Alpha Gamma Sigma Before 1950

Dr. William T. Boyce was, in 1925, Head Administrator of Fullerton Junior College, and he is the man chiefly responsible for the formation of the California Junior College Honor Society which eventually became the Alpha Gamma Sigma we know today. Here is a quote from his book:

“In 1925 I conceived the idea of promoting a state-wide junior college honor scholarship society. I saw in it an intellectual stimulus, comparable to that of Phi Beta Kappa in the higher colleges. Superintendent Louis E. Plummer supported the idea. With his backing, I invited Merton Hill, Chaffey Junior College administrator, and Dr. K. Hammond, administrator for Santa Ana Junior College, to come to Fullerton to join Plummer and me in a consideration of the proposal. I emphasized specific advantages in the plan as follows:

  • It would be an incentive to study and strive for scholastic honor.
  • It would be an inter-junior college enterprise in scholastic achievement.
  • It would commend the junior colleges to the higher education institutions.
  • It would add luster to commencement exercises to recognize the graduating student who had qualified for membership.

The proposal was heartily endorsed, and I was asked to formulate the plan and present it for adoption by all the junior colleges in California. The response was approval, adoption, and the formation of chapters.

According to Dr. Boyce, the original constitution of the society was adopted in 1926. At the Principal’s Convention in May, 1926, a special committee was appointed consisting of Dr. Albert Williams (Fullerton), chairman, Miss. Kathleen D. Loly (Pasadena) Miss Belle Collidge, Mr. W. W. Mather, and Mr. C. S. Morris. The committee was given full authority to select and design a pin, to have the pin made, and to call meetings of an Advisory Board. At first, the pin was a flat, one-piece gold pin with an open book and a blazing torch on a shield (similar to the present design) but with the word “California” across the top the words “Honor Society” across the book, and the letters “JC” at the bottom. The Advisory Board was to consist of the faculty advisors of the local honor societies which had met the minimum requirements provided for by the constitution and had been formally notified to that effect by the committee.

During the first year, chapters were established at Bakersfield, Chaffey, Fullerton, Pasadena, Santa Ana, Santa Maria, and San Bernardino. The next year brought in Citrus, Sacramento, Compton, Glendale. Long Beach, Taft, and Pomona. These fifteen chapters were invited to send representatives to the first meeting of the Advisory Board in Pasadena on November 24, 1928. Sacramento withdrew, and the other fourteen chapters were represented at the first Spring Convention of the society which (judging from the date on the printed program of the second convention) has to have been held in 1931.

A request from the students that a Greek name be adopted instead of the cumbersome name “California Junior College Honor Scholarship Society.” Accordingly, in 1932 a committee consisting of Dr. Grace Baumgartner, Miss Kathleen Loly, and Dr. Albert Williams selected the motto: “Add to good character, knowledge and judgment.” They took the three Greek words “Arete,” “Gnosis,” and “Sophrosyne” as the embodying the meaning of the motto, and then chose the initial letters of those three words, Alpha Gamma Sigma, as the name of the society. The design of the pin was changed to include the Greek letters.

At the second Spring Convention at San Bernardino on April 2, 1932, chapter names were drawn by lot and Pasadena, much to their satisfaction, drew the coveted Alpha slip. Since that time the society has undergone a variety of changes.

In 1940, Alpha Gamma Sigma became incorporated under California law. The articles of incorporation give the official name of the society as “ALPHA GAMMA SIGMA, THE CALIFORNIA JUNIOR COLLEGE HONOR SCHOLARSHIP SOCIETY.” The purpose of the organization are stated in the articles of incorporation as follows:

  • To promote, recognize, encourage, and foster scholarship and educational attainments among students of the junior colleges of the State of California;
  • To recognize students attaining high scholastic records;
  • To make students more conscious of the advantage of high scholarship;
  • To bring together students attaining high scholastic records for their mutual benefit.”

From the copy of the Spring Convention program printed in the 1941 edition of The Torchbearer of Alpha Gamma Sigma, it is clear that student members were present and active at the 1941 Convention at Reedley Junior College. World War II seems to have halted such student participation, for the minutes of the Advisory Board meeting at the state convention of 1954 state that” this is the first state Alpha Gamma Sigma Convention since the war in which students were invited to participate.”

Alpha Gamma Sigma from 1950 to 1972

The 1950 revision of the AGS Constitution had given the student members to authority to form their own organization. Nothing was done about this until the chapter advisors of the colleges in the southern part of the state invited students to attend the Southern Regional Conference at Santa Monica City College on December 5, 1953. There it was decided to divide the state into three regions , Southern , Central and Northern , and to invite members from the other two regions to attend the Spring Convention to formulate a set of bylaws for the proposed Student Organization. The amount of time available at the convention did not allow completion of the organization at that time, but the task did get finished and the new bylaws were ratified by the Advisory Board in time for implementation at the following Spring Convention. Note that the ratification of the bylaws for the Student Organization was done by the advisors!

The 1950 revision of the AGS Constitution was amended in 1958, 1966, 1967, 1968, and 1969! Each amendment resulted in giving the students more authority and responsibility in running AGS. By 1972 it had become evident that what was really needed was a complete revision of the Constitution. Under the advisor ship of William Miller, Advisor of the Diablo Valley Chapter of AGS, a group of students formed a constitutional revision committee. By February of 1973 they had met several times and finally had a new constitution ready to present to the membership at the 1973 Spring Convention on Catalina Island. There the new constitution was ratified BY THE STUDENTS.

Alpha Gamma Sigma from 1972 to 1987

The 1973 revision was a good constitution, but it provided for a grouping of chapters into “areas” of five to ten colleges. Although this structure looked good on paper, it soon proved unworkable. The ability to do everything as the constitution said it should be done was a source of guilt feelings on the part of the older advisor and outright confusion on the part of new ones. No one on the Advisory Board objected when it was moved to form a constitution revision committee made up of advisors. The framers of the 1973 revision had long since gone elsewhere, and the student members of 1983-84 didn’t know about the newest revision until they were asked to approve it. This they did at the State Convention at Asilomar in 1984. As of 1987, no one has seen any need to amend it.

Although the society has been functioning under a “constitution” since 1925, and although the revisions of 1950 and 1973 were both called “constitutions,” the Advisory Board committee appointed to draw up the 1984 revision decided that “the constitution” was really the 1940 Articles of Incorporation and that the document under revision should more properly be called the “Bylaws of Alpha Gamma Sigma, Incorporated.” As late as 1987, some of the older members of the Advisory Board were still referring to the “Bylaws” as the “Constitution.”

The 1984 Bylaws of Alpha Gamma Sigma, Inc. were designed to reflect current practices and to provide a feasible structure for the efficient functioning of the organization. Each chapter has its own set of bylaws which coordinate with those of the state organization in terms of name, purpose, and membership eligibility regulations.

In addition to the bylaws, which can be amended only by the special process described within them, there is a set of Standing Rules, Policies and Procedures which can be formed and changed by a majority vote of a quorum of the Advisory Board members. Both the Bylaws and the Standing Rules are included in the Handbook. Every AGS Advisor should become well acquainted with both.

Those members and advisors who attended the Alpha Gamma Sigma Spring Convention at Asilomar in April of 1986 can tell you that the sixtieth anniversary of the founding of AGS was grandly celebrated.

A Special Word of Explanation

Students and new advisors attending an Alpha Gamma Sigma Spring Convention for the first time are sometimes confused when they learn there are three “chairmen” or “presidents” and two treasurers in the organization. The explanation is as follows:

Alpha Gamma Sigma consists of THREE groups of members all of which meet at the Spring Convention. The first is the Advisory Board made up of all the chapter advisors (as provided by the 1926 constitution). The second is the Board of Directors (now called the Board of Trustees) provided for by the 1940 Articles of Incorporation. And the third group is the student organization which was originally provided for by the 1950 revision of the AGS Constitution. Each has its own president or chairman, and each has its own special concerns. For details, refer to the current “Bylaws of Alpha Gamma Sigma, Inc..”