Delta Phi

Delta Phi
The Delta Phi Fraternity
Founded November 17, 1827 (1827-11-17) (184 years ago)
Union College
Type Social
Scope National
Motto "Semper Ubique"
Colors Columbia Blue and White
Symbol The Maltese Cross
Chapters 14 Active Chapters
Headquarters Athens, Georgia, USA

Delta Phi (ΔΦ) is a fraternity founded in 1827 at Union College in Schenectady, New York. Founded as part of the Union Triad, along with the Kappa Alpha Society and Sigma Phi Society, Delta Phi was the third and last member of the Triad. The organization has never disbanded, making it the oldest continuously running social fraternity.



Delta Phi and the other fraternities of the Union Triad were established during a time of strong anti-Masonic sentiment in the United States. Because fraternities were secret societies at the time, they also became targets of the anti-Masonic movement. This led Phi Beta Kappa, the original fraternity, to abandon secrecy and become an honor society.

In the early 1830s, Dr. Eliphalet Nott, president of Union College, called for the dissolution of all fraternities. Before this policy could be enacted, John Jay Hyde, a member of Delta Phi, argued the benefits of the fraternity system so convincingly that Nott relented and permitted the organizations to remain in existence. Hyde went on to design the badge still worn by members of Delta Phi, which includes a Maltese Cross, a symbol used by the Knights of Malta.

This connection to the Knights of Malta led Delta Phi to become known as "The St. Elmo Club," a name first used by the Omicron chapter at Yale University, which since has transformed into a senior secret society known as St. Elmo Society. The brothers there used the name of St. Elmo, the patron saint of mariners and the Knights of Malta. Some of Delta Phi's chapter houses are also known as "St. Elmo's Hall."

Delta Phi today

Delta Phi Badge.jpg

Delta Phi remains a small fraternity with fourteen active chapters and few chapters with more than several dozen members. It has resisted expansion in order to create an "intimate, personal experience"[1] for its members. The fraternity's current expansion policy is to reactivate dormant chapters.[1] As a member of the Union triad, Delta Phi is the third oldest fraternity in the United States. It is also the oldest continuously active fraternity, since the other two Triad members went underground temporarily. The Gamma Chapter at New York University is the oldest continuously active chapter of any social fraternity in the world having never gone inactive since its founding in 1841.

Governance and Organization

Owing mostly to its development in the early 19th century, Delta Phi organizes itself federally. Individual alumni chapters still exercise significant power over chapter governance. Those powers that are given in the national organization are vested in the Board of Governors.[2] The Board consists of one member appointed from each alumni chapter plus two undergraduate representatives elected at the annual leadership conference the fraternity sponsors.[2] Among the duties given to the board is hiring the Executive Director who oversees day to day management of the fraternity.[2]

In addition to the national governing organization of the fraternity, Delta Phi alumni have also established the Saint Elmo Foundation which, among other things, sponsor's the annual leadership weekend and provides scholarships to undergraduate members of Delta Phi.[3]

Alumni Membership

Overall alumni participation among active chapters remains strong with chapters hosting several social events throughout the year.[4][5]

Alumni status in Delta Phi also qualifies one to apply for membership in the Saint Elmo Club,[6] a private social club which operates at 3 West 51st Street in the Manhattan borough of New York City.[6]

On or about November 17 of every year, the national organization sponsors the Founder's Day Dinner at the Saint Elmo Club where undergraduates and alumni celebrate the founding of the fraternity.[7]



Active Chapters

There are 15 active chapters of Delta Phi.[8]

Inactive Chapters

There are 12 inactive chapters of Delta Phi.[9]

Notable alumni


External links

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