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The Oracle

Jenkens' Lesson

Carter Ashton Jenkens, the 18 year old son of a minister, had been a student at Rutgers University, New Jersey, where he had joined Chi Phi Fraternity. When he transferred to Richmond College in the Fall of 1900, he sought companions to take the place of the Chi Phi brothers he had left behind at Rutgers. During the course of the term, he found 5 of them who had already been drawn into an informal fellowship, and he urged them to joining him in applying for a chapter of Chi Phi at Richmond College. They agreed, and the request for charter was forwarded to Chi Phi only to meet with refusal because Chi Phi felt that Richmond College with less than 300 students, was too small for the establishment of a chapter.

Wanting to maintain their fellowship, the 6 men, Jenkens, William Carter, Thomas Wright, William Phillips, Benjamin Gaw, and William Wallace, decided to form their own local fraternity.

Of the six, Jenkens was the only one who really knew what a fraternity was, so the task of drawing the plan for the new fraternity fell to him. Early manuals described young Jenkens' search for a philosophy upon which to build a new college fraternity. He discovered in the Bible what he called "The greatest truth the world has ever known." 

As he so often told the story of the founding, the following passage became known as "The Jenkens Lesson."

Brother Jenkens was sitting at his desk one evening, studying a passage of Greek for the next day. He fell asleep and dreamed. "I dreamed that I saw a great black cloud over this University, " he said, "and I saw lightnings, and heard the reverberations of the thunder. I saw a nation at war, I saw homes destroyed; I saw ten hundred thousand monuments to the newly dead soldiers of the earth. And as I asked the Recording Angel, who stood by my side, what meant such a scene in the University of God. And he answered me quietly saying, 'Men have failed to understand the simple teachings of the Prince of the Earth.' I woke and I bowed my head and when I slept the Angel returned and showed me a world in which the cloud had broken. I saw children, neatly clad, wending their way to school. I saw workmen singing for joy at their work. I saw the churches filled, institutions of learning crowded, and the nations of the earth were at peace, every nation with its brother nation. And I asked the Angel of God what had brought about this change in the old universe. And he pointed to a passage of Scripture ... 'Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.' Thus the name of Sigma Phi Epsilon was born. ... This is the principle on which our Fraternity was founded."

adapted from Sigma Phi Epsilon Guide to Brotherhood, 1986



I'd rather see a sermon;
Than hear one any day;
I'd rather one would walk with me
Than merely show the way.
The eye's the better pupil,
And more willing than the ear;
Fine Counsel is confusing,
but example's always clear.
An the best of all the preachers
Are the men who live their creeds;
For to see good put in action
Is what everybody needs.
I soon can learn to do it,
If you'll let me see it done;
I can see your hands in action,
But your tongue too fast may run.
And the lecture your deliver
May be very fine and true,
But I'd rather get my lesson
By observing what you do.
For I may understand you
And the high advice you give,
But there's no misunderstanding
How you act and how you live





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Last Updated: 2008-03-14 18:23
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