The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

At Marquette, a Jesuit honor society is born

Since its inception at Marquette Uinversity over 90 years ago Alpha Sigma Nu has not only maintained its presence but also spread to every Jesuit school in the country.

It was founded in 1915 by the Rev. John Danihy, the first dean of Marquette's journalism program, when he found there was a need for an honor society for Catholic universities.

The primary honor society at the time, Phi Beta Kappa, only inducted members who were Arts & Sciences majors, and did not allow chapters at Catholic institutions. Danihy sought to establish an honor society that would focus on the ideals of Jesuit education, and allow members to be from any school within the university.

"This is the only honor society open to all students regardless of their major," said Chris Acker, current president of Marquette's Alpha Sigma Nu chapter and a senior in the College of Health Sciences.

Danihy also founded The Marquette Tribune, the Hilltop yearbook and Marquette's journalism honors society Phi Epsilon.

"He was quite a doer," said Kate Gaertner, executive director of Alpha Sigma Nu.

Danihy inducted 11 original members to the society under the name Alpha Sigma Tau. However, the name was changed to Alpha Sigma Nu in 1932 after the society discovered that another group had been using the name Alpha Sigma Tau for a longer period of time. Members were, and still are, expected to exemplify the ideals of scholarship, loyalty and service. They are expected to be among the best in their class academically, dedicated to the Jesuit ideals of education, and engaged in some type of service.

"The whole point is that Alpha Sigma Nu is about much more than just academics," said the Rev. Michael Morrison, faculty moderator of Marquette's Alpha Sigma Nu chapter. "What Jesuit education is all about is using your education in the service of other people."

Originally, Alpha Sigma Nu was only open to men. In 1925, an honor society called Gamma Pi Epsilon was founded at Marquette for women at Jesuit schools. The two societies operated separately until 1973 when they merged under the name Alpha Sigma Nu.

Today, Alpha Sigma Nu has chapters at all 30 Jesuit colleges and universities in the United States, in addition to two in Canada and one in Korea.

The top 15 percent of each junior and senior class at each school is eligible for membership, but only the top four percent of those applicants from each class can be inducted. Eligible students are sent an application to submit that varies slightly from school to school.

"Usually students are asked to submit a resume of activities, some schools ask for an essay that connects their activities to the ideals of Jesuit education, and other schools require an interview as well," Gaertner said.

Today, in conjunction with the society's commitment to service, many chapters have ongoing service projects or programs. For example, Wheeling Jesuit University has a daily food pick-up that takes leftover food from campus cafeterias to local soup kitchens.

"Father Danihy felt that service would be focused on the home campus, but over the years our concept of service has broadened significantly," Gaertner said. "We don't mandate service, but we encourage it."

Overall, Alpha Sigma Nu is still seen as one of the most distinguished honor societies in existence.

"Being a member of Alpha Sigma Nu is the most prestigious honor a Jesuit school can give a student," Acker said.

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