History of the Xi

Three of these men from the nineteenth century exemplify for Wesleyan’s early years the quality of trusteeship achieved by the group.

Arthur B. Calef ’51, the first Psi U to become a trustee, joined the board in 1862. Five years later he presented to his fellow trustees a paper on coeducation and a resolution that the course of study in this University shall be opened to females as well as males. Calef’s Xi Brother, Orange Judd ’47 used his influence as chief donor to Judd Hall (1870) to obtain a board vote in 1871 that authorized admission of women. Thus began a year later Wesleyan’s first era of coeducation, which lasted until 1912. Daniel Ayres ’42 (elected in 1843 to the new Psi U chapter) made his major contributions later in the century. He endowed two professorships, one in Biology (1889) and the other in Physics (1893).

Eight of the 53 Xi brothers serving on Wesleyan’s board in the twentieth century, to say nothing of the twenty first, illustrate how this tradition extends to the threshold of the new millennium. Bishop Herbert Welch ’87 (whose biographical sketch appears in the featured alumni section of this site) was an influential board member during the transition from Wesleyan’s era as a regional Methodist institution to a national liberal arts college. He concluded his active trusteeship in 1959 at the age of 97! John Clark ’86 was chair of the board from 1911 to 1920, and the naming of Clark Hall in his honor recognized his efforts as a fund-raiser. William Hall ’92 was similarly recognized for his donation to a new chemistry building in 1927, forerunner to the current Hall-Atwater Laboratories. C. Everett Bacon ’13 is also remembered for service (1933-1960) and a munificent bequest. Many generations will benefit from the field house named for him. Earl Stevenson ’16 served as chair of the board during the most fruitful years of Victor L. Butterfield’s presidency, and Stuwart Silloway ’29 played a key role during that period in the purchase of American Education Press, Inc., the most bountiful financial asset in Wesleyan’s history. Stewart Reid ’72 enabled Wesleyan to create both a first-rate facility for admissions and a most attractive point of entrance to the campus.
James Van B. Dresser ’63 brings this roster to eight. His great-grandfather, James Van Benschoten, was a member of the faculty from 1863 to 1902, and President of the Xi Corporation when the present home of the Xi was built and dedicated in the early 1890s. A graduate of Hamilton College in 1856 and a member of the Theta chapter there, Van Benschoten transferred membership to the Xi upon his arrival at Wesleyan. Because Jim Dresser’s grandfather, Henry ’08 and father James ’37 were Psi U brothers, he can count four generations of connection to Wesleyan and Psi U across one hundred thirty-five years of university and chapter history. To this group of eight, we could easily add such names as John Bodine, “Red” Travis, the “Chip” Stones, father and son, Darryl Hazel, and many others. But the evidence already demonstrates with sufficient clarity the strong roles played by Psi U members serving as Wesleyan Trustees.


David Potts, the University Historian, was asked by the Xi Corporation to provide the Introduction to the 150th Anniversary Rededication. That Introduction documented, for the first time, a remarkable and unmatched record of lifelong leadership for Wesleyan and society at large. Findings include that although the Xi constitutes less than 2% of the Wesleyan population, its membership over the past 164 years has produced:

  • 20% of Wesleyan Trustees throughout the University’s history.
  • A similar disproportion of major financial gifts, including 8 of Wesleyan’s major facilites (teaching, athletic, administrative)
  • 15% of the recipients of Distinguished Alumnus Award

Heraldry of Psi Upsilon
Though the Xi Chapter of Psi Upsilon functions as a highly independent organization, our affiliation with the International Office of Psi U is an enduring and important element of our success as a fraternity. In this way, we hold Psi U’s heraldic symbols in reverence.
In 1892, Brothers Albert P. Jacobs (Phi, 1873), Karl P. Harrington (Xi, 1882), and George B. Penny (Chi, 1885) proposed a system of heraldry that was adopted in 1894. Before these heraldic systems were adopted, only the fraternity badge and colors were uniform throughout the chapters of Psi U.
The Arms of the Fraternity are described in heraldic terms as follows:

“a black shield bearing hands and letters of gold as in our badge, around which emblems runs what is known as a double tressure, flory counter flory, of silver.”

The Symbolic Meaning of the Psi Upsilon Coat of Arms

Specifically, the “double treasure” refers to the “tie that binds” the secrets, ideals, and aims of Psi Upsilon. The black shield was chosen because it was ideal for line engraving and to honor the constancy of the background color of the badge. The crest consists of an owl resting on Roman fasces. The symbolism in this image is that the owl represents wisdom, while the fasces (bundle of elm sticks or branches bound together with leather thongs or lashes, containing an axe with blade projecting from the side.) was carried by public officers attending Roman magistrates. Essentially, they were symbols of power. Garnet and gold, the colors of Psi Upsilon, are represented by ribbons on the left and right sides of the shield, respectively. Two griffins flank the shield, supporting it and representing watchfulness and strength. Lastly, the motto is a Greek motto, which is necessary for a Greek-letter Fraternity. The worlds translate to “Unto us has befallen a mighty friendship” or “A friendship has made us very strong.”