SigEp’s chapter at the University of Iowa was established when Founding Father William “Uncle Billy” Phillips, Richmond 1903, traveled to the university to form the state’s third chapter. There, he met the men of the Cosmos Club, a group of academic standouts who were highly respected by the faculty. On April 28, 1917, they became the founding members of Iowa Gamma.
More than 100 alumni, spouses and guests gathered in Iowa City on Oct. 6-8, 2017, to celebrate the chapter’s centennial anniversary. Packed with activities, the weekend included tours of the chapter house, an evening social and a homecoming football game. Among the notable alumni in attendance were LaMar Popp, Iowa ’53, Channing Nixon, ’58, and Arena Football League founder Jim Foster, ’72. Also in attendance was SigEp Director of Advancement Matt Parrish, Georgia ’08.
At the centennial celebration banquet, a proclamation honoring the chapter’s first 100 years was presented by Order of the Golden Heart recipient and SigEp Educational Foundation Trustee Steve Shanklin, Murray State ’70. Another highlight of the evening was a presentation by Matt Beck, Iowa ’90, on the chapter’s history and its accomplished alumni. In particular, Beck noted Fred Steiner, ’23, a World War II veteran whose bravery helped U.S. forces secure a victory during the D-Day invasion. Steiner was killed in action and posthumously awarded the Distinguished Service Cross and Silver Star for his heroism.
The late Dave Armbruster, Iowa Wesleyan 1917, was also among the alumni remembered at the banquet. Armbruster helped initiate Iowa Gamma’s founding fathers in 1917 and went on to have a successful, 40-year career as head coach of the University of Iowa’s swim team. He even innovated competitive swimming through the design of the all-rubber swimsuit and various swimming pool enhancements. His son, David Armbruster Jr., Iowa ’43, joined the Iowa Gamma Chapter in 1941.
Other presenters included Exemplary Service Award recipient and Life Trustee Tom Barton, Loras ’89, and former Chapter President Evan Raasch, Iowa ’19.
After overcoming a recent period of cultural challenges, the former Buchanan Cup-winning chapter once again has a future that looks bright. In the last year, the chapter has grown from three to 34 undergraduate brothers. The group is focused on recruiting the best undergraduate men and defying Greek stereotypes, despite a challenging campus environment. “We have many opportunities for growth and will be revamping our recruitment schedule to cater for year-round recruitment,” Raasch shared.
In addition to these recruitment efforts, the chapter is building out its Balanced Man Program, and brothers look forward to increasing their philanthropic and service-learning efforts with groups like Big Brothers Big Sisters. Meanwhile, ongoing renovations to the chapter’s historical home are helping SigEp’s Iowa Chapter remain a competitive housing option for students interested in a unique Greek experience.
As alumni continue to support the chapter’s growth, they are taking pride in the progress made so far. “I am confident that our chapter will continue to grow, as we have already passed the hardest obstacle,” said former Alumni and Volunteer Corporation President Jim Wachendorf, Iowa ’75. “Our collegiate brothers are doing their part representing SigEp to their best ability; and, as alumni, it is our job to support the chapter to the best of our ability as well.” Wachendorf has volunteered with the Iowa Chapter for more than three decades.