Cold, snowy weather on Saturday did not stop the Sigma Chi fraternity at Fort Hays State University from a ceremonial groundbreaking for a new house.
Members and alumni of the Zeta Tau Chapter gathered with university officials in the Memorial Union Saturday morning for the ceremonial part of the event. Afterwards, several went to the site to turn shovels of dirt at 404 W. Seventh, where construction is scheduled to begin Monday.
“I didn’t spray paint five shovels for nothing,” joked Brian Feldt, a member of the chapter’s groundbreaking committee who acted as master of ceremonies Saturday.
The chapter’s previous home at that location was torn down in December. Originally built in 1940, the house had been home to several Greek organizations through the years, with Sigma Chi settling there in the 1970s.
The new home, which should be completed by October, will house 24 men in 13 bedrooms and feature a trophy room, formal living room and meeting room, said Shawn Weaver, a chapter alumnus from Clearwater.
Weaver and others spoke of the importance of Greek life to the college experience.
Chapter President Luke Weber, who joined as a sophomore in 2014, said the fraternity turned him into a “man of ideas.”
FHSU President Tisa Mason said sorority life made her a better person and opened doors for her career.
The house provides more than just shelter for chapter members, she said.
“The house is significant because it's not just a house, it's a home. It's a home that was built to nurture, to grow and to reinforce those values of friendship and justice and learning. It's a home that's built on principles, that's built on a strong foundation,” she said.
“This new house will give current and future members of Sigma Chi a place to continue the tradition of taking men of different temperaments talents and convictions and challenging them to live by a higher standard,” Weber said.
Sigma Chi, which celebrated its 50th year at FHSU last year, is the university’s longest continuous fraternity, and only one of two Greek chapters with its own house on or off campus.
Members of two fraternities, Alpha Gamma Rho and Sigma Alpha Epsilon, rent houses together also on Seventh Street, while Sigma Phi Epsilon moved into Tiger Village, one of the new housing facilities opened on campus last fall.
Sororities Delta Zeta and Sigma Sigma Sigma are also housed in Tiger Village, while Alpha Gamma Delta has a house at 409 E. Eighth. Alpha Sigma Alpha, which was reinstated last year, does not yet have housing.
FHSU Housing Director Christina Hurtado said the university has no plans at this time to construct new housing directed at Greek organizations.
For Sigma Chi alumnus Josh Callahan, remaining off campus is important. Callahan, of Hays, has acted as a chapter adviser since graduating in 2003.
“To me, it’s having our own self-identity,” he said, “being on our own and teaching these young men the value of being on your own as opposed to being guided by somebody else.”