Fire April 2004, Sigma Chi Magazine

Rising from the Ashes

Eta Omicron works to rebuild after a fire

–By Tony Coccagna, IUP 1985

In April of 2004, a fire that started in a boiler swept through the Eta Omicron chapter house in the early morning hours, causing severe damage; destroying belongings, mementos and regalia; and displacing more than 20 members. No one was injured, but the house was declared a total loss and eventually demolished.

Sigma Chi House Fire









From the ash and rubble grew a renewed fellowship of the bonds of Sigma Chi. While the undergraduate members regrouped in separate houses and kept the Fraternity alive on campus, the chapter’s house corporation began making plans for the construction of a new chapter house that will cost approximately $600,000. Significant Sig Lawrence K. Pettit, Montana 1959, former IUP president, took on the role of the house corporation’s fund raising chairman.

“This house will set a new standard for fraternity housing at IUP, it will be a fantastic recruitment asset, and it will virtually guarantee Sigma Chi’s ascendancy on campus for many years to come,” he said. An insurance settlement and mortgage did not cover construction costs, and the house corporation is in the process of raising those funds.  The task has not been easy. Founded in 1973, Eta omicron is a relatively young chapter with an alumni base of fewer than 600.

“We have received pledges and payments from our alumni, a past grand Consul, the Grand pro Consul, donors from alumni chapters, Sigs and non-Sigs from around the country. They respond because our guys – our brothers – were displaced by a tragic fire, and they respond because they remember their pledge training, their initiation and their friendship, values and brotherhood of Sigma Chi.”

The hope is that the house will be ready for occupancy by January 2006. In the meantime, the undergrads continue to promote the brotherhood as best they can. “In spite of the circumstances, they keep Sigma Chi together and strong on campus,” Pettit said, “You could never meet a finer group of young men.”