Our organization evolved from the drive of five men who had common dissatisfaction with the social environment existing at Michigan Tech. In early January, 1963, they decided to change the situation by broadening the campus community to include a seventh social fraternity.
Dissatisfaction with the six existing campus fraternities stemmed from two primary causes: the educational being environment was considered too slack, with gross negligence being the rule. They also wanted to emphasize contemporary social conduct. No social fraternity scholastic average was above the campus average. With these considerations in mind, the new group would place high value on education, with an appropriate environment. Also, an effort would be made to increase emphasis on contemporary manners and to develop the mind and body for the betterment of the individual and the fulfillment of the true ideal of a fraternity man.
After an initial meeting with the dean of students, information was gathered concerning the various national fraternities. In the beginning, the group had become the Newman Club, formed for the benefit of Catholic students at Michigan Tech. Its ultimate purpose was to form the present church of St. Albert the Great. Once construction started, the members of the Newman Club petitioned the Phi Kappa Theta Catholic Fraternity, but were initially turned down because the construction was not complete. This created two factions: one became the Phi Kappa Theta Fraternity, the other became the Igloo Club.
The Igloo Klub was officially established on February 27, 1963. A very loose controlling system was an accepted fact, with a temporary chairman and committees. The first election was held on April 5, 1963. Michael McCarthy, one of the original five organizers, became President of the Igloo Klub, and the organization straightened out into a more efficient, aggressive form. The appeal of Sigma Phi Epsilon led to continuous correspondence. Later, permission was obtained to work toward colony status.
The Igloo Klub became a SigEp colony on May 26, 1963, as the school year drew to a close. However, activity did not cease over the summer. Students remaining in the summer worked to be ready for Fall Term. The booklets telling of our colony were sent to every entering freshman (first-year). Thus, as a colony, the ideals of Sigma Phi Epsilon were brought to the attention of the student body.
In the fall of 1963, the school changed its name to Michigan Technological University and the colony stayed strong. A GPA of 2.45 was established, a number low by today’s standards), but at the time was the second among Greek organization, and above the all-male average by a considerable margin. The colony began service projects like helping with student registration and providing aid to local churches. Finally, the physical house at 218 Blanche Street was bought for only $15,000. Before its purchase, the house at 218 was used by Michigan Tech as a girls dormitory, followed by Kappa Delta Psi, and lastly Delta Sigma Phi.
The Spring of 1964 saw 25 men in our group with Lyle Merritt, the only active SigEp on campus, being elected President of the colony. The proceeding year, Donald Wick was elected president and would eventually become the first president of the Michigan Eta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon.
May 8, 1965 was a memorable day for the SigEp Colony because on that day (afternoon) the colony became the Michigan Eta Chapter of Sigma Phi Epsilon Fraternity. The national president, Mr. Paul B. Slater, and several chapters from Wisconsin and Michigan were present for the installation. Two years of hard work and disappointment by all those concerned brought about the realization of a Sigma Phi Epsilon Chapter at Michigan Tech.
Throughout the 70s and early 80s, the chapter continued its growth and great presence on campus. Our numbers grew larger while focus was maintained on studies and good social values. Many great traditions were started including the SigEp-DZ Christmas Party which is held every year to give presents to underprivileged local children.
From the mid-Eighties on the chapter became a trued powerhouse on campus. For most parts of the 80s and 90s SigEps brought home the First Place Homecoming Trophy. Since 1988, SigEps have not placed lower than fifth in Winter Carnival and one of the best, if not the best, in grades, athletics, and size.
In the fall of 1996, the brothers of the Michigan Eta Chapter voted 60-2-8 to adopt the Balanced Man Project Challenge, moving away from the traditional pledging model. This move took over ten years to implement and was finalized in the spring of 2007. As many chapters, Michigan Eta is currently a hybrid of the Balanced Man Project Challenge and traditional pledging system.
In the fall of 1999 construction was completed on a $500,000 addition and complete renovation of the house. With this new construction we were able to house 35 brothers along with facilities including a industrial size kitchen, a large eating and meeting area, and an expanded dance floor. Currently the house is set up to house only 31 brothers.
The first decade of the second century was a great one of continued excellence. Grades had never been higher in our chapter’s history and Winter Carnival continues to be dominated by SigEps. In the late 2000s, the chapter started the Balanced Man Scholarship Program aimed at rewarding first year men for their high school accomplishments as well as a recruitment tool. By the end of the decade, Michigan Eta has awarded over $4,000 in scholarships to deserving men.