Our Local History
The Iowa Beta Chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta is considered to be the parent chapter of "The Honor Society of Agriculture - Gamma Sigma Delta." Gamma Sigma Delta began as a professional agricultural fraternity called Delta Theta Sigma at Ohio State University 1 December 1905. Its founders were the dean of the college, several faculty members, and some undergraduate students in the College of Agriculture.
While the group's original intention was for the organization to be strictly honorary, it developed into a social fraternity and maintained living quarters for some of its members. Later the fraternity acquired a chapter house. On 6 April 1907, an agricultural fraternity bearing the name of Delta Theta Sigma and located at Ohio State University was incofporated in the State of Ohio ". . . for the purpose of promoting agriculture in all its branches, to secure a high degree of scholarship, to foster the spirit of brotherhood and to insure social culture."
Three days after this incorporation, on 9 April 1907, a chapter of Delta Theta Sigma was installed at Iowa State College. On 30 March 1908, a chapter was installed at Pennsylvania State College. The fourth chapter was installed at the University of Missouri on 23 November 1908, the fifth chapter at Utah Agricultural College on 30 March 1909, and the sixth chapter at Oregon State College on 13 April 1909.
When the Iowa State Chapter was installed, it was with the idea that the fraternity would be purely honorary in character and that no chapter houses would be maintained. The Iowa State Chapter was joined in this objective by the chapters in Pennsylvania, Missouri, Utah and Oregon.
Name Changes for Society
The business of the Society is conducted at Conclaves. The first Conclave was held at Iowa State University in 1910. Conclaves have been held in even-numbered years since 1920. In all, Iowa State University has hosted four Conclaves, the most recent in 1990.
The 1913 Conclave, held in Columbia Missouri, settled the question of the strictly honorary character of the old Delta Theta Sigma fraternity. The Ohio State chapter temporarily withdrew, and the name of the national organization was changed to Gamma Sigma Delta. The new Greek letters were chosen to represent the society as it changed to a strictly honorary format. The letter Gamma was selected to represent Gaea, the goddess of earth, the original all-producing, all-nourishing mother. Sigma was to represent the Greek word Syndesmos, meaning to band together Delta represented Demeter, the Greek goddess of agriculture and rural life. Therefore, the letters Gamma Sigma Delta represent the binding together of earth, the mother of all, with the practice of agriculture and the arts related thereto, for the welfare of humankind. Chapters were added at Kansas State in 1914, and at Alabama Polytechnic Institute in 1916. In 1915 a comparable organization, the Honor Society of Agriculture, was formed at the University of Minnesota. The Honor Society of Agriculture constitution was adopted on 10 March 1916.
The Iowa State chapter, now the parent chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta, tentatively rewrote the constitution that same year and stressed the honorary character of the organization. In early 1916, a joint committee of Gamma Sigma Delta and the Honor Society of Agriculture met at the University of Minnesota and reached a tentative agreement on a merger. A new constitution was drafted and ratified 11 May 1917 at Iowa State University. The constitution made Gamma Sigma Delta the honor society of agriculture, and strictly honorary in character. The constitution established the name as the Honor Society of Agriculture, Gamma Sigma Delta, and defined the broad principles of faculty control, and limited membership to graduating seniors, graduate students, alumni and faculty.
1950s Mark Turning Point
The year 1952 was a turning point in Gamma Sigma Delta's history. There were only ten chapters at that time, and there was reluctance to accept Gamma Sigma Delta on a campus where Alpha Zeta was established. Louis M. Thompson attended the biennial Conclave in 1952, and again in 1954 when he was elected national president-elect. In 1954, the decision was made to develop an attractive brochure to promote Gamma Sigma Delta in such a way as to be noncompetitive with Alpha Zeta. New chapters grew rapidly after 1954. By 1994 there were 47 chapters, and the society had become international.
Louis Thompson credits two people with having had the greatest influence on Gamma Sigma Delta since 1948. They are John A. Johnson of Kansas, who served as secretary (1950-1960), and Home L'Hote of Missouri, who was treasurer for more than 30 years, beginning in 1948. The 1950s brought significant changes that made the society a strong and viable influence in the land-grant college system.
Iowa State Chapter a Leader
The Iowa Beta Chapter has maintained a strong national leadership position in the society. W. F. Coover was a prime mover in developing the society in its formative years, and served as high chancellor from 1911-1912. Howard Vaughn served as grand chancellor from 1913-1915. H. H. Kildee served as president-elect from 1942-1944, president from 1944-1946, and received the National Award for Distinguished Service in 1952. Louis Thompson served as president-elect from 1954-1956, and president from 1956-1958. E. D. Ball was vice-chancellor from 1916-1918. L. H. Pammel served as secretary from 1916-1920 and C. A. Iverson held that same office from 1926-1928. J. O. Rankin was historian from 1917-1918 while at Iowa State, and served in that same office again from 1924-1930 while on the faculty at Nebraska. Richard I. Carter served as treasurer from 1982-1988, president-elect from 1988-1990, president from 1990-1992, and immediate past president from 1992-1994.
International Distinguished Service to Agriculture Awards have been given by the Society to several Iowa State University faculty and administrators:
- H. H. Kildee (1952)
- William G. Murray (1957)
- Earl O. Heady (1974)
- William P. Switzer (1981)
- David G. Topel (1994)
Banquets, Awards Enjoy New Growth
The Iowa Beta Chapter discontinued the initiation banquets during WWII. Banquets were not held again until 1953 when Chapter president Harvey Lantz and secretary Louis M. Thompson re-established the banquet tradition. The 1953 banquet was a colorful occasion and set the tone for a long series of outstanding banquets. Lantz and Thompson had place cards engraved for seating arrangements, a tradition that continued until the late 1980s.
Two distinguished scientists, W. H. Pierre and Earl O. Heady, served as presidents of the Beta Chapter in 1954 and 1955, respectively, and set the pattern for the banquet program that continues to this time.
The Iowa Beta Chapter started its own Distinguished Service to Agriculture Award in 1952 by recognizing H. H. Kildee. The chapter also started recognizing distinguished alumni in 1953 when Herbert Pike and Wallace Barron were honored. In 1975, the chapter initiated the Alumni Award of Merit to honor alumni of the College of Agriculture and Veterinary Medicine. This award is granted to members only.
In the late 1950s the Iowa Beta chapter began annually recognizing senior and sophomore students, in the College of Agriculture, with outstanding academic records. In 1993 the chapter implemented the Mission Award of Merit, which annually recognizes three faculty in the college who have made exceptional contributions in the areas of extension, research and teaching.
Our International History
Gamma Sigma Delta began as a professional agricultural fraternity called Delta Theta Sigma at The Ohio State University, December 1, 1905, and maintained a chapter house.
Other chapters were installed at Iowa State (1907), Pennsylvania State College (1908), Oregon State College (1908), University of Missouri (1908), and Utah State College (1909), but all of these chapters adhered to an honorary plan and did not have chapter houses.
In 1913 Delta Theta Sigma at The Ohio State University, withdrew, maintained the name and its chapter house. The name of the remaining organization was changed to Gamma Sigma Delta and followed the honorary plan of operation. Later (1928) a chapter of Gamma Sigma Delta was installed at Ohio State.
In 1915, the Honor Society of Agriculture was formed at the University of Minnesota. A movement was started early in 1916 to merge the two organizations, Gamma Sigma Delta and Honor Society of Agriculture. A joint committee from both organizations met at the University of Minnesota, June 3, 1916, and reached tentative agreement on the merger. A new constitution was drafted and ratified early in 1917.
The Honor Society of Agriculture, Gamma Sigma Delta, became the official name. From 1917, Gamma Sigma Delta has been strictly honorary. It became faculty governed and selected membership from juniors, seniors, graduate students, alumni, and faculty. Currently, 48 chapters have been installed at universities throughout the United States, Puerto Rico, The Philippines, and Honduras.
Local Chapter Role
The strength of Gamma Sigma Delta is in its 48 local chapters. They operate under the International Constitution and By-laws but otherwise maintain complete choice of and control over their activities. Local chapter activities center on recognizing superior achievements through awards and invitations to membership. While all chapters agree on objectives, individual chapter differences occur on how objectives are attained.
RelationshipTo Other Honor Societies
Gamma Sigma Delta is a faculty governed society that selects its members from junior and senior students, graduate students, faculty, and alumni for the promotion and recognition of high achievement. While Gamma Sigma Delta is an honor society of agriculture, it may elect members from related fields such as biology, botany, chemistry, economics, entomology, forestry, home economics, plant pathology, sociology, statistics, veterinary medicine, or zoology when the work of the individuals is related to agroculture. Officers, committee chairpersons, and other leading the chapter are faculty or alumni.
Alpha Zeta is a professional, service and honorary fraternity in agriculture. Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible for membership. Alpha Zeta, a student organization with student officers and faculty advisors, elects its members based on scholarship, leadership, and extracurricular activities. students elected must be in the upper 40 percent of their class scholastically and must have completed at least one academic year of studies.
Phi Kappa Phi selects its members from seniors, graduate students and faculty from several divisions, schools, and colleges of a university. Election is based on scholarship, and seniors must rank in the upper 10 percent of their class.
Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and often best known of honor societies, selects its members from programs in the university that fulfill the definition of a liberal education. Seniors, graduate students, and faculty may be elected to membership. Seniors must rank in the upper 10 percent of their class.
Sigma Xi is an honorary research organization. Graduate students, faculty and alumni in science who have demonstrated outstanding research ability and achievement may be selected for membership.