In 1892, the story of Phi Sigma Pi begins with the founding of Phi Lambda Epsilon. Phi Lambda Epsilon is a National Education Fraternity that began at the now defunct Clinton Academy in Clinton, Missouri. The academy existed from 1879 to 1896 and there were seventy-one graduates, many of whom became prominent leaders in their professions. Many of the leaders at the school were members of an organization called the Bryant Literary Society. After a school hazing incident in 1891, three members of the Bryant Literary Society and a fourth student united and formed Phi Lambda Epsilon in 1892.
In 1893, an opportunity occurred to start a second chapter of Phi Lambda Epsilon. The members at the Clinton Academy originally did not have any intentions of creating a national fraternity, but plans were soon in motion to create a new chapter at the State Normal School in Warrensburg, Missouri.
In 1894, the Beta Kappa Chapter of Phi Lambda Epsilon was founded at the State Normal School in Warrensburg. This fraternity, also known as the Missouri Beta Chapter, was the first fraternity on the Warrensburg campus. The State Normal School in Warrensburg is known today as the University of Central Missouri.
In 1914, the Beta Kappa Chapter of Phi Lambda Epsilon was disbanded because, after investigation, the faculty found that it had strayed from its educational purpose and only emphasized the social side of college life. From its ashes arose a new group; an organization focused on strong academic achievement, service to mankind, and a celebration of fellowship. Alfred Thayer, Harold Patterson and Harry Hill, all student members of the closed Beta Kappa Chapter, worked with other male students and took their plans for a new fraternity to the Warrensburg faculty.
At first, the faculty did not look favorably on this endeavor, mostly because of the recent closing of Phi Lambda Epsilon. However, three influential men gave their support and encouragement to this fledgling group. The faculty was swayed by these three men into granting the establishment of the new fraternity. These three men were the fraternity's founders, Dr. Eldo L. Hendricks, Dr. Claude A. Phillips, and Dr. Clarence H. McClure.
On February 14, 1916, Phi Sigma Pi was founded at State Teachers College at Warrensburg, Missouri and originally named Phi Sigma Pi Honorary Professional Fraternity. The three founders decided that Phi Sigma Pi would stress not only scholarship, leadership, and fellowship, but do so in a concept of an equal tripod dedicated to these three ideals. Phi Sigma Pi was originally intended to be an organization for teachers at teacher training institutions. Dr. Hendricks, the leading force behind the creation of Phi Sigma Pi, was the first person to sign a Phi Sigma Pi roll book and is therefore known as Alpha 1. He was followed by Dean Phillips and Professor McClure. In addition to the three faculty members, the first chapter included ten undergraduate and honorary members.
On May 2, 1921, the fraternity became national when the Gamma Chapter was installed at Bradley Polytechnic Institute in Peoria, Illinois. From the very moment that Phi Sigma Pi was founded, chapter members at Warrensburg intended to make the organization a national fraternity by spreading it to other teacher training institutions. During the first four years, the Alpha Chapter managed to perfect a local constitution, establish a National Constitution that detailed how to start new chapters and defined the roles of National Officers, prepared a ritual, and actively promoted the fraternity to other institutions. As the careers of the early Alpha Chapter Brothers developed, new doors of opportunity were opened to start chapters at other institutions around the country. In fact, many early alumni would go on to serve as faculty advisors for newly started Phi Sigma Pi chapters at different universities, a proud and honorable tradition that continues to this day. Whether as graduate students, university administrators, or faculty, Phi Sigma Pi alumni play a substantial role in promoting and teaching our ideals to future Brothers.
In 1966, at a time when colleges and universities were openly discouraging social fraternities and promoting honor organizations and scholarship, Phi Sigma Pi was at a crossroads. Teacher training schools across the United States were becoming liberal arts State Colleges and Universities. Seeing that Phi Sigma Pi had always placed exceptional emphasis on scholarship - the premise being that good teachers were also good scholars - it was suggested that an honor fraternity open to all academic majors which stressed scholarship, leadership, and fellowship would preserve the tripod, while creating new opportunities for expansion. Phi Sigma Pi Honorary Professional Fraternity became Phi Sigma Pi National Honor Fraternity.
In 1977, the National Constitution was amended to admit eligible women. Phi Sigma Pi became a co-educational fraternity. Women were admitted into Phi Sigma Pi beginning in the fall semester of 1977. The word, "Brother," as all male members had historically called each other, would now come to refer to both men and women. The decision to admit females had an enormous impact on Phi Sigma Pi in the late 1970's and it continues today. Women have had an overwhelmingly positive impact on the growth and development of Phi Sigma Pi.