Sweetheart of Sigma Chi

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    F. Dudleigh Vernor


    Byron D. Stokes

  • History of The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi

    Written in 1911 by two undergraduates at Albion College in Michigan, The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi has become the most popular college fraternity song in history. The site of the writing of the song was Dickie Hall on the campus of Albion. Byron D. Stokes wrote the words one June day while in class. He took the words to his Sigma Chi Brother F. Dudleigh "Dud" Vernor, who was practicing the organ in the campus chapel; Vernor completed the music that day. It was written for the 25th Anniversary Reunion in June 1911 of the Alpha Pi Chapter. It was first sung by Harry H. Clifford (Alpha Pi, '11), who designed the drawing on the original sheet music, published by Richard Vernor (Alpha Pi, '13), brother of Dud Vernor.


    Stokes was asked by many people, "Who is the girl who was the inspiration?" He answered it was no one in particular. The "Sweetheart" is the symbol for the spiritual ingredient in brotherhood. It was the Sigma Chi Fraternity itself that inspired the song. I wrote the words not long after my initiation, and the magic of our Ritual with its poetic overtones and undertones was, I suppose, the source of my inspiration. Obviously the "Sweetheart" is not a real girl; she is, in fact, just the opposite. The word does not make sense in terms of a literal interpretation. When I wrote the words, I was influenced by the poetry of William Blake and Dante and in the symbolic method of writing poetry.

     

    Stokes later served Sigma Chi during 1916-1920 as Executive Secretary, Grand Editor, and Grand Historian, and retired in Pasadena, CA. Vernor was organist for the Metropolitan Methodist Church in Detroit for over 50 years. Ironically, although the two collaborated on this classic song while undergraduates, they never saw each other after college. "Our paths simply have never crossed," Vernor said in 1955. However, the two collaborated on at least two other Sigma Chi songs: The Fellowship Song and I'm Glad I'm a Sigma Chi; the latter was dedicated to Sigma Chi Brothers who fought in World War I. Both died in 1974, Vernor at the age of 81 and Stokes at the age of 87. (See also The Centennial History of Sigma Chi: 1855-1955 by Robert M. Collett, pp. 279-281, and History of the Sigma Chi Fraternity by Douglas Richard Carlson, pp. 368-370.)