History of Sigma Tau Delta

Since its inception, Sigma Tau Delta has modeled its mission to confer distinction for high achievement, promote interest in English language and literature, foster exemplary character and fellowship, and exhibit high standards of academic excellence. Sigma Tau Delta was founded December 12, 1922, as the English club of Dakota Wesleyan University in Mitchell, South Dakota with the goal “to promote the mastery of written expression, encourage worthwhile reading, and foster a spirit of fellowship among men and women professionally engaged in the study of English Language and Literature.” Under the leadership of professors at Dakota Wesleyan University, Lombard College, and Kansas Wesleyan University the fraternity became a national organization in May 1924.

From 1924-1970 Sigma Tau Delta established an Advisory Cabinet with elected officers, subdivided the geographic regions, published The Rectangle two-to-three times per year, and held triennial conventions. While regional conventions gained strength during this time period, the national conventions lapsed from about the mid-1930s through the early 1970s.

From 1970-1982, the society reorganized, moving the Central Office to Northern Illinois University, substituting the Advisory Cabinet with a Board of Directors, and developing a working constitution. The national convention was reestablished in 1970 as a biennial event; The Rectangle was maintained as a semi-annual publication; and in 1972, Sigma Tau Delta was accepted as a member of the Association of College Honor Societies.

From 1982-1990, the organization grew to include more than 400 chapters and became an international English honor society. Since 1990, Sigma Tau Delta has continued to flourish. The conventions became annual events in 1994. The Rectangle became an annual publication, and The Sigma Tau Delta Review, a journal of critical writing, was added as a societal journal in 2007. Currently, the Society serves over 870 chapters located in the United States and abroad; there are more than 1,000 Faculty Sponsors, and approximately 9,000 members are inducted annually. It is now the second largest honor society in the Association of College Honor Societies.

While the Lambda Delta Chapter of Sigma Tau Delta here at Illinois State University was founded during the 1936-1937 school year, the chapter eventually went dormant until it was revived by faculty sponsors William Spurlin and Sally Parry in 1990. In 1991, Robert McLaughlin joined Professor Parry as co-advisor. In 2005 Mark Vegter was welcomed as a third co-advisor. After the retirement of Professor McLaughlin, Professor Amy Robillard filled this role in 2018; the following year, Professor Mary Jeanette Moran filled this role as co-advisor. In 2020, we welcomed back Professor McLaughlin as co-advisor. Throughout the years the Lambda Delta Chapter has continued to promote scholarship in English Studies, and a variety of academic, social, and community service opportunities have been born out of that commitment.

From 1998 to 2017, the Lambda Delta chapter sponsored the Undergraduate English Studies Symposium to recognize the scholarship being done by students at Illinois State. In 2011, the chapter began hosting the annual the English Studies at Large Conference to promote academic networking and professionalization experience. Our chapter also publishes Polyglossia, a journal of student research. Each of these activities gives students a forum to express their creativity and participate in professional scholarly activities within the field of English Studies. The Lambda Delta Chapter also sponsors the annual Faculty and Student Awards Ceremony, which honors outstanding students and faculty in the English department. And for nearly 10 years, we have sponsored a bookstore in Stevenson 410, where students can recycle old books and discover new ones.

In addition, the Chapter has been involved in many other activities by helping to sponsor campus visits by nationally recognized scholars and well-known authors as well as group field trips to cultural events in central Illinois and beyond. We also host social events such as Dead Poets Night every fall and Live Poets Night every spring.

We welcome the commitment and the enthusiasm of our new members and look forward to your joining us in our scholarly, service, and social activities.