While on the surface fraternities are synonymous with mid-day drinking games and weekend keggers, at their heart, fraternities remain true to the visions set forth by their founders. Fraternities offer college men a place to develop outside of the classroom, offering friendship, leadership development, academic accountability and a firm alumni base post-graduation.
There are 10 fraternities that stand-out as some of the largest and oldest collegiate Greek organizations. We’ll introduce you to those and share their histories, philanthropies and even famous alumni.
Kappa Sigma is one of the oldest fraternities in the country, and also currently a leader in new pledges annually. Kappa Sigma was founded at the University of Virginia in 1869 by five men to promote fellowship, leadership, scholarship and service. Kappa Sig currently leads in donation and service hours over all other Greek organizations, with each chapter choosing its own philanthropy. Famous Kappa Sig alumni include singer Jimmy Buffet and Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
The Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity was founded at Boston University in 1909, with this year marking its centennial celebration. It was the first fraternity to eliminate pledging and it also takes a fervent stand against hazing, being one of the founders of the Greek Anti-Hazing Hotline. The official philanthropy of Lambda Chi Alpha is the North American Food Drive. Famous Lambda Chis include singer Kenny Chesney and radio broadcaster Paul Harvey.
Several sororities were also founded at Miami University in Ohio, where Phi Delta Theta came to be in 1848. Since implementing alcohol-free housing in 2000, the fraternity has enjoyed an increase in membership. In 2002 the official philanthropy of Phi Delta Theta became the Amytrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association. Famous Phi Delts include actor Burt Reynolds and astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon.
Founded at Jefferson College in 1855, the Phi Kappa Psi fraternity was founded as an organization intended to help others. The fraternity creed mentions a brotherhood of honorable men who are cultured, moral and loyal. The official philanthropy of Phi Kappa Psi is the Boys and Girls Clubs of America. Famous Phi Psi alumni include actor Zach Braff and Yahoo! co-founder and CEO Jerry Yang.
In 1868, the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity was founded at the University of Virginia to share the ideals of friendship, truth, honor and loyalty. The fraternity takes the education of its members seriously, and has a program called Pike University, which includes leadership development and educational events. There is no official philanthropy, but each chapter supports its own causes. Famous Pikes include the founder of KFC Colonel Harland Sanders and singer Tim McGraw.
The fraternity of Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded in 1856 on the University of Alabama campus, and was the first fraternity to be founded in the South. Suiting their Southern ties, the SAE’s motto is “The True Gentleman.” The official philanthropy of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the Children’s Miracle Network. Famous Sigma Alpha Epsilon alumni include LA Lakers head coach Phil Jackson and actor David Spade.
Sigma Chi fraternity is one of the oldest and largest fraternities, founded in 1855 on the campus of Miami University in Ohio. The two official philanthropies for the Sigma Chi fraternity are the Children’s Miracle Network and the Huntsman Cancer Institute. Sigma Chi was the first Greek society to be honored by the United States Congress for the fraternity’s 150th birthday in 2005. Famous Sigs include actor Brad Pitt and actor John Wayne.
Sigma Nu fraternity was founded in 1869 by three cadets at Virginia Military Institute to stand against the hazing they saw taking place on campus. The official philanthropies of the Sigma Nu fraternity are Habitat for Humanity, St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, and Character Counts!. Famous Sigma Nu alumni include former Price is Right host Bob Barker and NFL quarterback Eli Manning.
Founded in 1901 at the University of Richmond, Sigma Phi Epsilon currently has the highest undergraduate membership of any fraternity in the country. Sigma Phi Epsilon has adopted YouthAids as its official philanthropy. In 1991 the Sig Eps eliminated pledging to fall more inline with their three principles — Virtue, Diligence & Brotherly Love. Famous Sigma Phi alumni include James Naismith, the inventor of basketball, and Dave Thomas, the founder of Wendy’s.
The Tau Kappa Epsilon fraternity was founded in 1899 at the Illinois Wesleyan University as a society for young men to develop mentally, morally and socially. The official philanthropy of TKE is the Alzheimer’s Association, adopted in 2001 in honor of alumnus former President Ronald Reagan. Other famous Tekes include singers Willie Nelson and Elvis Presley.
Also see our list of Famous Fraternity Members.