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International Sweethearts of Sigma Chi

The Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, composed by Dudleigh Vernor, Albion 1914, and Byron Stokes, Albion 1913, has been recorded by dozens of vocalists, arranged by scores of orchestras, and even been the basis of two films. Generally interpreted as an evocation of Sigma Chi’s dream girl, the song’s popularity is still evident today.

In 1948, 37 years after the song was originally written, the Fraternity chose its first National Sweetheart. 80 undergraduate chapters nominated their chapter sweethearts for this esteemed role, and a celebrity-studded selection committee—cartoonist Milton Caniff, Ohio State 1930, publicist Steve Hannagan, Purdue 1922 and movie star John Wayne, Southern California 1929—narrowed the applications to a group of six finalists: Joan Rehm, Delta Delta Delta, University of Kentucky; Glorya Billie Klapp, Kappa Kappa Gamma, George Washington University; Sammie Nell Eldred, Chi Omega, Louisiana State University; Jean Forsyme, Kappa Alpha Theta, Denison University; Carolyn Slocum, Pi Beta Phi, Willamette University, and Barbara Tanner, Kappa Alpha Theta, Michigan State College.

At the 47th Grand Chapter, in Seattle, Wash., John Wayne presented Barbara Tanner with a diamond-encrusted pin and a 45-inch trophy as he crowned her Sigma Chi’s first National Sweetheart. Newspapers and broadcasts across the U.S. reported the coronation. Chicago’s NBC outlet announced:

Many a young lady has been declared unofficially the Sweetheart of Sigma Chi, but today there's no doubt about her identity. She's Barbara Tanner, 20-year-old coed from Michigan State College. Miss Tanner won the title of National Sweetheart of Sigma Chi in a contest sponsored by the Fraternity in Seattle, Washington. The judges who picked her—a couple of old Sigma Chis who certainly should be qualified to pick a Sweetheart, were John Wayne of the movies and publicist Steve Hannagan.

After Barbara Tanner was named the first official Sweetheart a tradition was born, and an International Sweetheart has been selected every two years at Grand Chapter. Today, a committee appointed by the Grand Consul narrows the chapter nominations down to three finalists, and the undergraduate representatives select the new International Sweetheart by a vote.

First National Sweetheart Barbara Tanner, with runners-upPast International Sweethearts, Rachel Berkey and Amy Jackson