Phi Kappa Sigma's History

The Beginnings

 Phi Kappa Sigma is an all-male secret and social fraternity that members started on August 16, 1850. Although it originates from the University of Philadelphia, membership has spread all across the United States and Canada. Phi Kap currently has 43 chapters and five colonies. Its membership includes over 1,500 undergraduates and 40,000 alumni.

The founders built the fraternity on ideals that serve as the organization’s mission statement: “The Objects of Phi Kappa Sigma Fraternity shall be the promotion of good fellowship and the cultivation of the social virtues among our members; the protection of just rights and the advancements of the best interests, present and future, individual and collective, of all those who she be associated together as members of the Fraternity; the encouragement of good scholarship and the breadth of training for our members; and cooperation in the educational and cultural programs of institutions of higher education in which our chapters are located.”

In June 2000 – in celebration of the 150-year anniversary of Phi Kappa Sigma – undergraduate representatives composed and adopted a recommitment to the core values of trust, honor, respect, knowledge, wisdom, responsibility, and integrity, giving fresh determination to the brotherhood.


The ΦΚΣ Coat of Arms includes three pieces: the Crest, Arms, and Maxim. The Arms is the shield, the Maxim is the school below the shield, and the Crest is the skull above the shield. The chosen colors, black and old gold, are prominent on the emblem. There are also small touches of silver and blue. The objects on the Coat of Arms signify the year of the fraternity’s founding, the importance of academic excellence, and the lifelong commitment of the fraternity itself.

The Maxim is Phi Kappa Sigma's public motto, “Stella Aequus Durando,” which translates to “Equal to the Stars in Endurance.” However, the organization has other mottos as well. One is “Brotherhood Is More Than Skin Deep.” The fraternity chooses members based on their own merit, not upon their race, religion, or wealth. In fact, Phi Kappa Sigma was the first fraternity to adopt an anti-discriminatory clause in its constitution. The motto “Once a Phi Kap, Always a Phi Kap” signifies the lifelong commitment of membership to the fraternity. Members join for much more than just their college experience.

Dr. Mitchell designed the official badge of membership. It hasn’t changed, with the exception of its size. It’s a gold Maltese cross with a black enamel border and a central skull and crossbones. In the left, lower, and right arms are the letters Phi, Kappa, and Sigma in black enamel. In the upper arm of the cross is a black enamel, six-pointed star. The Roman numerals for 1850 are found on the reverse of the badge, which a serpent (from the Coat of Arms) and the member's name or initials, chapter letter or letters, and class year surround. To express equality, the badge is only displayed in black and gold. It’s never jeweled.

Members of Phi Kappa Sigma call themselves Phi Kaps. Because of the skull and crossbones on the badge and the coat of arms, people also call them Skulls or Skullhouse. Their flower is the yellow Chrysanthemum, while their periodical is the “Maltese Cross Magazine.” This publication serves to further strengthen the bond of brotherhood and keep members connected to each other in spirit, regardless of the physical distance.

Serving Others

Phi Kappa Sigma chapters have donated countless hours, money, and efforts to various philanthropic and community service activities throughout their history. Their national philanthropy partner is the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. This is the largest non-profit health agency dedicated to finding cures for people with the blood cancers leukemia, lymphoma, or myeloma.

ΦΚΣ and Houndstooth Press

Over the last 20 years, we’ve worked to build a reputation of service and quality. Here at Houndstooth Press, we specialize in custom t-shirts of the highest quality. We do the designing for you so you don’t have to worry about it. We’ll assemble an unforgettable logo for your special event or fundraiser or simply because you’re proud of your fraternity. Whatever the case, you can work with our designers to create the perfect graphic. Don’t settle for premade motifs and styles. Stand out from the rest wherever you go.


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