Origins of Sigma Kappa Delta
by Dr. Don Perkins
Alpha Chapter Cottey College
Founded on April 21, 1996, Sigma Kappa Delta (ΣΚΔ) has its origins in Sigma Tau Delta (ΣΤΔ), the national English honor society for four-year colleges and universities. Many English instructors in the growing two-year college system had been members of ΣΤΔ during college and were interested in offering the same opportunity to two-year college students. For years before ΣΚΔ’s founding, the national headquarters of ΣΤΔ had received calls from instructors asking about possible membership for two-year college students. Few two-year college students qualified for ΣΤΔ membership because membership in that organization is limited to majors in English related fields.
Dr. William Johnson, Executive Director of Sigma Tau Delta and Professor of English at Northern Illinois University in DeKalb, Illinois, suggested a new national English honor society designed especially for two-year college students under the direction of Sigma Tau Delta; ΣΤΔ’s Board graciously agreed. Thus, Sigma Kappa Delta was founded when Dr. Johnson invited four two-year college instructors to meet April 18-21, 1996, at the Chicago Allerton Hotel on the Miracle Mile. Attending the first meeting were Professor Mirtica Winston of Coffeyville Community College, Coffeyville, Kansas; Dr. Steven Culbertson of Owens Community College, Toledo, Ohio; Dr. Susan LeJeune of Louisiana State University, Eunice, Louisiana; Dr. Don Perkins of Cottey College, Nevada, Missouri.These dedicated recruits met for long hours with Dr. Johnson and ΣΤΔ national president Dr. Elaine Hughes of the University of Montevallo, Montevallo, Alabama. Over the course of several meetings, the group selected the name of the new organization, designed a key and logo, chose organization colors of green and gold,drew up a constitution, planned a recruitment campaign, and elected officers: Dr.LeJeune, National President; Professor Winston, Vice President; Dr. Culbertson, Secretary/Historian; and Dr. Perkins, Executive Secretary (now called Executive Director). Dr. Perkins’s home base, Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri, was chosen as the site of the new national headquarters. Sigma Tau Delta generously funded this founding meeting and invited the new organization to participate in ΣΤΔ’s annual national convention.
ΣΚΔ began to offer official seals and t-shirts for purchase during the 1998-99 school year. Recruitment efforts continued to be a main focus, and by 2000, twenty-eight chapters had been chartered nationwide. The year 2000 also brought the publication of the first Sigma Kappa Delta Chapter Handbook.
Dr. Linda Kraeger of Grayson County College, Denison, Texas, assumed the office of national president in May 2000. During the 2001-2002 year, ΣΚΔ members were given permission to compete with ΣΤΔ members for the best paper award at convention, and the ΣΚΔ Board of Directors expanded the number of awards and scholarships offered. The board began to host an exclusive ΣΚΔ awards luncheon during convention week where winners were announced. Plans got underway forthe publication of the first ΣΚΔ national literary journal. At a brainstorming session during the 2000 board meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, Dr. Sheila Byrd suggested the name Hedera helix (Latin for English Ivy) for the national literary journal. The board embraced the name and the idea that Hedera helix symbolizes much of what education and our honor society stands for; consequently, English Ivywas also selected as a national symbol of Sigma Kappa Delta. By the end of the 2001 school year, ΣΚΔ had grown to thirty-four official chapters.
As the organization grew, so did the needs of the national headquarters. In the spring of 2002, Dr. Sheila Byrd became Executive Director, and the location of the national headquarters was moved to Calhoun Community College, Decatur, Alabama. Calhoun Community College graciously agreed to provide office space and support to the growing national organization. Dr. Byrd immediately began the process of having Articles of Incorporation drawn up in the state of Alabama so ΣΚΔ would fall under the IRS category of a 501 c (3) organization. The Board of Directors appointed Jan Anderson of Calhoun Community College as the new Editor of Publications. Professor Joan Reeves of Northeast Alabama Community College, Rainsville, Alabama, was elected president, and ΣΚΔ ended the 2002-2003 school year with forty-five chapters.
Sigma Kappa Delta is now an established organization dedicated to recognizing two-year college students’ excellence in English throughout the nation. National Headquarters and the ΣΚΔ Board of Directors will keep their focus on recognizing outstanding advisors and members and growth.