SAE has a long history of firsts. We were the first fraternity to create a leadership education program. One of the first to eliminate pledging, and were the first to ban hard alcohol from all events and activities. But, we’re not blazing new trails just for the sake of being able to say “we did it first.” We do things first because the actions we’re taking make a real difference that impacts the lives of real people.
We pride ourselves on the decisions we’ve made. They haven’t been easy. But they’re beyond rewarding. We’re not just a fraternity. We’re a place men go to learn how to be to a better person. To build a better world. To pass on better principles to the next generation. This is where men transform from who they are, to who they want to be. SAE is for men who want to take the collegiate experience to a higher level. Who will seek out prospects, that as members, will do the same and who will take everything they’ve learned out into the world to be a guiding light to others?
We’re one of the country’s oldest and largest fraternities, founded on March 9, 1856, at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Our 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. DeVotie led this contingency, wrote the ritual, created the grip, and chose our name. Rudulph designed the badge. None of our founders were members of any other fraternity, although Noble Leslie DeVotie had been invited to join all of the other fraternities at the University of Alabama before founding Sigma Alpha Epsilon.
By the end of 1857, we had seven chapters and held our first national convention in the summer of 1858 in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with four of its eight chapters in attendance. By the early 1860s, SAE had expanded to fifteen chapters. In the 1870s and early 1880s, more than a score of new chapters were formed. During this time, three brothers (The Buntings) were initiated. They strongly advocated expansion, including writing articles in our quarterly magazine, The Record. By the late 1890s, their efforts were directly responsible for the expansion of an additional 50 chapters. One of these chapters was founded at Northwestern University in 1894. Initiated was a young man named William Collin “Billy” Levere, who took over the mantle of leadership at SAE, and brought the fraternity to maturity over the next 30 years.
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 Michigan and across from the Northwestern University campus.
Today, over 350,000 brothers have been initiated among our 220+ chapters. In 2018, the Supreme Council felt it was time to update SAE’s outward appearance and strengthen our collective voice as True Gentlemen. By taking a fresh look, there was an opportunity to reflect on our achievements, rise above our challenges, and elevate our levels of responsibility and leadership to those we serve. While times change, our convictions never will. And this latest milestone will help us continue to advance our principles and beliefs as we continue our collective journey forward.
Active collegiate members
Initiated members since our founding in 1856