Heritage of Sigma Tau Gamma
Sigma Tau Gamma’s Founders’ grandparents were veterans of the Civil War. That was a domestic quarrel. In bravely heading to fight in World War I, our Founders embarked on a journey that would take them off of domestic soil and back to the old country in a battle unlike any from their generation could have imagined. General John J. (Black Jack) Pershing, a native son of their state of Missouri, was selected by President Woodrow Wilson to command the American Expeditionary Force. As volunteers, our Founding Fathers would leave their Midwestern school and follow him into the War to End All Wars. They were not ordinary men.
In an era when fewer than half of the nation’s young people advance beyond the eighth grade and fewer graduated from high school, these children of farmers, craftsmen, and shopkeepers in the sparsely populated rural counties of western Missouri were pursuing educational degrees. These two-year, post-high school programs qualified them to teach and administer public schools. Almost uniformly, they were as well qualified academically as students at the private and land grant colleges but simply lacked the financial resources necessary for enrollment at those schools. Together, they joined what was then called an Ambulance Company.
Today, we could call them Corpsmen and Emergency Medical Technicians. Near the end of 1918, after 18 months of battle, the armistice came. The war ended, and after serving in the occupational force, they headed home by steamship. While they were overseas, our Founders’ school had become a four-year college. It was in the summer of 1920 when Emmett Ellis, their leader, was 29. This was not a group of starry-eyed children.
They were veterans who had met death face to face and fully realized the essence of a life worth living, manifesting itself in caring for their fellow man. They were determined to continue the bonds of brotherhood they created in the trenches of WWI. This time, they found it through the enlightenment of a liberal arts education. The Founders of Sigma Tau Gamma were hopeful. Thus, Sig Tau began on a warm summer morning in a rooming house at 101 Ming Street, a few blocks from a school dedicated as much as they were to the pursuit of the American dream.
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