Sigma Pi (literary society)

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Sigma Pi Literary Society
FoundedJune 24, 1843; 180 years ago (1843-06-24)
Founded atIllinois College, Jacksonville, Illinois
TypeLiterary Society
HeadquartersUpper Beecher Hall
Illinois College
Nicholas Walter

Sigma Pi (ΣΠ) is one of the four male literary societies of Illinois College. It is the oldest literary society at Illinois College and one of the oldest literary societies in the United States, having been founded on Saturday, June 24, 1843. Sigma Pi is headquartered in Beecher Hall, the oldest college building in Illinois. William Jennings Bryan, a three-time presidential nominee, is one of its most distinguished members.


"To Samuel Willard and Henry Wing, the idea first occurred of founding a society that would live while their Alma Mater sat in proud eminence. Accordingly, on Saturday, June 24th, 1843 the first regular meeting of the Sigma Pi Society was held in room 32, Old College Building."[1] Thus was born the first permanent literary society at Illinois College.[2]

Sigma Pi was nameless until Barbour Lewis suggested the appropriateness of keeping "Union and Progress" and Samuel Willard selected the corresponding Greek Words, Sustasis Kai Prokape along with Henry Wing's suggestion that Sigma Pi adopt the Hebrew sentence from the history of Creation, from Genesis "let there be light".

The fourteen founders of Sigma Pi are:

  • Samuel Willard
  • Thomas K. Beecher
  • Charles H. Tillson
  • William E. Catlin
  • William Ireland
  • Newton Bateman
  • Henry Wing
  • Henry M. Lyons
  • Barbour Lewis
  • George W. Harlan
  • William C. Goudy
  • John B. Shaw
  • Joseph L. Thayer (died August 25, 1843)
  • John Tillson


The purpose of the Sigma Pi Literary Society is concisely stated in its constitution. "The purpose of the society shall be the attainment of truth, and the advancement of its members in literary and scientific pursuits."[citation needed] The society also strives to develop the social, communication, and leadership skills of the membership.


Sigma Pi assembles three judged literary productions a semester. These judged meetings consist of pieces given by society members to an audience. Sigma Pi conducts weekly business meetings, which are conducted using Robert's Rules of Order. These meetings are intended to direct the everyday operations of Sigma Pi. The society's members also complete community service activities.


  1. ^ Moore, Ensley (1871). History of the Sigma Pi Society of Illinois College. Jacksonville, Illinois. p. 1.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  2. ^ "Greek Lettered Organizations". Illinois College. Retrieved 18 December 2023.