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Sigma Alpha Epsilon (ΣΑΕ, also SAE) is a North American Greek-letter social college fraternity. Founded at the University of Alabamamarker in 1856, it is the only fraternity founded in the Antebellum South still in operation. Its national headquarters, the Levere Memorial Temple, was established on the campus of Northwestern Universitymarker in Evanston, Illinoismarker in 1929.

Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the largest college fraternity by total initiates, with more than 300,000 initiated members and more than 11,000 undergraduates at 300 chapters in 49 states and provinces at present. The creed of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, The True Gentleman, must be memorized and recited by all prospective members. New members receive a copy of The Phoenix, the manual of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, for educational development.

History

Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded on March 9, 1856, at the University of Alabamamarker in Tuscaloosa, Alabamamarker. Its founders were Noble Leslie Devotie, Nathan Elams Cockrell, John Barratt Rudulph, John Webb Kerr, Samuel Marion Dennis, Wade Hampton Foster, Abner Edwin Patton, and Thomas Chappell Cook. Their leader was DeVotie, who wrote the ritual, created the grip, and chose the name. Rudulph designed the badge. Of all existing national social fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only one founded in the antebellum South.

The Founding of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.


Founded in a time of intense sectional feeling, Sigma Alpha Epsilon confined its growth to the southern states. By the end of 1857, the fraternity numbered seven chapters. Its first national convention met in the summer of 1858 at Murfreesboro, Tennesseemarker, with four of its eight chapters in attendance. By the time of the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, fifteen chapters had been established.

None of the founders of SAE were members of any other fraternity, though Noble Leslie Devotie had been invited to join all the other fraternities at the University of Alabama before founding Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederate States. Seventy-four members of the fraternity, including Noble DeVotie, lost their lives in the war. DeVotie, who served as a Chaplain in the Confederate Army, is noted as the first Alabama soldier to lose his life in the "War of Rebellion." After the Civil War, only one chapter survived - at tiny Columbian College (which is now George Washington Universitymarker) in Washington, D.C.marker.

When a few of the young veterans returned to the Georgia Military Institute and found their college burned to the ground, they decided to enter the University of Georgiamarker in Athensmarker, Georgiamarker. The founding of a chapter there at the end of 1865, along with the re-establishment of the chapter at the University of Virginiamarker, led to the fraternity's revival. Soon, other chapters came back to life and, in 1867, the first post-war convention was held at Nashville, Tennesseemarker, where a half-dozen revived chapters planned the fraternity's future growth.

In the 1870s and early 1880s, more than a score of new chapters were formed. Older chapters died as fast as new ones were established. By 1886, the fraternity had chartered 49 chapters, but few were active. The first northern chapter had been established at Pennsylvania College (now Gettysburg Collegemarker), in 1883, and a second was placed at Mount Union Collegemarker in Ohiomarker two years later.

Soon after, 16-year-old Harry Bunting entered Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennesseemarker, now known as Rhodes Collegemarker in Memphis, Tennesseemarker. He was initiated into the Tennessee Zeta Chapter, which had previously initiated two of his brothers. In just eight years, Harry Bunting and his younger brother, George, emboldened Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters to increase their membership. They wrote encouraging articles in the fraternity's quarterly journal, The Record, promoting better chapter standards. Above all, they gave new life to old chapters in the South (including the mother chapter at Alabama) and founded new ones in the North and West. The Buntings were responsible for an explosion of growth, founding nearly 50 chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. When Harry Bunting founded the Northwestern Universitymarker chapter in 1894, he initiated as a charter member William Collin "Billy" Levere. Bunting passed the torch of leadership to Levere, and for the next three decades, Levere's high spirits brought the fraternity to maturity.

When Levere died on February 22, 1927, the fraternity's Supreme Council decided to name the new national headquarters building The Levere Memorial Temple. Construction of the Temple, an immense German Gothic structure located near Lake Michiganmarker and across from the Northwestern University campus, was started in 1929, and the building was dedicated in the winter of 1930.

When the Supreme Council met regularly in the early 1930s at the Temple, educator John O. Moseley, the fraternity's national president, lamented, "We have in the Temple a magnificent school-house. Why can we not have a school?" Accordingly, the economic depression notwithstanding, the fraternity's first Leadership School was held under the direction of Moseley in the summer of 1935. In the last years of Moseley's life, he served the fraternity as its executive secretary, capping an academic career that included two college presidencies.

On June 11, 2009, the fraternity's ritual book was leaked onto whistle-blower website Wikileaks.org. Along with the full contents of the book, the translations of the fraternity's Greek letters and motto were posted.

The True Gentleman

The True Gentleman is the creed of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, which was first adopted by the fraternity sometime in the 1930s. However, it wasn't until the 2001 Fraternity Convention in Orlando, Florida that it was officially adopted as the organization's creed. The definition was discovered by Judge Walter B. Jones, who first came upon it in an Alabama Baptist quarterly of which he was the editor. He sent a copy of it to John O. Moseley, the leader of the annual Leadership Schools, who was quite taken with it. Moseley began using it at the schools. For many years, the author of it was thought to be anonymous until the 1970s when the editor of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon pledge manual, The Phoenix, Joseph Walt, discovered that the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis also used it in a manual. The author was denoted there as one John Walter Wayland. "The True Gentleman" had actually first appeared in The Baltimore Sun as part of a competition for the best definition of a true gentleman with Wayland's submission being crowned the winner.

With his family's approval, John Walter Wayland was posthumously initiated into SAE during the Fraternity's 66th annual Leadership School in Chicagomarker. The Virginia Omicron chapter at the University of Virginia was selected as Wayland's chapter since he had completed his master's degree at that institution in 1901.

The Levere Memorial Temple

The Levere Memorial Temple in Evanston, IL.
The fraternity's international headquarters, known as the Fraternity Service Center, is maintained at the Levere Memorial Temple in Evanston, Illinois. Honoring all the members of the fraternity who have served their countries in the armed forces since 1856, it was dedicated on December 28, 1930. The museum on the first floor is devoted to a collection of interesting historical photographs, pictures, and collections from private sources. The walls of the building are hung with oil portraits of distinguished members. The basement contains the Panhellenic Room, on the ceiling of which are the coats-of-arms of 40 college fraternities and 17 sororities, while the niches on the north side contain large murals showing the founding of Phi Beta Kappa in 1776 and that of Sigma Alpha Epsilon in 1856, together with other murals depicting episodes in the history of the fraternity. Perhaps the most outstanding mural in the Panhellenic Room is the reproduction of Raphael's The School of Athens, painted by Johannes Waller in the 1930s.

The building continues to be used for ceremonies and receptions by the various fraternities, sororities, and honor societies at Northwestern University. The impressive chapel of the Temple, with its soaring vaulted ceiling and stained glass windows by Tiffany is used regularly for religious services, and has been the scene of many weddings of Evanstons and members of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. In fact, the entire building is open to the public for patriotic, religious, and educational purposes, while the library is also free to scholars seeking material pertaining to the history of any or all college fraternities and college organizations.

Government

In its early days, the government of the fraternity was vested in one chapter, designated the Grand Chapter. The first such chapter was North Carolina Xi at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hillmarker, which was responsible only to the general convention, the last was Tennessee Omega at the University of the South, in Sewanee, Tennessee.

Today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is governed by National Conventions which are held biennially. Here, brothers from all over the country come together to vote on additions and changes to the Fraternity Laws and to elect the Board of Directors. Between Conventions, SAE is governed by a Board of Directors, known as the Supreme Council. This is composed of the Eminent Supreme Archon, Eminent Supreme Deputy Archon, Eminent Supreme Warden, Eminent Supreme Herald, and Eminent Supreme Chronicler. The Executive Director of SAE (A full-time staff position), the Chief Operating Officer, holds the title of Eminent Supreme Recorder. Currently, Steven Karl Priepke, an alumnus of the University of Miami School of Law (2006) and founding father of the Florida Alpha Chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon at the University of Miami, holds the position of Eminent Supreme Recorder.

In addition, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is governed through Province Conventions. A province is a section, or district, of the country which is composed of nearby chapters. These provinces meet regularly to discuss issues concerning its individual chapters. These provinces are led by a Province Archon.

The Record

The fraternity communicates through The Record magazine. It is published three times a year and has been continuously in publication since 1880. The magazine has become popular in social groups throughout the country. The fall issue of The Record contains additional sections, such as Chapter Eternal and the annual report. All three issues are provided to active members and current donors to the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Foundation - at a circulation of approximately 30,000.

As of May 5, 2009, The Record can be read online at saerecord.net.

Chapter List

List of Sigma Alpha Epsilon brothers

References


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