The Story Behind the Portraits of Bennett Taylor and Clarence Bivens

The portraits of Bennett Taylor ‘1887 and Clarence Bivens ‘1892 that hang in the chapter library were commissioned in 1945 by the chapter and Delta Delta alumni to honor two brothers who had endeared themselves to generations of Sigma Chis.
The oil on canvas, 30″H x 24″W, head and shoulders portraits painted by Lafayette artist George Wilstach were not just in recognition for their role in acquiring the property at 202 Littleton Street in 1910, but to honor their lifelong service to Delta Delta.

Clarence Bivens

Bennett Taylor







Portraits Commissioned to Honor Beloved Brothers

As the Chapter and House Corporation solicited contributions to pay for the portraits, congratulatory letters arrived from all over the world congratulating Bivens and Taylor on this recognition.  It is from these letters that the heartfelt sentiments of generations of brothers expressed their appreciation for the impact these brothers had had on their lives.

Corydon H. Hall ‘1920 (Delta Delta’s Chapter Advisor for many years.)
July 13, 1945

Dear Bivvy,
Just learned that Delta Delta Chapter has commissioned an Artist to paint portraits of you and Uncle Ben which are to be hung in the chapter house along with the portrait of George Ade.

Never did a person deserve such an honor more, Bivvy, and I want to offer my sincere congratulations to you.

No Delta Delta “Sig” knows better than I just what “Bivvy” has meant to Sigma Chi, to Delta Delta Chapter and to every member of that Chapter during the past fifty years.  The unselfish devotion you have given to “Sig” problems – the council and advise given to “Sigs” in trouble – the work you did and the funds you contributed when the Chapter was built – the shoulder you always had ready to cry on when one was needed – and all the other things you have done, big and little, over the years add up to a contribution few, if any have made to the welfare of Delta Delta.

letter 1

Congratulatory letters to both Clarence Bivens and Bennett Taylor arrived from all over the world.

Hall continued with a separate note:

Dear Mr. Bennett Taylor,
Never did an alumnus deserve such an outstanding honor more and I want to add this expression of congratulations to the many others you will receive. 

Well do I know – and from long experience – what “Uncle Ben” has meant.  Not only to Delta Delta Chapter, but to every “Sig” who has been a member of that Chapter during the past half century.  Without him, Phil Enochs would never have been a “Sig”.  Without him, Cordy Hall would, doubtless, still be studying hydraulics.  Without him, other of the Brothers would still be rotting in the Lafayette jail – and so on – it would take a book to record them all!

Charles B. Murphy ’1926 (Faculty Advisor)

Dear “Uncle” Ben:

Ever since my initiation into Sigma Chi fraternity – now more than twenty years ago – I have regarded you as the incarnation of what a true Sigma Chi should be.  Your gentle tolerance, your insight, your sense of proportion, your modesty, your genuineness, and your selfless devotion to the fraternity have been an inspiration to me as to countless other Delta Delta Sigs.

Dear “Bivy”:

Sigma Chi initiation will always mean Bivy and “the charge” to me. The first time I heard you give “the charge” was in 1923, and I’ve heard you give it many times since.  When you give “the charge”, it is literally illuminated, and it takes on a vital character I’ve never heard anyone else give to it. You and Uncle Ben have certainly done a great deal to make Delta Delta the splendid chapter she is.  The untiring service of you two men has lifted the chapter to a higher place in the hearts of all of us.

Thomas J. Barnes, Jr.  ‘1899
August 6, 1945

If it had not been for you and Ben we would not have the present house and your portrait should be there to remind the boys that the present outstanding position of Sigma Chi is due to the conscientious work of brothers who preceded them, just as the future of the fraternity depends on their devotion to its ideals.

letter 2

Brothers sent letters of heartfelt appreciation to Uncle Ben and Bivvy.

Letters from WWII Posts

Letters of congratulations were received from many Sigs still stationed in France, Germany, Okinawa, Burma and the Philippine Islands.  Also from military bases in the U.S. and the U.S. Naval Academy.

E.W Korty ’1938, wrote from his posting in Burma:

Bivvy, the fond memories of Delta Delta are firmly entwined in your inspiring delivery of the Charge during initiation ceremonies.  I only hope I can one day hear it again.

Brother Korty in writing to Taylor, stated, “I, too, wish to lift a cup in honor to your name, a small testimonial to your assistance to our chapter throughout the years. Someday, ere not too long, we can have a Sunday dinner at 202 Littleton and take that Sunday afternoon drive once again.”

Together in Chapter Eternal

Known affectionately as “Uncle Ben” and “Bivvy”, both men devoted their time and counsel to the chapter throughout their lives.  As the first congratulatory letters began arriving with contributions for the paintings, Bennett Taylor passed away and was buried on July 18, 1945.

Charles W. Hickman ‘1916
July 19, 1945:

Dear Bivvy:
Yesterday I had the sorrowful duty of attending the funeral of Uncle Ben Taylor. The loss of “Uncle Ben”, I know, was a hard one for you to bear as well as myself and all of his many friends, Sigma Chi and others.

On August 9, 1945, just three weeks later, Clarence Bivens entered Chapter Eternal.

Many of the congratulatory letters received were addressed to Uncle Ben and Bivvy. It was not until a second letter was sent to the alumni on August 25th that the brothers learned of the passing of Bivens and Taylor.

John Kruse ‘1934
September 17, 1945

This will acknowledge the letters received from Messrs. F.B Timberlake, Alumni, and Gordon Logan, Consul, referring to the portraits to be painted of “Bivvy” Bivins and “Uncle Ben” Taylor.

I was indeed sorry to hear that both “Bivvy” and “Uncle Ben” have passed on, and I am sure that their loss will be greatly felt by the Chapter and the fraternity in general.

Fred I. Jones, ‘1942, St. Menchould, France
Sept. 5, 1945

Enclosed is a small contribution to your worthy project for the paintings of Uncle Ben and Bivy.

I was indeed shocked and stunned to receive your second set of letters dated August 25th and to learn of the sudden passing of Uncle Ben and Bivy.  It will be hard for me to think of returning to Delta Delta and not seeing Uncle Ben at Sunday dinner or Bivy at one of our initiations.  But the Chapter Eternal must claim us all someday, and these two have certainly earned their place high on the list of loyal Sigs.

Ray Nihan ‘1945,  Okinawa
September 9, 1945

Excerpted from Nihan’s letter to Uncle Ben and Bivie:

For it was they who taught us that death cannot kill what never dies. Through their ageless loyalty to the ideals of Sigma Chi and from their untiring aid and counsel to its neophytes, Uncle Ben and Bivie have given us those two most elusive and important secrets of living: faith in friendship, and fidelity to ideals.  In these lessons they have given us courage for the future.  There is no fame greater than that which we hold for them – honest respect and true friendship.

It is only fitting that the picture they have stamped on so many young and impressionable minds and hearts should be put in oil and hung where all might see what real Sigs and true Brothers look like.

All honor to their names – Uncle Ben and Bivie.

Still Watching Over Us
The portraits of Clarence Bivens and Bennett Taylor were completed and presented to the chapter at Homecoming in the Fall of 1945.  These portraits still hang in the chapter’s library at the left and right of George Ade’s portrait as a tribute to the devotion and service they gave to so many brothers for so many years.

4 Responses to “The Story Behind the Portraits of Bennett Taylor and Clarence Bivens”

Nick Fritsch 1963

Brother Nihlan’s sentence “Uncle Ben and Bivie have given us those two most elusive and important secrets of living: faith in friendship, and fidelity to ideals. In these lessons they have given us courage for the future.” And those two secrets of living continue in so many dozens of exemplary Brothers through the last half of the 20th Century. The indomitable Bernie Sergesketter and other special Sigs of the Delta Delta Chapter.


James (Bo) Bockel 1969

Wonderfully heartwarming nostalgia. The mention of acquiring the house at 202 of particular interest. What a beautiful location and large grounds. A bit of a healthy walk to campus but well worth living in what I recall was a tranquil neighborhood. And the house. So breathtaking when I first walked onto the balcony overlooking the Great Hall. So many fond memories. Praying that the current situation is being resolved with the house renovation on such a great foundation and will be a rewarding experience for men yet to come with traditions, respect and brotherly love restored.


Bob Kaley 1968

Wonderful piece Phil. I’m sure it has and will remind many of us of the true meaning of being a Delta Delta Sig: lifelong Brotherhood in our quest to retain the spirit of youth. You, Ralph Bline, and others who are working to rekindle interest in and devotion to the glorious history of Delta Delta and our beloved 202 are providing a path to rekindling the “fire” that has made us all so proud of and indebted to our years at Delta Delta.


Michael (Cams) Campbell 1968

Thank you, Phil for more of your continued dedication to the chapter. The current brothers will benefit from your efforts.


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