The Delta Phi Chapter can trace its origins to the earliest years of the University of Puget Sound.

John Stafford McMillin

Born on October 28, 1855, in Sugar Grove, Indiana, John Stafford McMillin attended DePauw University where he graduated with a BA degree in 1876 and an MA degree in 1879. While studying at DePauw, he became a member of Sigma Chi Fraternity and remained very active after graduation.

From its founding in 1855, the Fraternity operated under the parent chapter governing model, where the parent chapter acted as headquarters and issued charters to new chapters. By 1882, the Fraternity had grown to 35 chapters and was too large to be governed by such a system. At the Grand Chapter in 1882 in Chicago, the Fraternity adopted a new centralized form of government, which is still in use today, and elected McMillin as the first Grand Consul for a two-year term, from 1882 – 1884.

After serving as Grand Consul, McMillin and his family followed his brother, William B., a pastor, and moved to Washington Territory in January 1884. There, McMillin invested in and became the president and general manager of the Tacoma Lime Company and later the Tacoma and Roche Harbor Lime Company when he and his partners bought Roche Harbor, Washington, in 1886.

From 1884 – 1886, McMillin served on the committee appointed by the Puget Sound Annual Conference to secure a charter and select a site for the proposed Puget Sound University. When the University was incorporated in 1888, McMillin served as one of its first trustees. His brother also served on the board of trustees in 1888 and 1890.

In the early 1900s, McMillin helped to install chapters at several universities in the Pacific Northwest, including Washington State University and the University of Oregon. McMillin also donated the limestone for the chapter house at the University of Washington at Seattle.

McMillin passed away on November 3, 1936. He is buried at Afterglow Vista in Friday Harbor, Washington. The mausoleum is cared for and monitored by the Sigma Chi fraternity’s Monuments and Memorials Commission.

John Stafford McMillin on September 23, 1923. (From the Archives of the Sigma Chi Fraternity.)


The Tacoma skyline and Mount Rainier in 1884. (Tacoma Public Library, TPL-2892)

Sigma Mu Chi

The Oakes House, which housed Sigma Mu Chi, with snow on its roof and lawn. (University of Puget Sound, A Sound Past, 1692)
Sigma Mu Chi members celebrate the colony’s 25th anniversary by hosting a dance in the banquet room of the New Yorker on April 25, 1947. (Tacoma Public Library, D27630-6)

Sigma Mu Chi, the organization that preceded the Delta Phi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity, can trace its origin to the founding of the Clionian Literary Society in 1893, which would later grow into the Amphictyon Literary Society.

In the fall of 1921, in anticipation of fraternities and sororities being allowed on campus, a group of Amphictyon members began to organize a fraternity. In the spring of 1922, the group obtained a charter from the college faculty, and adopted a constitution and bylaws: Sigma Mu Chi was born.

Sigma Mu Chi flourished for many years on campus and operated very much like contemporary Greek Life organizations. The Mu Chis, for short, were involved in campus activities — student government, clubs and varsity and intramural sports — and were popular among their peers for their comradeship and friendship. They hosted annual social events, such as dances; they also enjoyed their brotherhood.

In 1949, Sigma Mu Chi petitioned to become a fully-chartered chapter of the Sigma Chi Fraternity. The Mu Chi’s petition was accepted and approved by a vote by the Sigma Chi membership.

Delta Phi Chapter

On Saturday, February 4, 1950, Delta Phi Chapter was officially installed as Sigma Chi’s 119th undergraduate chapter overall and ninth chapter in the Northwest Province.

For this occasion, a three-man committee planned a two-day schedule of events and enlisted the wholehearted support of dozens of brothers from the Upsilon Upsilon Chapter at University of Washington at Seattle and the Tacoma Alumni Chapter to execute each phase properly. All told, over the course of that weekend, 96 men (73 undergraduate and charter members and 23 alumni) were initiated in to the Fraternity and over 100 Sigs had helped with this effort.

Installation Banquet

On Saturday evening, nearly 300 men gathered for the installation banquet in the Fellowship Hall of the Tacoma Masonic Temple. While the majority of guests were undergraduate and alumni members, Fraternity officers and staff members and University officials including President Dr. R. Franklin Thompson attended the fête.

Chapter Houses

The brotherhood has centered around several houses in the North End community of Tacoma, Washington.

1425 North Oakes Street 

In the spring of 1947, the Sigma Mu Chi membership determined that they needed a chapter house in order to compete with the other fraternities on campus. The two challenges they faced were the low inventory of suitable homes near campus and the high price of real estate in the post-World War II boom. However, that summer, through the effort of all the Mu Chis, they were able to raise enough money to buy the Oakes House at the corner of North 14th and North Oakes Streets.

The Oakes House was originally built in 1904 and owned by Miles L. Clifford, Esq., a Beta Theta Pi, who served as the first judge of the Superior Court of Pierce County, Department #4, from the court’s establishment in 1907 – 1925. The house featured eight rooms, a full basement and a two-car garage. The property comprised four contiguous lots totaling 10,000 square feet. Both Sigma Mu Chi and later the Delta Phi Chapter occupied this house.

The house still stands today as a privately-owned residence.

Sigma Mu Chi wins best decorated house for homecoming for the third consecutive year in 1949. (University of Puget Sound, A Sound Past, 1032)
Four Sigs read in the Oakes House living room on February 17, 1950. (Tacoma Public Library, A47781-1).

3614 North 14th Street

 In 1960, University of Puget Sound President R. Franklin Thompson applied for and received a federal grant to build a group housing system for the fraternities comprising five individually styled houses connected by underground passageways to a centrally located common kitchen. Once prepared, meals from the kitchen would be delivered through the tunnels to each individual chapter house’s dining room.

The group housing system was a unique solution to mutual housing problems. Under the arrangement, the University provided the property, financing and project coordination, while the fraternities provided their individual exterior and interior designs, certain furnishings and certain services. The Sigma Chis chose to build their house in the shape of a cross in homage to the Fraternity’s symbol, the White Cross.

Construction on these Union Avenue houses started in 1961; they would open in 1962. The Sigs moved out of this house in the late 1960s or early 1970s.

The house, located at corner of North 14th and North Washington Streets, still stands today and serves as the home of the Gamma Zeta Chapter of the Alpha Phi International Fraternity.

The house at 3614 North 14th Street was constructed in 1961 and was originally occupied by the Delta Phi Chapter of Sigma Chi Fraternity. (Ross Mulhausen, University of Puget Sound, A Sound Past, 9524)

3601 North 14th Street

In 1965, the University constructed three more Union Avenue houses, including Unit F at the corner of North 14th and North Union Avenue. Unit F was originally occupied by the Theta Chi Fraternity.

After Theta Chi moved off campus, the Sigma Chis moved into Unit F in the late 1970s. For a variety of reasons, Sigma Chi lost the use of Unit F in spring of 1979. The Chi Omega Sorority would use the house from 1979 – 1982.

In 1982, Sigma Chi moved back into Unit F. All Union Avenue houses were renovated in 1999.

The Badge of Sigma Chi adorns the front of the chapter house. It was taken down, repainted and re-gilded, and replaced by the fall 2012 pledge class.
The Delta Phi Chapter House of Sigma Chi Fraternity as seen from the Thompson Hall parking lot on a spring day in 2014. (Joe Mabel)