Sigma Alpha Mu is one of the nation's largest and most prestigious fraternities. Here at Cornell, we are proud to be the oldest existing Sammy chapter in the country. We stress brotherhood, friendship, social life, leadership and academics. Brotherhood is the overwhelming force which holds this group together. No where else will you find such a diverse group of individuals living together as brothers. From club athletes to student leaders, all Sammies feel a strong sense of belonging while flourishing as individuals. Whether he wants to hang out in Collegetown or needs help with a class, a Sammy always has his brothers to rely on. When he is not bogged down with work, a Sammy is assured a busy social schedule. Our calendars are filled with mixers, date nights, crush parties, semi-formals, and a formal each semester. Sammies, above all, are friends for life. In recent years, Sammies have made a name for themselves all over campus.
We invite you to come to our house, hang out with the brothers, and join the excitement at a place where you can be comfortable as an individual, yet part of group whose dedication to one another is immeasurable
Recent History and Rewards
The goal Beta set for itself in 2008 was to be the only chapter to have ever retired two Founder’s Cups by our chapter’s centennial in 2011. Beta met and exceeded that goal through the hard work our officers, chairs and each and every brother at Beta Chapter, not just in 2008/2009, but in every year where they worked hard to set the tone and lay the groundwork for this outstanding achievement. Our Chapter won the Founder’s Cup six times within fifteen (15) years (1995, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2006 and now 2009). In our chapter’s history, Beta had only won the Founder’s Cup in the years 1927 and 1951. We are now tied for the chapter that has won the Founder’s Cup the most times (8) in our fraternity’s 100 year history.
We are the only chapter in our fraternity’s history to have won a Founder’s Cup in three consecutive years, 2000-2002; six times in fifteen years is also a level of achievement that has not been equaled by any other chapter within our fraternity. In addition, we have been in the running for the Founder’s Cup for each of the last fifteen years.
History of the Beta Chapter
Sigma Alpha Mu’s Beta Chapter was established at Cornell University on September 2, 1911 by Abraham Fuchs, Philip R. Goldstein, Morris Goldbaum, Martin Mendel, and Harry Schindler. Beta flourished during the following decades, becoming one of the strongest houses on campus. Through the 1930’s, the chapter boasted a homogenous group composed of many BMOC’s and a number of varsity football players. Around this time, two other Cornell fraternities merged and subsequently joined ΣAM.
Details of the original ΣAM house are sketchy at best, but the 2nd fraternity house was at 614 Stewart Avenue, near the cemetery. ΣAM ran into trouble in the early 1940’s because of WWII. Many brothers left school to serve in the war. Dwindling numbers and finances forced the fraternity to move to a smaller white house on Highland Avenue. Beta was unable to maintain its house and lost it between 1944-45. As the fraternity had no physical house for a few years, survival became questionable. The fraternity bought 210 Thurston Avenue in 1947-48. It was a larger house, and despite its humble appearance, it was homelike and accommodating. Things began to look up again.
The fall ’49 pledge class exhibited a new generation of fratres. It had among its members the chapter’s first two Cornell Daily Sun editors, the Vice President of the IFC, and a number of athletes. Pledge classes like that one turned Beta around. Later in the 1950's, the house at 210 Thurston Avenue had two great cooks, Ben Wilson and Doug Small. The chapter meals were jacket and tie and women were invited to Sunday lunch. The house grew even larger in the 1950’s, with around 80 brothers, approximately 30-36 of whom lived in the fraternity house. The adjacent lot (now the former AEPi house), which had two houses on it, was bought with expansion in mind.
In the 1960’s, with $200,000 in bank loans and $100,000 in Alumni support, donations, and personal loans, Beta began its expansion. After the new building was designed, the neighboring houses were demolished and construction began. 210 Thurston Avenue was supposed to be destroyed as well, but that never happened. The fraternity was doing very well in the 1960’s. Beta reached its peak with 110-130 brothers, a high house GPA, and involvement in many extracurricular organizations of merit, including student government. Amongst the most familiar of memories was the annual “Spawn on the Lawn” party held each year on Sammy property. Despite its large numbers, ΣAM remained a tight brotherhood, yet another of its strengths.
Beta became one of the most diverse fraternities on campus, which was a source of pride for the brotherhood. In the late 1950’s, ΣAM was a leader in the fight to open up membership to men of all backgrounds and heritages. It was one of the first fraternities to initiate a black member, and each year the fraternity took in a foreign student for free. The fraternity in the late 1960’s enjoyed a tremendous amount of Alumni support and prestige. Beta even had enough funds to hold alumni parties in New York City.
Back then, Val Loretti was the house man, taking care of the property as well as being a friendly fixture at 210 Thurston. Many alumni like to reminisce about “Val Tools Room” in the depths of the basement.
The Vietnam War created a very strong anti-established feeling on campus, which hurt the Greek system as a whole, and ΣAM especially. Beta couldn’t maintain its good fortune and began to falter at the beginnings of the 1970’s. The size of the fraternity began to scale down because of declining support and lack of finances. Declining numbers severely hurt the house and the expansion investments became increasingly detrimental. Only the first phase of construction on the new fraternity house was completed before all of Beta’s funds were depleted. The added problem of poor financial management caused ΣAM Beta chapter to go under in 1973.
ΣAM returned to the hill in 1984 when Joel Moses, et. Al., decided to establish a new fraternal order at Cornell. That group refounded ΣAM Beta Chapter. Their first organizational meeting was held in the university’s Goldwin Smith Hall. The colonists moved quickly and efficiently. Growing stronger each year, the fraternity first lived at 103 Sage Place, then the Wilcox mansion on 705 East Buffalo Street, and the 710 Stewart Avenue. In the fall of 1992, Beta returned to its home at 210 Thurston Avenue. In the Spring of 1991, in an effort to increase its size and prominence on campus, Beta initiated a “Charter Class” of 32 men. This endeavor turned a once small chapter into a competitive force on campus. Our successful expansion is proof to the claim that ΣAM is the fastest growing Greek Organization at Cornell.
Since the refounding, Beta chapter has effectively established a foothold in Cornell’s Greek system. The fratres have re-established the traditions of old and created new ones to carry the chapter into a long and fruitful future. Our Sammy Lauderdale party raised thousands for pediatric AIDS research and activities with IACC, including a Halloween party, providing Ithaca children with a safe and enjoyable after-school experience.
In 1990 and 1995, Beta hosted the Northeast Conclave, which brought Sammies from almost twenty chapters to Ithaca. In addition, our 1995 Conclave was done in conjunction with our national sister sorority, Sigma Delta Tau, which was represented by an equal number of chapters from the Northeast. Recent years have continued to prove exciting, as more and more alumni return to Ithaca and their beloved fraternity.
In recent years, the devotion of our brotherhood has accomplished tremendous results. In 1993 and 1994 Beta was runner-up for the Founder’s Cup, the most prestigious award that a Sammy chapter can attain. Yet, it was 1995 when we finally brought home the Cup, which recognizes Beta as the premier chapter in the country. This marked Beta’s 3rd Founders Cup victory, and the first since the 1950’s. In summer 2007 Sammy Beta took home the Founder’s Cup, giving it a second win on that cup. Not only that, but Beta became the first chapter in the near 100 year history of Sigma Alpha Mu to take home all four Counsel Awards (Prior, Vice Prior, Exchequer and Recorder).
Chapter advisor, and refounding father, Joel Moses, instructed the brotherhood after that Founders Cup victory not to be complacent. In following the lead of “JoMo,” Beta won the Founders cup in 2000, 2001, and 2002, making Beta only the second Chapter in ΣAM history to win the Founders Cup three years in a row. In addition, we have won the award for outstanding Alumni magazine for the past five years, and have had the winner of the Prior of the Year Award for the past three years. In 2004 Beta relocated from 210 Thurston to our fourteen-year residence at 10 Sisson Place. Starting in the fall of 2018, Beta will relocate to 122 McGraw.