Pi Sigma Alpha

Pi Sigma Alpha is the University’s National Political Science Honor Society. There are today nearly 700 chapters nationwide, but the society was founded in 1920 with the establishment of the Alpha chapter at the University of Texas at Austin. The 1920/21 inaugural issue of the Southwestern Political and Social Science Quarterly (now the Social Science Quarterly) recorded the event, noting that “an honorary fraternity in political science known as Pi Sigma Alpha Fraternity has been established at the University of Texas. The fraternity was established to meet the need for a professional society in Government. The constitution provides for a national organization and local chapters. Membership is limited to students who have done exceptional work in political science.”

The Alpha chapter began under the leadership of Herman Gerlach James, Charles Grove Haines, and Caleb Perry Patterson. Emmette Redford, former Ashbel Smith professor of Government and Public Affairs, once said, Patterson “was constantly promoting the organization, trying to get new chapters established. That went slowly at first, but snowballed as time passed.” Patterson became very active and interested in the fraternity’s promotion, using his connections to get chapters established in Oklahoma and Kansas in 1922. In March of that year the society held its first national convention at the University of Oklahoma. Robert Taylor Cole, who received his B.A. in government in 1925, his M.A. in government in 1927, and was president of the American Political Science Association in 1958-59, was among the first initiates in the Alpha chapter. Discussing the founding, he once said, “You will find the fine hand of Caleb Perry Patterson, mighty oaths of secrecy when we were initiated, and indirect evidence of a missionary zeal to conquer all (first in the University of Texas, and second in the name of ‘Government’).”