Chi Epsilon’s History:
In the spring of 1922 two groups of civil engineering students at the University of Illinois, one calling itself Chi Epsilon, and the other calling itself Chi Delta Chi, independently of each other, took steps to petition the faculty for permission to establish an honorary civil engineering fraternity. As soon as the existence of the two groups became known to each other, plans were immediately propagated to merge the two groups. Dean M. S. Ketchum, Professor Ira O. Baker, and Professor C. C. Williams, later all chapter honor members, gave moral support to the idea of a departmental honorary fraternity and on May 20, 1922, the Council of the University granted permission to the petitioning group of 25 charter members to found the CHI EPSILON FRATERNITY. Upon the shoulders of the charter officers R. A. Black, president, Wm. A. Gurtler, vice president, and H. T. Larsen, secretary-treasurer, rested the burden and trials during the organization period, and it was due to the care and foresight used by these officers in the formulation of the early plans for initial organization and expansion that Chi Epsilon has been able to progress steadily.
- In the spring of 1922, two groups of civil engineering students at the University of Illinois, one calling itself Chi Epsilon, and the other calling itself Chi Delta Chi, independently of each other, took steps to petition the faculty for permission to establish an honorary civil engineering fraternity. As soon as the existence of the two groups became known to each other, plans were immediately propagated to merge the two groups. On May 20, 1922, the Council of the University granted permission to the petitioning group of 25 charter members to found the CHI EPSILON FRATERNITY.
- As soon as the plans for the local organization had been perfected, steps were taken to expand into a national fraternity by banding together with groups at various other universities. An active expansion policy was decided upon and letters were written to the presidents of all the large engineering schools inviting petitions to Chi Epsilon.
- Meanwhile, the petition to the State of Illinois to incorporate as a national honorary civil engineering fraternity was granted and the certificate of incorporation issued on February 13, 1923.
Our History continued:
Many encouraging replies were received from various universities, but it was not until March 29, 1923 upon the installation of the Armour Chapter at the Armour Institute of Technology, that Chi Epsilon became truly a national fraternity. April 28, 1923, saw the national organization increase to three chapters upon the installation of the Minnesota Chapter at the University of Minnesota. The work of the Committee on Expansion became very complex and required the assumption of authority for the fulfillment of its plans. With the assumption of authority the committee finally became the Temporary Supreme Council (now know as he National Council) of the National Fraternity and in order that it be a representative body P. L. Bergquist of the Minnesota Chapter, and H.W. Munday, of the Armour Chapter, were elected to it.
As a result of the active expansion campaign, petitions were received from the Universities of Southern California and Cornell, and the chapters installed on January 5, 1924, and January 10, 1925, respectively. The First Conclave was held at the Armour Chapter in Chicago July 4, 1924, at which twelve members representing four chapters were present. Drastic changes were made in the constitution and general government, most noteworthy being the establishment of an endowment fund for conclave expenses.
Members of the First Supreme Council were elected by the conclave, who in turn elected the following officers: Wm. A. Gurtler, Grand President; P. L. Bergquist, Grand Vice President; C. W. Carlson, Grand Secretary-Treasurer; H. W. Munday, Editor of The Transit; F. M. Hines, member; and M. G. Burkey, member. Due to the temporary slowing up of the work on the national expansion, a special meeting of the Supreme Council was called in Chicago in February 1924. Present at this meeting were members Gurtler, Carlson, Munday, and Burkey. An extensive campaign was planned with hopes that the number of chapters might be increased within the year, after which time a more conservative policy was to be enacted. The membership had grown to 190 by February 1925. The petition of the University of Wisconsin group resulted in the installation of the sixth chapter on February 14, 1925, at Madison, Wisconsin. The seventh chapter was installed shortly thereafter at the University of California on May 10, 1925.
In its 90 year history five men have served Chi Epsilon as its Secretary-Treasurer for 58 of those years: Ray S. Wen (1928-52), John A. Focht (1958-1972), Dexter C. Jameson, Jr. (1972-92), Robert L. Henry (1992-2006) and Thomas M. Petry (2006 to 2012) and Glenn C. Goss (2013 to present). One of Chi Epsilon’s founding members, Harold T. Larsen, had a long–term and profound effect on the society. He served two terms as National Secretary-Treasurer in the early years, was a member of the Supreme Council in his late years, and was named Councilor Emeritus in 1958 and remained as such until his death in 1971. The Harold T. Larsen Award was established by the Conclave in 1976 to honor those members who have given “Outstanding Service to Chi Epsilon”.
In the first 35 years of its history Chi Epsilon had established 49 chapters. Since then the society has grown at a steady rate of 20 chapters per decade. Six chapters have now become inactive (Colorado-Denver #96, Columbia #97, Detroit-Mercy #38, NYU #41, Washington #126 and Yale #47).
The 22nd National Conclave was held at the University of Illinois, April 6-8, 1972. It was very appropriate for Chi Epsilon to return to the Illinois campus to observe the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Fifty-eight of the then 78 active chapters had one or more delegates in attendance at this notable conclave. The membership of Chi Epsilon had grown to 28,500 by April 1972. The 25th National Conclave voted to change the name of our organization from Chi Epsilon Fraternity to Chi Epsilon.
Prior to 1956 the Supreme Council had seven members consisting of the President, Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, Editor, and three at-large Councilors. In 1956 the Conclave (held at Purdue University) changed the Bylaws to create seven districts: Western, Midwestern, Southwestern, Southeastern, North Central, Mid-Atlantic, and New England. One Councilor was elected for each district. As the member chapters increased and were distributed throughout the country geographically, the society adopted an eleven district format, but since 1982 has used a ten district organization. The ten Councilors are elected by district caucuses at the Conclaves. At the 38th Conclave in 2004 at Purdue the Supreme Council was renamed to the National Council.
Most of the earlier Conclaves (29 of 34) were held in the northeast geographical quadrant of the country, but in 1992, on the 70th anniversary of its founding, Chi Epsilon held its 32nd Conclave on the campus of the largest chapter, Texas A&M, and then its 33rd Conclave moved further west to Arizona State. Since then, Conclaves have been located across the continent, with the 2012 Conclave to be held at Los Angeles, California, sponsored by the Pacific District.
- Since 1922, the number of Chi Epsilon chapters has grown to 143 as of December 31, 2018. The Society has initiated more than 125,000 new members, has recognized 2388 Chapter Honor Members and elevated 65 National Honor Members.