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The History and Mission of Alpha Chi Sigma

What is Alpha Chi Sigma? Alpha Chi Sigma is one of a kind. Following the original concept for a fraternity as an academic organization, we are the only Professional Chemistry Fraternity. Nearly 100 years old with over 50,000 members, we bring together men and women pursuing a wide variety of chemistry-related careers.

Our past is prestigious. Not only are many of our members world-class scientists and engineers, but we sponsor a variety of scholarships and awards. Notable are the ACS Award in Pure Chemistry and the AIChE Award in Chemical Engineering. With our involvement in other chemistry and chemical engineering professional organizations, our members are a sort of bridge between these various organizations. Collegiate members benefit from a local group to not only help with their studies, but also projects which teach the roles of leadership and management, invaluable in their careers.

We also provide an opportunity to create lifelong friendships with others interested in chemistry. Sometimes its just nice to walk into a room and be able to tell a chemistry joke. Our organization goes a step further. Actually many steps, as membership is for life. As a Professional member, further opportunities for meeting other members can help with your employment, hiring, and relaxation. Alpha Chi Sigma brings together a unique mix of people. Our Professional members appreciate meeting others involved in chemistry outside of their workplaces and often outside of their field of work.

The above passage was taken from the Alpha Chi Sigma National Site (copyright 1999) at www.alphachisigma.org

The Three Objects of ALPHA CHI SIGMA:


• To bind its members with a tie of true and lasting friendship.

• To strive for the advancement of chemistry both as a science and as a profession.

• To aid its members by every honorable means in the attainment of their ambitions as chemists throughout their mortal lives.

Nu Chapter History

In the beginning of the twentieth century, the Pennsylvania State University, then known as the Pennsylvania State College, was well established as an “institute of higher learning”(1). The college was growing and many additions and “firsts” took place. The Nittany Lion was adopted as the athletic symbol; “Lion’s Paw”, a senior male honor society, was established; and also, sixteen students, enveloped in a world of chemistry, were initiated as the first members of the Nu Chapter of Alpha Chi Sigma.

Alpha Chi Sigma, a professional chemistry fraternity, established in 1902 at the University of Wisconsin at Madison, was expanding from the Midwest to the East with the addition of three new chapters in 1911; Mu, Xi, and Nu. The first steps of Nu, as with all first steps, were unsteady. Six senior chemists, who wanted a brotherly connection through chemistry, sparked the first interest. They started a local chemistry fraternity, Sigma Tau Omega. However, Professor G.G. Pond thought a national chapter should be formed instead and started corresponding with the Grand Master Alchemist of Alpha Chi Sigma (ACS), Joseph Matthews. Dr. Charles W. Stoddard of Penn State was also enlisted in the project and together they “speedily completed their petition”(2) to join ACS.

The installation of the new chapter took place on April 13, 1911 at the Continental Hotel in Philadelphia. Ten members were initiated that day: Joseph Coughlin, Robert Voris, Louis Cuthbert, Howard Lentz, Henry Harrison Geist, Blythe Watts, Howard Lamade, John Smith, Hadar Ohleen and Paul Yost. There were also six other members who could not make the trip and so they were initiated into the chapter upon returning to State College. They were Samuel Diehl, William Scott, H.E. Davis, Fred Holben, Frank Beegle, and Robert Guthrie. ACS was thus established at Pennsylvania State College. The sixteen founders continued to accept “men in the courses in chemistry, industrial chemistry, agricultural chemistry, and electrochemistry.”(3) Future brothers were only accepted after February 1 of their sophomore year.

After Nu was well established as an ACS chapter, the next step was to find a dwelling to house the members. At first, the members rented four rooms in a house. This sufficed for awhile, but in February of 1922, other plans were made. Brother H.H. Geist, by then a teacher at Penn State, and other alumni, solicited funds from the fathers of the members to build a house, which ended up costing thirty thousand dollars. The house was finally built at 406 South Pugh Street in State College, PA. It was made out of native stone using the Georgian style of architecture. Henry Harrison Geist was not only instrumental in building the house, but also in building Nu as an ACS chapter. He was one of the original founders of Nu, but did not start his contributions to the chapter until he came back to Penn State as a teacher in the 1920’s. He served as Chapter Advisor for 18 years and also performed as District Counselor and Grand Collegiate Alchemist for the Grand Chapter. However, despite all of these accomplishments, he was revered more for his generosity and devotion to the chapter. “Harry helped many a fellow out of a jam without batting an eyelash or ever expecting anything in return.”(4) Because Geist was so loved and adored, Nu chapter dedicated a new wing of the house in his honor and created a plaque by which we all commemorate him. Henry Harrison Geist died in 1944.

The years from 1943-1944 were also a time of war in the United States. The Navy took over the fraternity houses to house their personnel, while many students went to battle. The attendance at Penn State, as at most colleges, was low. After the war, ex-G.I.’s caused the economy to grow along with many universities’ populations. ACS also grew under the remembered influence of Geist. The Nu alumni corporation, formed by Geist in 1921 to build the house, was restructured in 1951 to support the Chapter Advisor. In a moment of sarcasm, its newly enlarged Board of Directors was nicknamed as President Franklin D. Roosevelt had ridiculed the Supreme Court. The Board has been known affectionatly ever since as the “Nine Old Men”.

The Nu chapter thrived all through these years. During this time, the 23rd National Conclave of Alpha Chi Sigma took place at Penn State in 1956. The conclave strengthened Nu’s bond with the national chapter. Starting in 1967, the Nu chapter slowly disintegrated. The late 60’s and 70’s were a time of rebellion and liberation. This was especially seen on college campuses across the nation. The organized groups, such as fraternities, decreased drastically in size. Housemothers were also let go due to the growing unrest of the students. Alpha Chi Sigma, due to the lack of members and the social integration of women, let females join the fraternity. Mary Willard was the first woman to join ACS and was initiated into Nu chapter in 1971. She, much like H.H. Geist, was a great influence on the chapter. The women who joined Nu chapter subsequently were known as “little sisters” and only had a “second class membership”.

Even with the addition of women to the fraternity, Nu chapter still continued on a downward spiral. The Grand Chapter did not realize the decline of Nu because of its eccentric history, until it was too late. Neither the alumni nor the faculty supported the chapter anymore because of its lack of professional and chemistry related commitments. The Nu chapter had turned into a different fraternity altogether. It was not based on the brotherly connection through chemistry. National declared Nu chapter inactive in April of 1996. The disbanding of the chapter saddened many of the Nu alumni. They decided to restart Nu with students who were again enveloped in a world of chemistry. Emails were sent out to every major related to chemistry, inviting others to come and see what ACS was all about. The response was good and interviews took place to get to know these fine new students. The alumni gave 29 students bids to join.

The new pledge class rose to the challenge of rebuilding Nu chapter. All expectations placed on the new pledge class were immediately exceeded. The immeasurable enthusiasm shared by the whole class was contagious to anyone that came in contact with them. The class decreased to 27 and was initiated, with the help of Tau chapter at Cornell University, on April 18, 1999. Now, they will be making Nu chapter Alpha Chi Sigma history as they strengthen brotherhood through the common bond of chemistry. References

Henry Harrison Geist, Nu

March 5, 1889 - May 19, 1944

Initiated as Nu Chapter Charter Member - April 13, 1911
Nu Chapter Advisor - 1926-1944
Grand Collegiate Alchemist - 1924-1926

His life was Nu chapter: its members his sons. Within the annals of Alpha Chi Sigma there exists no comparable record of such unselfish devotion to a member chapter. His wise council and human understanding will ever serve as an inspiration to his brothers. This tribute to his memory is dedicated by Nu chapter at the Pennsylvania State College and by the Grand Chapter of the fraternity.

US Bronze Sign Co, NY

Recent History

Since October of '98, The Nu chapter alumni of Alpha Chi Sigma, along with alumni of other chapters, have worked very hard to re-establish Nu chapter as a top ranked professional fraternity at Penn State.

The most instrumental people in this resurrection have been the Alumni Association Directors, affectionately called the "NINE OLD MEN."

The 9 Old Men of Nu Chapter:

• Joe Nock (President),
• Bill Sekeras (Vice President),
• Fred Vosbury (Treasurer),
• Jason Fronczek (Secretary),
• Brian Polizzi (House Advisor),
• Wally Lloyd (Chapter Advisor),
• John Matternas,
• Fred Nicholas,
• Brian Shaffer,
• Hani Abdel-Aziz,
• Jackie Bortiatynsky, and
• Dan Sykes