The Genesis of Greek Life at UNCW
The First Fraternities
Fraternity life at UNCW was destined to be an early success with the formation of two local fraternities, just six months after Wilmington College became a four-year institution with 905 students. Sigma Phi Kappa was the first when they were formed as a local fraternity in January of 1964.
The second fraternity soon followed when Pi Sigma Mu was organized as a local fraternity a few weeks later. They became an affiliate member of Pi Kappa Phi in November of 1964 and were granted a charter on February 24, 1968, making them the first national fraternity on campus.
Student enrollment increased to 1,209 students in 1967 and the Greek system would feel the positive affects. Two local sororities were formed that would eventually affiliate with Phi Mu and Zeta Tau Alpha national sororities. It was during that year that the first local fraternity, Sigma Phi Kappa, became a colony of Tau Kappa Epsilon and they would be awarded a charter in 1970 making them the second national fraternity on campus. The formation of a third fraternity occurred when Delta Epsilon was started as a local fraternity in February of 1967. Delta Epsilon joined Delta Upsilon as a colony in 1969 and received their charter in 1974.
1970's Brings Enrollment Increases And Greek Membership Decreases
Wilmington College became the fifth campus of the University of North Carolina system and the name was changed to the University of North Carolina at Wilmington on July 1, 1969. The immediate result was a period of rapid growth of student enrollment. However, fraternity involvement at UNCW in the early 70’s mirrored the national trend on most college campuses which saw a dramatic drop in participation as political unrest spread and a mood of anti-establishment prevailed. Delta Upsilon became the first casualty of this era and folded. The only two sororities on campus would also go inactive leaving UNCW with only two active fraternites.
Greek Life Rebounds In Early 80's
Fraternities soon rebounded as UNCW enrollment doubled to nearly six-thousand students from 1975 to 1985 and five new fraternities were established. They all started as local fraternities and had unique non-traditional names. The first to start was Un Kappa Fifth in 1975. They would become a colony of Chi Phi and receive their charter in 1979.
De Kappa Tate started in 1977 and elected to become a colony of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1979. They earned their charter in 1981 and became the fourth active fraternity on campus. Signa Phi Nuthin' formed in 1979 and colonized with Sigma Phi Epsilon. Tappa New Keg formed in 1981 and colonized with Kappa Sigma where they would be granted a charter in 1983. The Psychos also started in 1981 and became a colony of Delta Tau Delta in 1982 and chartered in 1983.
The Greek system now had the most fraternities in school history with seven. Chi Phi, Sigma Alpha Epsilon, Kappa Sigma and Delta Tau Delta flourished as new fraternities while the other three struggled to survive. Sigma Phi Epsilon terminated their colony. Pi Kappa Phi, one of the two original fraternities, was able to reorganize and keep their charter while Tau Kappa Epsilon disbanded.
80's Growth Followed By Stagnant 90's
The mid-80's were a stable period that saw only one start-up when a local group, Sigma Delta Psi, was formed in 1985 and became were chartered as Delta Sigma Phi in 1986. But 1988 to 1989 saw a spurt of growth when four new fraternities quickly formed and would all be granted charters within two years. Tau Nu Pi became Kappa Alpha Order; Sigma Kappa Tau affiliated with Lambda Chi Alpha; Sigma Phi Sigma with Sigma Nu and Tau Delta Theta gave Sigma Phi Epsilon a second attempt to establish a chapter. UNCW would have a record ten fraternities operate on campus. That number would decrease to nine when Delta Sigma Phi folded in 1993.
The Greek system at UNCW remained strong until the late nineties when membership became stagnant or declined. Lambda Chi Alpha closed its chapter in 1998 and Sigma Phi Epsilon failed again when its chapter shuttered in 2005. Theta Chi was the only new fraternity to start in this period when it formed in 1999.
The Last Ten Years
Tau Kappa Epsilon reactivated their chapter in 2005 which began a period of tremendous growth that would see five new fraternities added over five years. Delta Chi and Alpha Tau Omega started in 2006; Phi Gamma Delta in 2007 and Pi Kappa Alpha in 2008. Two fraternities folded during this period. Chi Phi, which had existed for over 30 years, was closed in 2005 and Theta Chi, which had been on campus for ten years, went inactive in 2006.
More recent growth has seen the return of Lambda Chi Alpha in 2011 and Delta Sigma Phi in 2012. Delta Kappa Epsilon started a new chapter in 2012, Chi Phi returned in 2014 and Sigma Chi has established a new colony. That brings the total to a record of sixteen fraternities. With a student enrollment of 15,000 and Greek membership exceeding 13%, UNCW Greek-letter organizations have never been more popular.
The First Sororities
The Greek system began six months after Wilmington College became a four-year institution in 1964 when two fraternities were formed. Three years later the first sorority was established when Chi Sigma Phi was started as a local sorority on January 19, 1967. They would become a colony of Phi Mu a year later and would earned their charter on May 18, 1968 to become the first national sorority on campus.
Following quickly on their heels was a second local sorority, Sigma Phi Sigma, which was started only eight days after the first sorority was form. They also chose to affiliate with a national organization and were granted a charter from Zeta Tau Alpha.
The Decline And Return Of The 70's
Membership in fraternities and sororities nationwide plummeted in the early 1970’s as an anti-establishment movement spread across campuses as demonstrations against the Vietnam War and other contentious political issues caught the focus of many in college. UNCW would not escape unscathed as the only two sororities would fold. Zeta Tau Alpha went inactive in 1974 and Phi Mu soon followed.
UNCW would not see another sorority return until Delta Zeta established a chapter in 1979 to revive sorority life on campus.
The Growth Period
Phi Beta Psi organized as a local sorority in 1981 to once again give UNCW two sororities. They would affiliate with Alpha Delta Pi in 1983.
The growth continued when Alpha Lambda Omega, a local sorority started in 1984 followed by another local start-up, Beta Chi Omega in 1985. Beta Chi Omega would survive as they affiliated with Alpha Xi Delta in 1987.
The Greek system rapidly expanded to eight sororities when Alpha Phi (1989), Chi Omega (1990), Alpha Gamma Delta (1991) and Sigma Sigma Sigma (1991) all planted chapters at UNCW and had steady growth for many years.
Despite the continued popularity of the sororities, the Greek system did not add another sorority for twenty years. In 2012, Alpha Chi Omega started a chapter, bringing the total to nine. With the popularity of sororities on the rise, Kappa Delta has plans to organize in 2016.
The first fraternities formed on campus started as local fraternities that eventually joined national organizations.