Our Founders

The Seven founders of Sigma Chi not only left their mark on the fraternity, but also on the rest of the world. All of the founders went on to be successful in their careers and reflected the values of Sigma Chi in their daily lives.


Thomas Cowan Bell
Quote: “The qualities of learning”
Virtue: Wisdom

At the age of 23, Thomas Cowan Bell became one of the founders of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. He was born near Dayton, Ohio and was an 1857 graduate of Miami of Ohio. His aunt’s house is known to be the first chapter house of Sigma Chi. The house allowed the seven founders to meet and discuss the early issues of the fraternity. After graduation, he joined the Union Army in 1862 and later attained the rank of lieutenant colonel. Following the conclusion of the Civil War, Bell continued his ambitions in the academic world. He became the superintendent of a public-school district and continued on to become the president of two colleges. In addition, he served as editor and publisher of a local newspaper from 1878–1885. Brother Bell is known for his exemplification of friendship and warm-heartedness. He joined the chapter eternal in 1919. 


James Parks Caldwell
Quote: “true to principle”
Virtue: Fidelity

Born in Monroe, Ohio, James Parks Caldwell was the youngest founder. He was only 14 years old when he helped start Sigma Chi. Caldwell is most known for his incredible intellect. He progressed through challenging courses at Miami University and was beloved by the school’s faculty and students. His spirit of youth wore off on the other founders, and his genius continually impressed them. Once graduated from Miami at the age of 16, he pursued law and later became an educator in Mississippi. During the Civil War, James Parks Caldwell fought for the Confederacy but was captured and taken prisoner. He was offered his freedom if he agreed to renounce his allegiance to the Confederacy, but he rejected and remained loyal to the South. Following the war, he was admitted to the bar and practiced as an attorney. Brother Bell died in 1912 in Biloxi.


Daniel William Cooper
Quote: “ruler of the spirit”
Virtue: Self-Control

Daniel William Cooper was the oldest of the founders and was age 26 during the conception of the fraternity. He was born near Frederickstown, Ohio, and later became the first consul of the Alpha Chapter at Miami University. His maturity and confidence made him a great leader, and it was common consent that he was the head of the chapter. After graduation, he entered the seminary and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister. He pastored several churches and frequently engaged in missionary service. Brother Cooper was the last of the founders to pass into the chapter eternal. He continued to wear his original badge until his death in 1920. His badge sits at the Sigma Chi headquarters museum and is pinned on the newly installed Grand Consul at each Grand Chapter.


Isaac M. Jordan
Quote: “energetic and faithful to every task”
Virtue: High Ambition

Born on a farm in central Pennsylvania, Isaac M. Jordan was 20 years old when Sigma Chi was founded. As a boy, he moved to Ohio and became friends with Benjamin Piatt Runkle. He is known for his determination and tenacity. In a speech he gave in 1884, he outlined the characteristics that men should possess in order to join the fraternity. This became known as the Jordan Standard, which continues to guide every Sigma Chi chapter in its recruitment process. After his graduation from college, he was admitted to the bar and practiced law in Cincinnati and Dayton. In 1882, he was elected to Congress and represented the first district of Ohio. He died in 1890 when he accidentally fell down an open elevator shaft. His death was greatly mourned by the people in his community, because he was beloved by all.


William Lewis Lockwood
Quote: “honest and trustworthy through life”
Virtue: Integrity

William Lewis Lockwood was born in New York and is the only founder that was not previously a member of ΔΚΕ. Lockwood was different from the founders, and his organizing skills contributed greatly to the early success of the fraternity. He displayed his abilities as a businessman and later was the chapter’s treasurer. After graduating in 1858, he went back to New York and was admitted to the bar. He suffered injuries in the Civil War that he never fully recovered from. Due to his poor health, he could no longer practice law, and instead, he formed the successful firm of Lockwood, Alpin, and Company. Brother Lockwood was the first founder to pass away at the early age of 31 in 1867.


Benjamin Piatt Runkle
Quote: “courageous in spirit and idealism”
Virtue: Courage

Brother Runkle was born in West Liberty, Ohio. At the time of the fraternity’s founding, he was 18 years old. Runkle can be remembered for throwing his ΔΚΕ badge on the table during a February 1855 dinner meeting. He stood up to the Deke alumni and confronted them about the problems of the fraternity. He helped voice the concerns of the other founders, and he had their full support. After leaving ΔΚΕ and founding Sigma Chi, Lockwood and Runkle designed the white cross of Sigma Chi. Runkle convinced the founders to base Sigma Chi symbolism after the vision of Constantine. He had the most notable military career of all the founders, rising to colonel by the end of the Civil War. He was severely wounded and left for dead during the Battle of Shiloh, but he survived. After a long military career, he was promoted to major general. Later, he would be ordained as an Episcopal priest. Brother Runkle became the 7th Grand Consul and served from 1895–1897. He entered the chapter eternal on the fraternity’s 61st birthday.


Franklin Howard Scobey
Quote: “courteous and loyal in his friendship”
Virtue: Courtesy

Franklin Howard Scobey was born in Hamilton, Ohio. He was 18 at the founding of the fraternity and is known for always radiating good cheer and hopefulness. He proposed the idea that friendship among brothers with different temperaments, talents, and convictions is superior to friendship among brothers having the same temperaments, talents, and convictions. This idea manifested itself in the “Spirit of Sigma Chi.” After leaving Miami, he studied law and was admitted to the bar in 1860. He suffered from deafness and later settled on a farm near Oxford. He died at the age of 41 in 1888.