Fifty Years in the Pi Mu Epsilon Fraternity

by J. Sutherland Frame, Director General

Published in 1964 in the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal


1. Incorporation. The Pi Mu Epsilon Fraternity, incorporated on May 25, 1914, under the laws of the State of New York, is celebrating its golden anniversary as a national mathematics honorary fraternity with nearly 100 active chapters in 39 states and the District of Columbia. It is a non-secret organization whose purpose is the promotion of scholarly activity in mathematics among students and faculty in academic institutions, and among staffs of qualified non-academic institutions.

Its first Director General, Dr. Edward Drake Roe, Jr., had organized a Mathematical Club at Syracuse University in the fall of 1903 and had guided it through ten years of successful endeavor. At the club meeting on November 17, 1913, he proposed the establishment of a mathematical fraternity. Details were worked out in committees, and on March 2, 1914, a convention was held and a constitution was adopted. Specific names for the Fraternity were considered on March 23, and the Greek Letters EPM, “To promote scholarship and Mathematics”, were adopted, but with the order of letters changed to PME. Those present then took the following pledge and signed their names as charter members of the Fraternity.

PLEDGE: I do solemnly promise to give my best efforts in the improvement of my scholarship in all my subjects and especially in mathematics, and to maintain a reserved silence concerning the obligations of the fraternity, and to cheerfully accept advice and admonition as long as I am a member of the fraternity. (The pledge has been altered in subsequent years.)

Incorporators of Pi Mu Epsilon

Edward Drake Roe, Jr. (Director)

Floyd Fiske Decker (Vice Director)

Helen L. Applebee (Secretary)

Purley J. Bentley (Treasurer)

Olive Evelyn Jones (Librarian)

Florence A. Lane

Edward Jay Cottrell

Adolph Sussman

2. Early Years. The vote to establish the new fraternity might not have prevailed if high scholastic requirements had been set for charter members. Scholarship standards for election of new members in 1914-15 were discussed on October 3, 1914. Minimum general averages and mathematics averages of 75 and 80 for sophomores and of 72 and 75 for juniors were adopted then, but higher minimum requirements were set at later meetings. Sophomores must now have an A average in mathematics and be in the upper quarter of their class in general average to be eligible for election to membership.

The young fraternity became a national organization after World War I when the second chapter was established with 23 charter members at the Ohio State University in October, 1919. First known as the Beta Chapter, it became the Ohio Alpha Chapter when it was later decided to include the state name in chapter designations. The next three charters were granted by the Syracuse chapter to the University of Pennsylvania (1921), the University of Missouri (1922) and the University of Alabama (1922).

Records show that General Officers of the Fraternity were nominated (and they presumably were elected) in December, 1922, as follows:

Director General: Dr. E. D. Roe, Jr. (Syracuse)

Vice-Director General: Mr. W. V. Houston (Ohio State)

Secretary General: Dr. Warren G. Bullard (Syracuse)

Treasurer General: Miss Louisa Lotz (Pennsylvania)

Librarian General: Miss Mabel G. Kessler (Pennsylvania).

Under the new national organization chapters were chartered at Iowa State in 1923, at the University of Illinois on the tenth anniversary date of May 25, 1924, and at Bucknell University on May 5, 1925. Professor H. S. Everett of Bucknell was elected Secretary General in January, 1927, when Professor Warren A. Lyon withdrew his name after a tie vote for that office. Professor Everett replaced Professor Bullard, then on leave of absence because of cancer which soon claimed his life. Professor John S. Gold succeeded Professor Everett as Secretary in the fall of 1927. Dr. Roe and Miss Lotz continued as Director and Treasurer.

Dr. Roe expressed his strong feelings about the need for democracy in Pi Mu Epsilon. Opposing the appointment of a nominating committee, he suggested that each chapter send its nominations to the Bucknell chapter, which would serve as a teller, and that two highest candidates for each office be voted upon the fraternity. Writing to Professor Everett on February 13, 1926, he said, “All along I have endeavored to keep the management of Pi Mu Epsilon out of the hands of a few. Its government is democratic and I have aimed to prevent anything like an oligarchy…. The chapters have all the legislative powers, the council is merely executive and advisory.” To Professor R.C. Archibald he wrote on December 9, 1926, “I have had the conception from the start of a fraternity uniting faculty and the most advanced students (normally above sophomore, though an exceptional sophomore may be eligible) and I have never departed from this ideal. I have always felt that a merely undergraduate fraternity would be only half of a success … in accomplishing our whole purpose and ideal, the advancement of mathematics and scholarship.”

A jeweled pin was presented to Dr. Roe by the Fraternity on the occasion of his retirement, just six months before his death in 1929, as a token of appreciation for his fifteen years of devoted service as Director General, to be worn as a badge of office. Since 1949 this pin has been entrusted to the incumbent Director General, to be worn as a badge of office.

When Dr. Louis Ingold of Missouri became the second Director General in 1929, the Fraternity had 18 chapters. In 1936, with Professor John S. Gold of Bucknell as Secretary-Treasurer General, a policy was instituted of issuing all membership certificates from the national office. In 1937 the L.G. Balfour Company was designated as the official jeweler of the Fraternity. Royalties for the fraternity jewelry sold to members have assisted in underwriting some of the expenses of the national office.

3. The Pi Mu Epsilon Journal. The establishment in 1949 of the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal was an important milestone in the history of the Fraternity. This journal aims to publish high quality articles by undergraduates, graduate students and others, that are of interest to the undergraduate student in mathematics, in addition to the items such as chapter reports that may be of interest to the chapters. Those who have served as Editorus-in-chief and business managers of the Journal are


Ruth Stokes (Syracuse) 1949-55

Franz Hohn (Illinois) 1955-57

Francis Regan (St. Louis Univ.) 1957-63

Seymour Schuster (Univ. of Minnesota) 1963-

Business Managers

Howard C. Bennett (1949-54)

Henry W. Farnham (1954-55)

Echo Pepper (1955-57)

J.J. Andrews (1957-63)

Rita Vatter (1963- ) .

4. Affiliate Chapters. In 1957 the Constitution was amended to provide for the establishment of affiliate chapters of Pi Mu Epsilon at nonacademic institutions, and the first such chapter was established at the General Electric Company, Evandale, Ohio. Affiliate chapters are intended to foster and promote an interest in mathematics, but do not elect persons to regular membership in Pi Mu Epsilon.

5. National Meetings. As the Fraternity has grown from a single club in 1914, to 18,857 members in 51 chapters in April, 1951, to over 45,000 members in nearly 100 chapters in May, 1964, it has become increasingly important to provide contacts between the members of different clubs at national meetings. Such meetings have been held almost every year since 1923. In 1952 and subsequent years, a session for student speakers has been arranged at the national meetings, and the chapters have been urged to send their best student speaker to present a paper. Several of these papers have been subsequently published in the Pi Mu Epsilon Journal. Financial assistance by the national treasury of the Fraternity is given to student speakers (full fare) and to delegates (half fare) for one representative of each chapter not reached the Master’s degree level prior to the commencement immediately preceding the meeting. The fiftieth anniversary meeting is scheduled on August 25, 1964, at the University of Massachusetts, in conjunction with meetings of the Mathematical Association of America.