This article was original run in the spring 2015 issue of the Carnation. It has been updated to reflect the 2017 Convention.
The Pilgrim Degree – It’s For You!
By Loren Mall, Historian
If you ask previous Convention delegates about their favorite part of a National Convention, some of them will say it is the Pilgrim Degree. This ceremony will be presented again at the Baltimore Convention to bring you a fast-paced and fun-filled evening. If you are part of it, you will gain additional best friends and new enlightenment by the time it finishes.
The first Pilgrim Degree was conducted at the 1923 Convention. It was conceived and presented by Charles Tonsor, the co-founder of our Fraternity. As defined then, it was and still is the third stage in the progression of membership. The first step introduces new members to the mysteries of Delta Sigma Phi during the pinning ceremony. The second phase gives our initiates the age-old wisdom of our Fraternity through the Initiation Ritual. The third advance in the series allows delegates at a Convention to enjoy the Pilgrim Degree. It is awarded only then, and you will want to be there to discover its revelations.
The original program of 1923 was not specific to the Fraternity, and it was not presented again. A revision in 1937 did not generate much enthusiasm either. Twenty-six years passed before the degree was conferred once more. That occurred in 1963 when the witty Harold Pete Winter, destined to become President of the Delta Sigma Phi Foundation a few years later, decided to add activity to the Convention agenda. He introduced his distinctive version of the event for that purpose.
In 1979, then National President Loren Mall accepted the challenge to provide both fun and meaning as a route to a fuller understanding of our Fraternity. This Pilgrim Degree is now presented at each Convention, orchestrated in recent years by former National President Christopher Northern. Judging by the chortles of laughter and smiling faces that pervade the great hall where the event occurs, along with the knowledgeable expressions that emerge when it has ended, it meets both tests. You may have noticed a few members of your chapter wearing a fez at official Fraternity occasions. It is a safe bet they have not told you what it represents.
Whatever your age and Fraternity record, you can show off your own odd hat and make members regard you with wonder if you take the Pilgrim Degree in 2017. This will be the 20th time the current degree has startled our Convention delegates. Through it, you can master the third sequence in the meaningful enigmas of our Fraternity. You will become one of the more than 5,000 Delta Sigs who have laughed and learned as they made this special journey into the deeper riddles of Delta Sigma Phi.
Interested? Sign up for the class when you register for Convention!