Loyola University Chicago

Alpha Sigma Nu

Mission, History, & Milestones

Alpha Sigma Nu Mission

Alpha Sigma Nu advances the core principles of Jesuit education - scholarship, loyalty and service. The Society acknowledges, awards and inspires a select group of students who distinguish themselves with respect to these principles while attending Jesuit institutions of higher education. ΑΣΝ also honors others who have distinguished themselves in scholarship, loyalty and service through their intellectual, civic, religious, professional or commercial pursuits. Our mission is to understand, appreciate and promote the ideals of Jesuit education - opening minds, doors and hearts to a lifelong journey in wisdom, faith and service.

On June 4, 1915,  Alpha Sigma Nu founder John Danihy, S.J., Dean of Journalism at Marquette University, held the first ritual initiation of eleven undergraduate men and inaugurated Alpha Sigma Nu. Father Dahihy was quite a dynamic leader. Besides founding Alpha Sigma Nu, he was responsible for establishing the Marquette Press, the Marquette Tribune, and the college yearbook, the Hilltop. In his travels and reading, Father Danihy had encountered and admired honor societies. In the first half of the 20th century, administrators of Catholic institutions of higher education found that their students were being systematically locked out of the traditional honor societies, especially Phi Beta Kappa.

Father Danihy believed these newly inducted men exemplified a dedication to scholarship, loyalty to the cause of Jesuit education and service in promoting all activities of students and student organizations. With much anticipation that the society would prosper and spread to other schools, they were instructed to "to band together those who most fully understand and appreciate the ideals of a Jesuit education and to impress these ideals upon their fellow men.”  In 1921, Fr. Danihy announced that his vision for the Society went beyond the walls of Marquette towards the creation of a national Jesuit organization.

The first national convention of Alpha Sigma Nu was held in 1925 where the first Board of Directors was elected. The Constitution was passed, calling for the President of each university or college to appoint a member of the Society of Jesus as faculty representative to its Alpha Sigma Nu Chapter. The delegates called for Faculty Advisers on each campus to be Jesuits. 

The first induction of Gamma Pi Epsilon, also founded at Marquette, happened on April 6, 1925. Gamma Pi Epsilon women chose For the Glory of the School, to stand as their motto, and the Greek letters GPE were adopted to represent this theme.  Gamma Pi Epsilon became a national organization in 1947 when St. Louis University granted permission to organize a chapter on campus. The first national convention was held in St. Louis in 1949. 

From the first, Alpha Sigma Nu encouraged the creation of Alumni Clubs to help foster continued loyalty and service to Jesuit education. The Club was seen as an integral part of the student chapter at Marquette. The 1940 Convention delegates ordered the creation of a newsletter to help tie the suddenly far-flung organization together. They also recognized that Alpha Sigma Nu would need a well-developed alumni base if it were to keep growing.

By 1943, Creighton, St. Louis, University of Detroit Mercy, Loyola New Orleans, Spring Hill, Loyola Chicago, John Carroll, Boston College, Gonzaga, Xavier, Loyola Marymount, St. Joseph’s Seattle, Holy Cross, University of San Francisco, Santa Clara, Loyola Maryland, and Scranton had chartered student Chapters. The Society was now moving into the new decade sure of itself and its mission as the vanguard of Jesuit action and ideals. 

ΑΣΝ leaders strove to keep their organization open to anyone who was qualified to enroll in a Jesuit institution. Alpha Sigma Nu membership has never been restricted to members of the Catholic Church. 

The first honorary member of Alpha Sigma Nu was Konrad Adenauer, Chancellor of West Germany. He was inducted at the 1955 Creighton Alumni lecture. Adenauer's honorary membership set the precedent for each Chapter to begin regularly inducting respected teachers, administrators, and individuals whose accomplishments reflect scholarship, loyalty and service.

The 1960’s saw great growth in the Society despite the student unrest on many American campuses. The next Convention and the 50th anniversary of Alpha Sigma Nu took place during the 1965-66 academic year. The dual event was seen as an opportunity to celebrate the continuing legacy of Jesuit education in America, and to recognize the Society which honored the best of that tradition. Father General Pedro Arrupe, SJ, in his keynote address, expressed a desire for the laity to become more involved in Church issues and saw Alpha Sigma Nu as an ideal group for this purpose. He said the profile of the Jesuit-educated graduate was a person "courageous and hopeful in exercising initiative, yet loyal to legitimate authority," a person with "a balance of intellectual humility and independence" who "respects the traditions and accomplishments of the past but is open to new ideas and developments.”  “This is an historical evening for you and me,” he said, celebrating together the completion of fifty years of continuous and ever expanding scholarship, loyalty and service. “I looked forward to being with you to show my respect for your achievements of the past but more especially to join with you in charting the future.” 

At the 1964 conference, the issues committee reasoned thus: "If ΑΣΝ is to honor students desirous of said honor, no one should be eliminated on grounds of sex. The present set-up contradicts the notion of Jesuit honor students.” The Boards of Alpha Sigma Nu and Gamma Pi Epsilon met for the first time in March of 1972. Here you see the merger resolution:

BE IT RESOLVED: That Gamma Pi Epsilon and Alpha Sigma Nu be, and hereby are, merged into one honor society known as Alpha Sigma Nu to continue to advance the causes, traditions and purposes that have been fostered and promoted for many decades by both societies.

That fall, Alpha Sigma Nu inducted a total of 1,140 new members into its organization: 663 men and 477 women. The numbers dramatized the strength of the new organization.

In 1975, Alpha Sigma Nu joined the Association of College Honor Societies. ACHS is an organization that certifies honor societies, assuring that societies meet standards, and providing students with a place to check the legitimacy of honor societies who invite their membership. 

The board passed the bylaw mandating that two members of the board be student members elected at each Triennial Conference in 1979. In 1980, the Board founded Alpha Sigma Nu Book Awards, now given in a 3-year cycle, honoring books in the following categories: the Humanities, Professional Studies, and the Sciences. Book Awards promote excellence in research and scholarship among the faculty and staff at Jesuit institutions of higher education, and are one of the hallmarks of Alpha Sigma Nu's commitment to honor scholars of Jesuit institutions.

In 1981, the AΣΝ Scholarship Program began with Board approval of a $1,500 annual scholarship at Marquette University.  Our scholarship program now funds $1,000 scholarships at all our member institutions, and is funded by the donations of Alpha Sigma Nu alumni to our annual Sustaining Fund.

2001 - The Alpha Sigma Nu online directory on our website,www.alphasigmanu.org, provides members a terrific networking resource in the Member Directory.

2002-2003 - Six new Alpha Sigma Nu Alumni Clubs, with their purpose the encouragement of our alumni’s lifelong commitment to the values of scholarship, loyalty and service, are founded, joining Kansas City, Milwaukee, and Omaha.

2006 - Campion College at the University of Regina in Saskatchewan becomes our 33rd Chapter.

2008 - Alpha Sigma Nu inducted 1,694 students at our 33 member institutions. Alpha Sigma Nu alumni donated over $184,000 to our Sustaining Fund.  Our 14 Alumni Clubs actively encouraged scholarship, loyalty and service in the lives of our alumni.

Some 450 years ago, Ignatius Loyola began an order that stressed all Christians should strive for excellence in service to all humanity, all for the greater glory and honor of God. Alpha Sigma Nu, in seeking the best of Jesuit education, requires that its now 74,000 members emulate St. Ignatius through excellence in scholarship, loyalty, and service. This Ignatian heritage is relevant today as Alpha Sigma Nu celebrates its 100th year.