What is Chi Epsilon and How are Members Selected?
Most engineering disciplines have a recognized national honor society. For the Civil
Engineering profession, Chi Epsilon fills this role. Chi Epsilon was founded in
1922 to recognize and honor civil engineering students and professionals, and now
has 130 active chapters at universities across the United States. It is widely recognized
in the profession and has initiated over 113,000 members.
Students and professionals are selected to become members based on recognition of
their scholarship, character, practicality and sociability, considered by Chi Epsilon
to be the four primary traits of a successful engineer. For student members, scholarship
is determined by being in the top third of their junior or senior class. Members
of Chi Epsilon are considered top graduates and are highly sought by civil engineering
Chi Epsilon’s Purpose:
We are dedicated to the purpose of maintaining and promoting the status of civil
engineering as an ideal profession. Chi Epsilon was organized to recognize the characteristics
of the individual civil engineer deemed to be fundamental to the successful pursuit
of an engineering career, and to aid in the development of those characteristics
in civil engineering students.
Engineering, the application of scientific principles to the practical needs of
society, is assuming a constantly increasing responsibility for the well-being of
all people, and thus calling for competence of the highest order. This responsibility
can be discharged only by a professional group whose members who possess a good
basic technical ability, intelligence, moral integrity, and effective social poise
in their relationship with the larger community of which they are part.
To contribute to the improvement of the profession, Chi Epsilon fosters the development
and exercise of sound traits of character and technical ability among civil engineers,
and its members, by precept and example, toward an ever higher standard of professional
Chi Epsilon’s History:
In the spring of 1922, two groups of civil engineering students at the University
of Illinois, one calling itself Chi Epsilon, and the other calling itself Chi Delta
Chi, independently of each other, took steps to petition the faculty for permission
to establish an honorary civil engineering fraternity. As soon as the existence
of the two groups became known to each other, plans were immediately propagated
to merge the two groups. On May 20, 1922, the Council of the University granted
permission to the petitioning group of 25 charter members to found the CHI EPSILON
As soon as the plans for the local organization had been perfected, steps were taken
to expand into a national fraternity by banding together with groups at various
other universities. An active expansion policy was decided upon and letters were
written to the presidents of all the large engineering schools inviting petitions
to Chi Epsilon.
Meanwhile, the petition to the State of Illinois to incorporate as a national honorary
civil engineering fraternity was granted and the certificate of incorporation issued
on February 13, 1923.
Many encouraging replies were received from various universities, but it was not
until March 29, 1923 upon the installation of the Armour Chapter at the Armour Institute
of Technology, that Chi Epsilon became truly a national fraternity. April 28, 1923,
saw the national organization increase to three chapters upon the installation of
the Minnesota Chapter at the University of Minnesota. The work of the Committee
on Expansion became very complex and required the assumption of authority for the
fulfillment of its plans. With the assumption of authority the committee finally
became the Temporary Supreme Council (now know as he National Council) of the National
Fraternity and in order that it be a representative body P. L. Bergquist of the
Minnesota Chapter, and H.W. Munday, of the Armour Chapter, were elected to it.
As a result of the active expansion campaign, petitions were received from the Universities
of Southern California and Cornell, and the chapters installed on January 5, 1924,
and January 10, 1925, respectively. The First Conclave was held at the Armour Chapter
in Chicago July 4, 1924, at which twelve members representing four chapters were
present. Drastic changes were made in the constitution and general government, most
noteworthy being the establishment of an endowment fund for conclave expenses.
Members of the First Supreme Council were elected by the conclave, who in turn elected
the following officers: Wm. A. Gurtler, Grand President; P. L. Bergquist, Grand
Vice President; C. W. Carlson, Grand Secretary-Treasurer; H. W. Munday, Editor of
The Transit; F. M. Hines, member; and M. G. Burkey, member. Due to the temporary
slowing up of the work on the national expansion, a special meeting of the Supreme
Council was called in Chicago in February 1924. Present at this meeting were members
Gurtler, Carlson, Munday, and Burkey. An extensive campaign was planned with hopes
that the number of chapters might be increased within the year, after which time
a more conservative policy was to be enacted. The membership had grown to 190 by
February 1925. The petition of the University of Wisconsin group resulted in the
installation of the sixth chapter on February 14, 1925, at Madison, Wisconsin. The
seventh chapter was installed shortly thereafter at the University of California
on May 10, 1925.
In its 88 year history five men have served Chi Epsilon as its Secretary-Treasurer
for 58 of those years: Ray S. Wen (1928-52), John A. Focht (1958-1972), Dexter C.
Jameson, Jr. (1972-92), Robert L. Henry (1992-2006) and Thomas M. Petry (2006 to
present). One of Chi Epsilon’s founding members, Harold T. Larsen, had a long–term
and profound effect on the society. He served two terms as National Secretary-Treasurer
in the early years, was a member of the Supreme Council in his late years, and was
named Councillor Emeritus in 1958 and remained as such until his death in 1971.
The Harold T. Larsen Award was established by the Conclave in 1976 to honor those
members who have given “Outstanding Service to Chi Epsilon”.
In the first 35 years of its history Chi Epsilon had established 49 chapters. Since
then the society has grown at a steady rate of 20 chapters per decade. Eight chapters
have now become inactive (Colorado-Denver, Columbia, Detroit, Norwich, Notre Dame,
NYU, SMU, and Yale).
The 22nd National Conclave was held at the University of Illinois, April 6-8, 1972.
It was very appropriate for Chi Epsilon to return to the Illinois campus to observe
the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Fifty-eight of the then 78 active chapters
had one or more delegates in attendance at this notable conclave. The membership
of Chi Epsilon had grown to 28,500 by April 1972. The 25th National Conclave voted
to change the name of our organization from Chi Epsilon Fraternity to Chi Epsilon.
Prior to 1956 the Supreme Council had seven members consisting of the President,
Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, Editor, and three at-large Councillors. In
1956 the Conclave (held at Purdue University) changed the Bylaws to create seven
districts: Western, Midwestern, Southwestern, Southeastern, North Central, Mid-Atlantic,
and New England. One Councillor was elected for each district. As the member chapters
increased and were distributed throughout the country geographically, the society
adopted an eleven district format, but since 1982 has used a ten district organization.
The ten Councillors are elected by district caucuses at the Conclaves. At the 38th
Conclave in 2004 at Purdue the Supreme Council was renamed to the National Council.
Most of the earlier Conclaves (29 of 34) were held in the northeast geographical
quadrant of the country, but in 1992, on the 70th anniversary of its founding, Chi
Epsilon held its 32nd Conclave on the campus of the largest chapter, Texas A&M,
and then its 33rd Conclave moved further west to Arizona State. Since then, Conclaves
have been located across the continent, with the 2012 Conclave to be held at Los
Angeles, California, sponsored by the Pacific District.
The numbers of Chi Epsilon chapters has continued to grow, now standing at 136 as
of May, 2010. Inactive chapters have become active again and the number of active
chapters will soon be 130. Chi Epsilon has initiated over 112,368 members, has recognized
2284 Chapter Honor Members and elevated 61 National Honor Members.