On Friday, November 14, 1919 at the University of California, Berkeley, a junior undergraduate student named Ruth Helen Barnes invited six other students of Spanish to her residence at 2545 Dwight Way to start what would eventually become the largest collegiate foreign language honor society in the U.S.: Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society/La Sociedad Nacional Honoraria Hispánica. After that initial meeting and less than six months later on Saturday, May 1, 1920, the Society’s first formal induction ceremony took place at founding member Miriam Burt’s home on 1629 Walnut Street in Berkeley, CA.
Sigma Delta Pi’s insignia is the royal seal of Fernando and Isabel, representing Castille, León and Aragón; its colors are red and gold, its flower the red carnation, and its motto the Greek phrase “Spanías Didagéi Proágomen” meaning “Let’s go forth/continue forth under the teaching/guidance of the Spanish language.” Since July 2010, Sigma Delta Pi’s national headquarters is located at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Per Sigma Delta Pi’s national by-laws, the Society’s purpose/mission is multi-faceted:
1. To honor those who attain excellence in the study of the Spanish language and in the study of the literature and culture of the Spanish-speaking peoples;
2. To honor those who have made the Hispanic contributions to modern culture better known in the English-speaking world;
3. To encourage college and university students to acquire a greater interest in and a deeper understanding of Hispanic culture;
4. To foster friendly relations and mutual respect between the nations of Hispanic speech and those of English speech;
5. To serve its membership in ways which will contribute to the attainment of the goals and ideals of the society.
Over the past century, and through the contributions of such notable Hispanists as S. Griswold Morley, Elijah C. Hills, Rudolph Schevill, Leavitt O. Wright, William Berrien, John D. Fitz-Gerald, Tomás Navarro Tomás, José Martel, Archer M. Huntington, John T. Reid, Stuart M. Gross, James O. Swain, F. Dewey Amner, Carl A. Tyre, T. Earle Hamilton, Dolores Brown, Richard E. Chandler, Ignacio R.M. Galbis, John H. LaPrade, Mark P. Del Mastro, Germán D. Carrillo and Lucy F. Lee, the Society has expanded its activities and now has over 625 chapters in 49 states. The following reflect the scope of the colleges and universities that now form the Sigma Delta Pi family: University of Notre Dame, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Virginia Military Institute, Johns Hopkins University, University of Hawaii, Oral Roberts University, University of Texas at Austin, Hood College, Brigham Young University, Truman State University, College of William and Mary, Howard University, Friends University, Georgia Southern University, California State University San Marcos, Auburn University, the United States Air Force Academy and the University of Wyoming.
To serve its many chapters optimally, the Society has a national president (click here for list of current and past presidents), an executive secretary-treasurer/director, and five regional vice-presidents. All but the executive director are nominated and elected by the active chapter members. The Society is governed by an executive council consisting of the seven aforementioned officials, the immediate past president, the presidents emeriti and an executive committee member-at-large. A board of student advisers comprised of undergraduate and graduate student members serves the executive committee for consultation on select issues of national importance. The faculty adviser, as appointed by the host college/university, provides critical guidance and leadership for the chapter and its members.
A more complete history entitled Sigma Delta Pi: Rediscovering a Century (1919-2019) has been authored by Executive Director Mark P. Del Mastro and will be published and sold by Juan de la Cuesta Hispanic Monographs in summer 2020 to commemorate the Society’s 100-years. In preparing this tome, Del Mastro has also written multiple notes that highlight select aspects of Sigma Delta Pi’s collaboration during the organization’s history:
“Reflections on a Common Past: MIFLA and Sigma Delta Pi,”
MIFLC Review 9 (Fall 2018-2019): 1-5.
“Sigma Delta Pi y la ANLE: Historias y protagonistas,”
Glosas 9.7 (September 2019): 63-66.
“Sigma Delta Pi and the AATSP: A Shared Century of Leadership and Collaboration,”
Hispania 102.1 (March 2019): 5-7.
“Sigma Delta Pi, La Sociedad Nacional Honoraria Hispánica: El Centenario 1919-2019,”
The 2nd World Conference on University Researchers (WCUR).
The Vellum Page & Downhill Publishing, 2019, 15-18.