Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing (Sigma)
In 1922, six nurses founded Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, today known as Sigma, at the Indiana University Training School for Nurses, which is now the Indiana University School of Nursing, in Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. The founders chose the name from the Greek words storgé, thárros, and timé, meaning love, courage, and honor. Sigma became incorporated in 1985 and is a nonprofit organization with a 501(c)(3) tax status in the United States. Learn more about Sigma's founders. (Sigma, 2021)
Sigma and the Iota Omicron Chapter
Iota Omicron Chapter is the first International Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, and is an affiliate chapter of the School of Nursing, Western University in London, Ontario, Canada.
Iota Omicron Chapter - Chapter History
History of the Iota Omicron Chapter Of Sigma Theta Tau International, The University of Western Ontario (Western University):
The Iota Omicron Chapter of Sigma Theta Tau International (STTI) has the distinction of being the first international chapter of the organization. The process by which it was established began in 1985 when several members of the Faculty of Nursing at the University of Western Ontario (UWO) raised the possibility of starting a Canadian chapter on campus.
In the spring of 1986, four members of the nursing faculty at UWO reconvened to discuss the progress to date. As a result of these meetings, a core committee, dubbed the “Founders Group”, was created to develop a plan for proceeding. Committee members included June Awrey (Rho), Lillian Bramwell (Lambda), Sandra Faux (Alpha Lambda), and Joanne Olson (Delta Lambda). June Awrey met with Nell Watts, then Executive Officer of Sigma Theta Tau (STT), at the International Research Conference in Edmonton, Alberta in May, 1986 to discuss the process of developing an international chapter at UWO. Over the summer of 1986, the Founders’ Group met to map out strategies to garner support for what was a unique endeavour on the Canadian nursing scene. Once publicity materials were received from the headquarters of STT, the core committee members began to lobby nurses in clinical agencies and on faculty at UWO and students in graduate and undergraduate programs regarding the possibility of forming a local chapter.
Lillian Bramwell, Joanne Olson, Sandra Faux, and June Awrey In July 1986, letters of support were obtained from the administrations of the University of Western Ontario and the Faculty of Nursing. The administrations welcomed the opportunity to recognize excellence in nursing practice, scholarship, and research on the Western campus. On September 30, 1986, the Faculty of Nursing gave its verbal support to proceeding with the development of an Honor Society at UWO that would seek affiliation with STT. In October 1986, informational meetings were held for faculty and students and faculty were asked to submit written letters of support for the formation of the first Canadian chapter of STT.
With these efforts underway, the decision was made to form a Steering Committee to oversee ongoing efforts. The Steering Committee was composed of seven faculty members: June Awrey, Lillian Bramwell, Louise Brown, Sandra Faux, Dean Joan Gilchrist, Elsie MacMaster, and Joanne Olsen; two community representatives: Margery Sherlock and Annabel Sells, and four students: Eileen Denomy, Jenny Ploeg, Vera Simon, and Karen Wood. Five subcommittees were formed including Bylaws, Finance, Eligibility, Program, and Nominations.
By November, 1986, the Bylaws of the Honor Society, modeled on those suggested by headquarters, were written and accepted as working documents pending later approval. In keeping with the recommendation in the Guidelines for the Development of International Chapters, the name chosen was the Honor Society of Nursing of The University of Western Ontario. An invitation went out to Rho Chapter at the University of Michigan – June Awrey’s parent chapter – to serve as the mentor chapter for the fledgling Honor Society. All were delighted when Rho agreed.
The major effort in late 1986 and early 1987 was a membership drive. Because most of the nursing community in Canada was unfamiliar with Honor Societies in general and Sigma Theta Tau in particular, the Steering Committee had to educate potential members prior to issuing invitations to join.
While this educational process was taking place, members of the Steering Committee met to discuss the scope and nature of membership. Because of the intent to petition for chartering, the eligibility requirements of STT were used in selecting potential members. All candidates were prescreened by the Steering Committee and 400 invitations were issued to nurses across Canada – present and former faculty, Deans and Directors, officers in provincial and national nursing organizations, graduate and undergraduate alumnae from the previous five years, and current students.
The first induction for the Honor Society was held on February 15, 1987 in the Great Hall at Somerville House. Joanne Warner-Handelsman, President of Rho Chapter, was the guest speaker and 175 charter members were inducted. Of the 175 members inducted, 144 were present. Some had flown in from great distances to take part in this auspicious occasion. There were two memorable moments at the induction. The first was the feeling of pride and sharing that was evident in the inductees who sat as one in a community of excellence, all with the common goal of fostering scholarship in nursing. The second occurred when it was discovered that the flowers for the tables had frozen in the office of one of the faculty members. Action was quickly taken to replace them.
Once the Honor Society was formed, an election was called and the Nominating Committee prepared a ballot. There was considerable interest in serving, with three or four candidates vying for each office. Following the March election, the Executive Committee members were: President – June Awrey, UWO; Vice President – Irmajean Bajnok, Ryerson Polytechnical Institute; Secretary – Roberta Rivett, University Hospital, London; Treasurer – Sandra Faux, UWO, and Counselor – Joanne Olson, UWO. The first meeting of the Executive Committee was held on May 14, 1987.
From the beginning, the quest of this Honor Society was alliance with STT. The overwhelming support from faculty, students, and the nursing community at large made it evident that the Executive Committee would be directing its efforts towards petitioning for a charter as well as developing a viable Honor Society. The initial application for chartering was submitted prior to the first induction and the final submission shortly thereafter. The Executive Committee was delighted to receive notification in early April 1987 that the Governing Council of STT had granted approval for an evaluation visit and that the visitor would be Nell Watts.
Ms. Watts’ scheduled visit was a whirlwind of activity with calls and letters of support coming in from across Ontario and even from Alberta. The visit with the President of the University of Western Ontario was particularly memorable in terms of serving as an opportunity to market the degree of excellence exhibited by the students and members of the Faculty of Nursing at UWO.
The Executive Committee received a positive response from Ms. Watts on June 2, 1987 indicating she would support their petition for chartering to the Governing Council of STT. June Awrey and Sandra Faux attended the 29th Biennial Convention of Sigma Theta Tau in San Francisco on November 9 – 13, 1987 to present the petition, signed by Society members, to become a chapter of STT. On November 13, 1987 President June Awrey received a letter stating approval of the petition.
The date for the chartering ceremony was set for March 27, 1988. The president of Sigma Theta Tau International, Dr. Angela Barron McBride, would be the installing officer, bearing witness to headquarters’ support of its first international chapter.