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Sigma Tau Delta History

Since its inception, Sigma Tau Delta has modeled its mission to confer distinction for high achievement, promote interest in English language and literature, foster exemplary character and fellowship, and exhibit high standards of academic excellence. To that end, from 1924-1970 Sigma Tau Delta established an advisory cabinet with elected officers; subdivided the geographic regions; published The Rectangle two-three times per year; held triennial conventions (The first convention program was a single sheet of paper!). While regional conventions gained strength during this time period, the national conventions lapsed from about the mid-1930s through the early 1970s.

From 1970-1982, Dr. E. Nelson James took the reins as the executive secretary after Owen's death in 1969. James facilitated a reorganization of the Society by moving the Central Office to Northern Illinois University, substituting the Advisory Cabinet with a Board of Directors, and developing a working constitution. The national convention was reestablished in 1970 as a biennial event; The Rectangle was maintained as a semi-annual publication; and in 1972, Sigma Tau Delta was accepted as a member of the Association of College Honor Societies. In 1982, Dr. William C. Johnson was appointed as James' replacement as executive secretary with his title being changed to Executive Director in 1988. Under Johnson's leadership from 1982-1990, the organization grew to include more than 400+ chapters and became an international English honor society.

Since 1990 to present day, Sigma Tau Delta has continued to flourish. In 1996, Sigma Kappa Delta was founded for the growing two-year college system, and in 2004, the National English Honor Society was established for high school students and faculty. The conventions became annual events in 1994, and the event locations moved from college campuses to larger venues and hotels. The Rectangle became an annual publication, and The Sigma Tau Delta Review, a journal of critical writing, was added as a societal journal in 2007. Sigma Tau Delta moved into the information age with the creation of a new website, online submissions, and social media in the form of blogs and tweets. Currently, the Society serves over 870 chapters located in the United States and abroad; there are more than 1,000 Faculty Sponsors, and approximately 9,000 members are inducted annually. It is now the second largest honor society in the Association of College Honor Societies.

To honor Sigma Tau Delta's rich heritage, the Board of Directors authorized the making of a documentary short that highlights the people and the stories of Sigma Tau Delta through the authentic voices of you, its membership.

Sigma Tau Delta Leadership

Judson Q. Owen Dr. E. Nelson James Dr. William C. Johnson
Judson Q. Owen
Executive Secretary
Dr. E. Nelson James
Executive Secretary
Dr. William C. Johnson
Executive Secretary
Executive Director

Documentary Video

Words, Pictures, and Voices of Sigma Tau Delta
Words, Pictures, and Voices

"English Club" at Dakota Wesleyan University

The Rectangle, Spring 1947
The Rectangle, Spring 1947

The Review, 2014
The Review, 2014