The tradition of Sigma Chi’s Derby Days began in the spring of 1933 at the Alpha Beta chapter at the University of California-Berkeley in the form of the “Channingway Derby.” Located on Channing Way, the Berkeley Sigs sponsored an event composed of a series of humorous skits and performances. In the spring of 1935, after receiving reports of the Channingway Derby, Beta Sigma chapter members at the University of Tennessee-Knoxville made plans for a similar event. Instead of presenting skits, the event was planned around an all-day track and field competition between the pledge classes of the nine sororities at Tennessee.
More than 1,000 people were in attendance on the big day, Nov. 1, 1935, to witness the first Derby involving campus sororities. Also in attendance for the festivities that day were four Sigs from the Delta chapter at the University of Georgia. The brothers took the idea back to their campus and named their production “Sigma Chi Derby,” which seems to have stuck. During the 1960s, the derby began to take on the philanthropic approach for which it is now known on many campuses.
After the Cleo Wallace Center became Sigma Chi’s Fraternity-wide service project in 1967, many chapters began using the derby as a fundraising event for the center. Although some amount of charitable work had been done through Derby and similar events prior to that time, the Wallace Center project gave a much-needed boost to the concept of doing something for a group in need outside of campus.
DERBY DAYS TODAY
The Huntsman Cancer Foundation has been the preferred philanthropic partner of Sigma Chi since December 2012. The foundation was founded by Significant Sig and Order of Constantine Sig Jon Huntsman Sr., Pennsylvania ’59, in 1993. The mission of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation is to find the causes of cancer, to develop new and better treatments, and to prevent people from ever developing the disease.
Through our undergraduate and alumni chapters, Sigma Chi is excited to support the Foundation as it strives forward toward this ambitious goal. To date, Sigma Chi has donated over $6.3 million to fulfill a promise to become the Generation to End Cancer.
In 2015, Sigma Chi made a pledge to donate $10 million to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation within seven years. In recognition of that pledge, the Huntsman Cancer Institute named its sixth floor for the Sigma Chi International Fraternity.
In 2017, the Fraternity increased its pledge by $1 million to $11 million with the creation of the Sigma Chi Friendship Garden in the new Primary Children’s and Families’ Cancer Research Center. The Theta Chapter is pleased to have raised over $50,000 in support of the Huntsman Cancer Foundation last year, placing us among the top-raising chapters in the nation.
As colleges around America have closed down their campuses, the routine and normalcy of life has changed for the Gettysburg community. Our undergraduate brothers continue their education via video conferencing with classmates and professors. Student athletes have had their seasons cut short. Springtime in Gettysburg, a memory so cherished by all those who have experienced it, will be on hold until at least 2021. The warm weather and late evenings that have coincided with Springtime on our campus bring many memories, but for my generation, this time is synonymous with Derby Days. Our tradition of a week-long fundraiser for the Huntsman Cancer Foundation is a time of competition and fellowship between Greek organizations across campus, and a week where Sigma Chi is the most prominent force for good and entertainment on a campus that is coming back to life after a long Winter.
Though the events, competition, and social activities that make up Derby Days will not occur this year in their usual fashion, our undergraduate chapter intends to stand in solidarity with the National Fraternity in an effort to honor our commitment to the Huntsman Cancer Foundation. As the campus community is physically apart, we intend to see changes in the levels of involvement possible from the general campus community. However, we view this time as an opportunity. We recognize that many chapters of Sigma Chi may be treating this time as an extra vacation – but for our undergraduate brothers and alumni alike, we hope that this is a time to focus on our strengths, our connections, and our work. Last year, with a full campus, we raised $53,100. And we thank every one of you who helped us get there. Now, the battle continues!
We have been given the opportunity to take focus away from the events and the activities of Derby Days, and remember why we do this.100% of your donation will be going to fund cancer research through the Huntsman Cancer Foundation.
Please consider donating to our chapter’s efforts to continue a tradition of excellence.