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The History of Theta Sigma Tau

On May 2, 1910, the members of the Elms Club eating house, located at Hall and Tygert Streets, officially founded the Theta Sigma Tau fraternity of Ripon College. Fraternity men from the town and faculty assisted the charter members in organizing and setting certain ideals and principles for membership.

In 1912 the college imposed a ban upon fraternities and so the men of Theta Sigma Tau reverted to the use of the older name of the organization, The Elms Club, but they retained the new identity of the organization in secret.

The Elms
The entrance of the United States into World War One left The Elms/Theta Sigma Tau with only two active members and so a temporary disbandment was the only course open to the fraternity. They closed and gave up at this time the beautiful residence on Hall Street which had been the home of the Elms for many years.

Sanford House
With the end of the Great War, many members of The Elms Club/Theta Sigma Tau returned the fall of 1919. They restarted the organization, this time housed in a college owned building known as Sanford House located on Congress St across from the cemetery, just west of the Commons.

The College's attitude towards fraternities and sororities had been slowly relaxing since the banning of these organizations in 1912. By 1927 open display of Greek letters and membership in these organizations was acceptable and so the men of Sanford House again openly displayed the fraternity's letters and crest.

In 1939 Sanford House was condemned and demolished and Theta Sigma Tau was relocated to Ripon College's Evans Hall dormitory building.

Hall House
With the bombing of Pearl Harbour and the entrance of the United States into World War Two, Theta Sigma Tau was again forced to temporarily disband as every able-bodied member enlisted.

At the end of the war, the men of Theta Sigma Tau returned to Ripon College to complete their educations and to revitalize the dormant fraternity. For a period the men were again housed in Evans Hall and temporary barracks (necessary to handle the large numbers of people returning to their college after the end of the war as well as new students), until they found a new home in 1951 in Hall House. The fraternity stayed in Hall House until 1958, when they relocated to Center Hall on the college campus. Center Hall was later renamed Mapes Hall in honor of the founder of the City of Ripon, David C. Mapes. The House was located in the East half of this building continuously until it was disbanded permanently in 2021.

During the school year of 1954-55, the men of Theta Sigma Tau began the process of becoming an affiliate of a national fraternity. Beginning with the fall of 1955, the House became the Zeta Tau chapter of Sigma Nu.

New Tau Letters on Mapes, 1978
By the mid-1970s, the character of the House had changed significantly and many of the members were dissatisfied with the affiliation with Sigma Nu. This led the members to make changes to the way the House was managed that were not in accord with the national organization's mandates. Thus, in 1976 Sigma Nu revoked the national charter of the Zeta Tau chapter.

Several members decided to resurrect the House's original Greek name and re-founded Theta Sigma Tau that same year. They retained the best ideals of the now-departed Sigma Nu's creed, but renounced meaningless symbolism as a distraction from and barrier to true unity.

In 1980 the House went co-ed. The reasons were many, but the most fundamental reason was that there was no good reason why people, fellow students who were as close to the brothers as sisters, must be relegated to a lesser status simply because of their sex.

In the 2010, changes in campus culture as well as changes in student interest in such organizations resulted in Theta Sigma Tau's membership dwindling and infighting among the members becoming more common. In 2020 the Covid-19 pandemic forced many colleges to "go remote" for a year or more. These factors impacted many organizations severely and, unfortunately, Tau was unable to recover and was disbanded in the spring of 2021.

Until its closure, and since then, Theta Sigma Tau was the only co-ed Greek organization on the Ripon College Campus. It was dedicated to the principles of Dignity, Equality, Fraternity, Liberty, and Loyalty - Theta Sigma Tau welcomed people of all races, ethnicities, genders, religions, orientations (the list could continue ad nauseum) to membership if they shared these values. We regret that it is no longer present at Ripon to offer a place for those who might need or appreciate a place like Tau.


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