked the operation of other Greek letter fraternities, The Delta Phi chooses to establish chapters only at the finest schools and usually with proximity to other chapters. These schools include RPI, Cornell, Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Brown, to name a few. It grants its chapters a substantial degree of local autonomy - allowing them to develop their own traditions and policies within the scope of a larger institution.

Members of The Delta Phi have come from every walk of life; social and economic. Its members have reached the pinnacles of business, politics, education and service. It is an organization where names such as J.P. Morgan, Jr., John Jacob Astor and James Roosevelt are but the start of a long and distinguished list.



Founded upon Friendship, Morality, and Literature, Delta Phi instills ideals that last a lifetime. Semper Ubique!

 

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