On Friday, November 14, 1919 at the University of California, Berkeley, a junior undergraduate student named Ruth Helen Barnes invited six other students of Spanish to her residence at 2545 Dwight Way to start what would eventually become the largest collegiate foreign language honor society in the U.S.: Sigma Delta Pi, the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society/La Sociedad Nacional Honoraria Hispánica. After that initial meeting and less than six months later on Saturday, May 1, 1920, the Society’s first formal induction ceremony took place at founding member Miriam Burt’s home on 1629 Walnut Street in Berkeley, CA.
Sigma Delta Pi’s insignia is the royal seal of Fernando and Isabel, representing Castille, León and Aragón; its colors are red and gold, its flower the red carnation, and its motto the Greek phrase “Spanías Didagéi Proágomen” meaning “Let’s go forth/continue forth under the teaching/guidance of the Spanish language.” Since July 2010, Sigma Delta Pi’s national headquarters is located at the College of Charleston in South Carolina.
Per Sigma Delta Pi’s national by-laws, the Society’s purpose/mission is multi-faceted:
- To honor those who attain excellence in the study of the Spanish language and in the study of the literature and culture of the Spanish-speaking peoples;
- To honor those who have made the Hispanic contributions to modern culture better known in the English-speaking world;
- To encourage college and university students to acquire a greater interest in and a deeper understanding of Hispanic culture;
- To foster friendly relations and mutual respect between the nations of Hispanic speech and those of English speech;
- To serve its membership in ways which will contribute to the attainment of the goals and ideals of the society.
[As taken from the National Society Website]