"I wrote the words between classes one afternoon not long after my Initiation, and the magic of our Ritual with its poetic overtones and undertones was the source of my inspiration. The deep spiritual significance of The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi has been misunderstood.
Obviously the 'Sweetheart' is not a real girl; she is, in fact, just the opposite. The word does not make sense in terms of literal interpretation. When I wrote the words of "The Sweetheart" I was influenced by the poetry of William Blake and Dante, and in the symbolic method of writing poetry.
The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi is the ideal of Christian Brotherhood as it is supposed to be represented in the Fraternity, and the word 'Sweetheart' is used symbolically. It does not refer to any actual sweetheart in the earthly sense, else there would be no meaning to the line 'each sweet co-ed like a rainbow trail fades in the afterglow.'
This line signifies that all earthly loves fade into nothingness in the light of true brotherhood, which is represented in the song by the light of the sun, even when the sun has sunk below the level of the horizon. And even in the dark night this line of brotherhood is reflected by the moon, which shines on 'the girl of my dreams,' the spiritual embodiment of the ideal of brotherhood The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi. The foregoing is roughly an explanation of the symbolism of the song as I intended it to be understood."
Hailing from Ooltewah, Sissy is a junior marketing major.
She is a member of the Sigma Kappa Sorority
"The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi" had humble beginnings: it was born from a young Sig zoning out in class.
Whenever any incomparable masterpiece is produced, legends as to its origin invariably come into being. Such has been the case with "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi," the most popular fraternity song in the world.
The song was originally written in June, 1911 for the 25th Anniversary Reunion of the Alpha Pi Chapter at Albion College by Byron D. Stokes, Albion '13, and F. Dudleigh Vernor, Albion '14. Stokes later recalled:
of Sigma Chi
Ms. Sissy Cameron
Delta Theta Chapter Sweetheart2007-08
With this meaning in mind later the same day, Stokes found Vernor practicing his organ lesson in the old Albion College Chapel.
"I placed the words 'By' had given me on the music rack," Vernor remembered, "and improvised some melodies to go with the verses. After about an hour I had written what finally seemed to click, the present 'Sweetheart of Sigma Chi'."
The song had its premiere when it was sung at the 25th anniversary reunion by Harry H. Clifford, Albion '11, who later made the cover picture drawing for the original sheet music, published by Richard Vernor, Albion '13, brother of the composer.
"We had no expectation that the song would be sung after the occasion for which it was written," Stokes recalled.
It became an immediate hit. Judge William V. Brothers, Northwestern '06, then Grand Quaestor, was in attendance at the reunion, was enthusiastic in his reception of the song, and asked for a copy to take home.
He introduced it to the members of his chapter and the Northwestern University Glee Club, which carried it around the country on tour. Soon it was the club's most requested number.
"In due time those hearing it wanted copies," Vernor recalled. "We received a copyright and published it under the name of the Richard E. Vernor Publishing Company. When the first 500 copies began to arrive from the printer, we thought we'd never get rid of all of them. We sent copies to each of the chapters of Sigma Chi around the country.
"The demand for music became so great my brother and I had to hire a secretary to take care of the mail orders. When it became too great an issue for us to handle we agreed to sell the copyright on a royalty basis to the Melrose Music Corporation for $500, with the stipulation that it would never be put on the popular list and, as so many others, played to death."
From there its melody traveled to other chapters, and then to the world. (GIs carried the melody through World War II, leaving it echoing in the ears of the peoples of Japan and Korea, Sweden and Germany, Italy and Australia.)
The song spread quickly and gained in popularity, and became the title to two Hollywood movies.
The "Sweetheart of Sigma Chi" was featured as an automobile in an advertisement for Oldsmobile in the November, 1950 issue of Life Magazine.
Stokes later re-established his property rights, and as late as 1966 received up to $4,000 a year in royalties from the song. Hundreds of popular singers and bands with most major recording companies have made records of it.
The song's composers both entered the Chapter Eternal less than four months apart in 1974, Byron Stokes on January 5 and Dudleigh Vernor on April 23. Since then, the Fraternity has received small amounts in royalties from the song, which occasionally is even aired in foreign nations.
Early on, interpretation of the song evolved into a ballad about that special dream girl "The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi." At first the custom of undergraduates selecting a chapter sweetheart grew slowly.
Emily Ann Davis, a University of Chattanooga Pi Beta Phi, was introduced at the installation banquet on May 17, 1947 as the first sweetheart of the Delta Theta Chapter.
By 1948 a majority of the chapters were following the tradition. In that year Barbara Tanner, a Kappa Alpha Theta from Michigan State, was selected as the first International Sweetheart of Sigma Chi. The event made the front page of newspapers across the country.
Brothers Stokes and Vernor were well aware of the grand tradition of Sweethearts their song came to romanticize in the minds of their brothers everywhere. They fully realized that these "sweet co-eds" not only became a part of the Fraternity, but also opened new light on the spiritual embodiment of true brotherhood.
The song can be heard at chapters across North America, in groups of brothers young and old, at weddings, at Formals, on the steps of sorority houses. It is indeed an anthem.
Adapted from an article introduction in The Magazine of Sigma Chi, Winter 2000-01 and from Past Grand Consul Doug Carlson in The Magazine of Sigma Chi, Fall 1981