History of the Society
Purposes of Trigon
Trigon was established in 1924 as a political organization. Through the years, Trigon has evolved and matured into a cohesive Brotherhood bound by similar goals and ambitions. The modern Trigon can be defined as a society which unites engineering students with a fraternal spirit, allowing them to derive the most from their “Cavalier Experience” while at the University and to give of themselves to the University and community.
Perhaps the most important part of Trigon is the fraternal spirit, which permeates the Brotherhood. Through a careful selection of pledges with diverse interests, but a similar desire to improve themselves, the Brotherhood, the Engineering School, and the University, Trigon remains a close-knit group. With Trigon setting the stage, many close and lasting friendships develop among the brothers.
With an organized group of people comes a powerful potential to accomplish worthwhile projects. In addition to Trigon-sponsored services, brothers also make significant contributions as individuals based on their Trigon experiences. With a willing, enthusiastic Brotherhood, Trigon contributes significantly to the University while simultaneously improving the Society and the individual.
The History of Trigon Engineering Society
Trigon Engineering Society had its beginnings in the student political system in the School of Engineering and Applied Science. In an effort to rid the School of its one-party political system, engineering students met in the spring of 1924 in Room 10, Cabell Hall to form a new society, the Delta Society. In the early twenties, there had been growing dissatisfaction with the student political organization. It was believed at that time that a “one party” tyranny existed, which attempted to overwhelm the opposition and place a select few in positions of power. On November 3, 1924, the Delta Society held it first official meeting in Room 17 West Lawn, the residence of Mr. Woods Stockton Walker, and continued to meet as the Delta Society until May 26, 1925 when it became the Trigon Society. During that first year, the Society quickly initiated its political involvement with its own party ticket in the Engineering School’s elections. They met early success with a victory in their first election.
Fraternal and service activities were added to accompany its political interests. An initiation ceremony, which put each member under oath, was approved in order to prevent the members from joining similar organizations. The initiation fee that year was $1.00 for charter members and $2.00 for later initiates; dues were $.50 per term. In keeping with fraternal spirit, a pin, motto, handshake, and symbol were also adopted. The pin, as originally designed, was of gold base with a hypotenuse of forty-six sixtieths, shorter leg of twenty-five sixtieths, and longer leg of thirty-two sixtieths. The Greek letters Gamma, Delta, and Epsilon appeared on the shorter, longer, and longest sides respectively. In the midpoint of the triangular surface a red garnet was inset. The motto of Trigon comes from Hesiod’s words: “Diligence Increaseth the Fruits of Toil.” The handshake, along with other Society secrets, is described only during the initiation ceremony. The symbol of the Society is similar in design and proportion to the pin. Red was approved as the color of the Society, partly because it implied life and vigor, and partly because it had long been the emblem of the class, a symbol of insurgency and liberalism.
Trigon Engineering Society became the new name for the Trigon Society on September 29, 1925. Ewing G. Simpson, considered the founder of the Society, was elected the first president of Trigon. Both the Trigon shingle and symbol were designed by Mr. Simpson. Mr. Simpson lived in Room 17 from 1925 until 1929, and his residence remained the headquarters of the Society although the meetings had moved elsewhere after 1926. In the 1930’s and 1940’s, Trigon developed its characteristic involvement in the Engineering School and in the University. The Society became a close-knit group of “brothers” as the term “comrade” was dropped in the 1930’s. The first Open House Visitation on March 1, 1936 was a significant success as three hundred visitors, guided by Trigon brothers, saw the newly built Thornton Hall. Recruiting and orienting students to the Engineering School was another important service project that served to strengthen the name of Trigon and the School. Trigon’s political activities at the time were: 1) providing a ticket of Trigon members to run for school office, 2) helping in the actual election process, 3) sponsoring an open forum for all candidates to speak to the engineering students, 4) campaigning as a group for the election of certain candidates, and 5) presenting issues and platforms for the Engineering School.
The spirit of Brotherhood continued as Trigon acquired the house at 111 Harmon Street in Charlottesville during the 1940’s. However, financial difficulties during World War II forced the Society to give up the house. On a better note, the Society took pride in its Alumni Scholarship Fund. Founded in 1942, the fund awarded $50.00 to the brother who had a dean’s list average and had done the most for the Society.
During the 1950’s, Trigon increased its services to the Engineering School in the form of gifts. The Society donated calculators and typewriters to the Engineering School Library as well as making $50.00 donations per semester for the purchase of books. Trigon’s activity took on an international color in 1956. On December 11, the Hungarian Student Committee of Trigon allocated scholarship money to allow a Hungarian student to come to the United States. The Hungarian Student Scholarship provided moral support and social contact for the student and his whole family.
In recognition of Trigon Engineering Society’s continued activities, role in the School of Engineering and Applied Science and the Brotherhood’s historical affiliation with 17 West Lawn, the University of Virginia designated that room as the “Trigon Room” in 1966. The room continues as the spiritual center for Trigon as well as a social center for many traditional gatherings. Each February, the Brotherhood elects a deserving member to occupy the room for the following school year. A bronze plaque, a gift from the 1978 pledge class, now hangs in the Trigon Room along with the current brotherhood composite above the mantle. It is tradition for the selected lawn room resident to leave a gift behind for the lawn room.
The addition of women to the University did not fail to affect the Society. “Rolls” to girls’ schools became less important as women were seen not only at the University but also among the ranks of the previously all male Brotherhood. Since 1972, when the first female pledges were initiated, the female brothers of Trigon, as they prefer to be called, have served to broaden and strengthen the interests and commitment of the Society. The first woman president, Susan Byington, served in the spring of 1983. Under the guidance of Mr. Charles E. Echols, who replaced Mr. Tony Iachetta as faculty advisor in the mid 1960’s, Trigon continued to grow. In response to a balanced political system in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, the political aspect of the Society was abandoned on March 20, 1980.
In April of 1982, Trigon established a new committee to administer the Margaret Elinor George Scholarship. Miss George’s parents donated $10,000 to the Board of Visitors to create the permanent scholarship fund from which a deserving student, chosen on the basis of scholarship, leadership, character, and service, is given a partial scholarship. Miss George was a member of the 1976 pledge class.
Sadly, in the Fall of 1991, Mr. Charles Echols, the beloved faculty advisor of Trigon for over 25 years, passed away. Honorary brother, Dean Thomas Hutchinson, replaced him as Trigon’s faculty advisor. Professor Hutchinson has offered his house for many events, including at least one BBQ each year and has helped Trigon through many tough decisions.
As Trigon looks toward the future, the membership plans to increase its traditional service to the University and the Charlottesville community. Activities co-sponsored by Trigon and various other engineering organizations will continue to unify the students of the Engineering School and increase their exposure to the engineering profession. The Society will strive to maintain its good reputation among the faculty, administration, and students, not by dwelling on past accomplishments, but by seeking stronger ties between brothers, alumni, the School and the community through future activities.