The True Gentleman
The True Gentleman is the man whose conduct proceeds from good will and an acute sense of propriety, and whose self-control is equal to all emergencies; who does not make the poor man conscious of his poverty, the obscure man of his obscurity, or any man of his inferiority or deformity; who is himself humbled if necessity compels him to humble another; who does not flatter wealth, cringe before power, or boast of his own possessions or achievements; who speaks with frankness but always with sincerity and sympathy; whose deed follows his word; who thinks of the rights and feelings of others, rather than his own; and who appears well in any company, a man with whom honor is sacred and virtue safe.
-John Walter Wayland, Virginia 1899
History of Oregon SAE
The U-Avava Club
The origins of Oregon Beta go back to April 1, 1909 and the Avava Club, one of several early local societies at the university that existed alongside the few national fraternities which had already chartered chapters. Harry Devereaux, one of the founders of the group, explained that the unusual name of the local was a concoction of “three Phoenician words, all beginning with “A” representing the motto of the fraternity. It was impossible to put the three ‘A’s together alone, so they chose ‘V’s which means…and…to go with the ‘A’s making the word Avava.
As early as 1913, the Avava Club was corresponding with SAE about the requirements for a charter. By this time, the organization was well established on campus, but was meeting intense competition from an expanding number of national fraternities. Since Sigma Nu had pioneered at Oregon in 1900, seven other strong rivals had chartered chapters: Kappa Sigma (1904), Beta Theta Pi (1909), Sigma Chi (1910), Alpha Tau Omega (1910), Phi Gamma Delta (1911), Phi Delta Theta (1912) and Delta Tau Delta (1913).
Then Avava Club found local SAE support. Robert A. Pratt (Minnesota Alpha ’09), wrote Levere from Eugene in 1913 asking about the next national convention. Levere responded, but offered little encouragement because he wanted nothing to compete unduly with the petition from Oregon State. Nearly a year later, however, a young Medford attorney, Scott N. Burton (South Dakota Sigma ’12), was urging support of the club and the university.
Support for the Avava Club in the Province (then Province Kappa) was tenuous at best. Everyone seemed to sense that somehow all was not well with the club. Robert Pratt was distressed to report to Levere in 1914 that the Avava Club had become defunct. The explanation was simple: five men were flunked out of school at mid year, the steward diverted to his own use about $400 of the house funds. Other members of the society, shocked by the scandal and “utterly discouraged” at the prospects for the future, dissolved the organization, and some even joined national fraternities on campus.
Several years later, the alumni of the club gathered together some of the loyal members of the old group, men judged to be of irreproachable character, and planned reorganization of the fraternity as the “U-Avava Club”. Meanwhile, men like Harry Devereaux never wavered in aiming toward SAE, and although the war delayed their hope to reconstruct the group, they were determined to submit a petition to SAE when the time was right. They gained a powerful advocate when Dr. Walter Morton, Dean of the School of Commerce (now the School of Business) and loyal SAE, threw his weight behind their effort. The U-Avava Club was formally reorganized January 15, 1919.
Among the undergraduates in the club was Guy Armentrout, ’20. He was good-looking, irrepressible, unpredictable, and a born leader. He sparked the final drive that won the charter. The club was financially sound, living in its own house, and respected on campus. Armentrout saw to it that the formal petition was submitted in the spring of 1919, having previously obtained the unanimous approval of now Province Lambda. Subsequently, he was elected president of the club.
At the National Convention in Buffalo that year, Armentrout, behaving admirably won countless friends for the U-Avava Club, especially Hugh E. Burdette, who was working so hard for Idaho and Oregon. The convention extension committee reported favorably on the petition. The Oregon petition was the last of ten presented to the convention for its approval. The delegates were exhausted, numbed by the oratory and sharp debate of a session that seemed interminable. ESDA Hobbs, chairman of the extension committee, introduced Hugh Burdette to the limp, sweating convention.
All passed with acclamation!
Through the undying efforts of a fearless group of leaders, the University of Oregon chapter of SAE was established. It has continued to thrive through the years as one of the strongest fraternities on campus. The SAE house that stands there today on 812 E. 14th Avenue was constructed in 1927. It has seen multiple remodels and upgrades to appear as it does today. SAE has and always will remain an ongoing legacy at the University of Oregon as even today, it continues to uphold the very morals and standards on which it was built.
Paraphrased from The Era of Levere. By Dr Joseph W. Walt, 1972
By Kent Williams ORBE ‘65
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded March 9, 1856, at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Its founders were Noble Leslie DeVotie, John Barratt Rudulph, Nathan Elams Cockrell, John Webb Kerr, Wade Foster, Samuel Marion Dennis, Abner Edwin Patton and Thomas Chappell Cook. Their leader was DeVotie, who had written the Ritual, devised the grip, and chosen the name. Rudulph designed the badge. Of all existing fraternities today, Sigma Alpha Epsilon is the only one founded in the ante-bellum South.
The Eight Founders of SAE
- Noble Leslie DeVotie
- John Barratt Rudulph
- Nathan Elams Cockrell
- John Webb Kerr
- Wade Foster
- Samuel Marion Dennis
- Abner Edwin Patton
- Thomas Chappell Cook
Founded in a time of intense sectional feeling, Sigma Alpha Epsilon confined its growth to the southern states. Extension was vigorous, however, and by the end of 1857, the fraternity numbered seven chapters. Its first national convention met in the summer of 1858 at Murfreesboro, Tennessee, with four of its eight chapters in attendance. By the time of the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861, 15 chapters had been established.
The fraternity had fewer than 400 members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederacy, and seven fought with the Union forces. Every member of the chapters at Hampden-Sydney, Georgia Military Institute, Kentucky Military Institute, and Oglethorpe University fought for the gray. Members from Columbian College, William & Mary, and Bethel were in both armies. Seventy members of the fraternity lost their lives in the War, including Noble Leslie DeVotie, who is officially the first man on either side to give his life in military service.
The miracle in the history of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is that it survived that great sectional conflict. When the smoke of the battle had cleared, only one chapter at tiny Columbian College in Washington, D.C., survived, but it died soon thereafter.
When a few of the young veterans returned to the Georgia Military Institute and found their little college burned to the ground, they decided to go to Athens, Georgia, to enter the state university there. It was the founding of the University of Georgia Chapter at the end of 1865 that 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, Tennessee, where a half-dozen revived chapters planned the fraternity's future growth.
The reconstruction years were cruel to the South, and southern colleges and their fraternities shared in the general malaise of the region. In the 1870s and early 1880s, more than a score of new chapters were formed, some of them at exceedingly frail institutions. Older chapters died as fast as new ones were established. By 1886, the fraternity had chartered 49 chapters, but scarcely a dozen could be called active. Two of the 49 were in the North. After much discussion and not a little dissent, the first northern chapter had been established at Pennsylvania College, now Gettysburg College, in 1883, and a second was placed at Mt. Union College in Ohio two years later.
It was in 1886 that things took a turn for the better. That autumn, a 16-year-old youngster by the name of Harry Bunting entered Southwestern Presbyterian University in Clarksville, Tennessee, and was initiated into the Tennessee Zeta Chapter, which had previously initiated two of his brothers. When Sigma Alpha Epsilon took in Harry Bunting, it caught a comet by the tail.
In just eight years, under the enthusiastic guidance of Harry Bunting and his younger brother, George, Sigma Alpha Epsilon experienced a renaissance. Together they prodded Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters to increase their membership. They wrote encouraging articles in the Fraternity's quarterly journal, The Record, promoting better chapter standards and, above all, they undertook an almost incredible program of expansion of the fraternity, resurrecting old chapters in the South (including the mother chapter at Alabama) and founding new ones in the North and West. In an explosion of growth, the Buntings were responsible for founding nearly 50 chapters of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. When Harry Bunting founded the Northwestern University chapter in 1894, he initiated as a charter member William Collin Levere, a remarkable young man whose enthusiasm for the fraternity matched Bunting's. To Levere, Bunting passed the torch of leadership, and for the next three decades, it was the spirit of "Billy" Levere that dominated Sigma Alpha Epsilon and brought the fraternity to maturity.
Levere Memorial Temple
Billy did everything. He was twice elected national president, served as the fraternity's first full-time executive secretary and chapter visitation officer (1912-27), edited its quarterly magazine and several editions of the catalog and directory of membership, and published a monumental three volume history of the fraternity in 1911. It is small wonder that 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 a stone's throw from Lake Michigan and across from the Northwestern University campus, was started in 1929, and the building was dedicated at Christmastime 1930.
When the Supreme Council met regularly in the early 1930s at the Temple, educator John O. Moseley, the fraternity's national president, lamented that, "We have in the Temple a magnificent school-house. Why can we not have a school?" Accordingly, the economic depression notwithstanding, in the summer of 1935, the fraternity's first Leadership School was held under the direction of Moseley. The first such workshop in the fraternity world, it was immensely successful, and today nearly every fraternity holds such a school. The Leadership School is unquestionably the best service Sigma Alpha Epsilon provides to its undergraduates who come to Evanston in regimental numbers each year. It was probably John Moseley more than any other whose leadership carried Sigma Alpha Epsilon forward during the next 20 years until his untimely death in 1955. The last years of his life he served the Fraternity as its executive secretary, capping a distinguished academic career that had included two college presidencies.
Since World War II, the fraternity has grown much larger, and it has changed in a number of ways, some quite obvious and others quite subtle. Its growth in chapters and membership has been quite spectacular, and its total number of initiates continues to be the highest in the fraternity world.
Qualitative changes in recent decades have been profound. Alongside their colleges, chapters have democratized. Membership today is more heterogeneous than it was a generation ago, as chapters have welcomed increasing numbers of men from religious, ethnic, and racial minorities, enriching chapters with an unprecedented cultural diversity. One has but to peruse the roster of the 600 or so delegates at the annual Leadership School to confirm the dimensions of change.
The fraternity enjoyed the "happy days" of the 1950s, endured to survive the campus revolt of the 1960s and early 1970s, and tried to steer an even course in the turbulence that marked the late 1970s and the 1980s. Together with its fellow collegiate Greek-letter societies, it wrestles today with problems attendant upon risk management, hazing, alcohol abuse, and sexual misconduct rife on our campuses. Never before have the challenges been so great or the opportunities so rich. Accordingly, the fraternity has undertaken a thorough program of reform and rejuvenation, seeking to assist its undergraduate members to make a reaffirmation of faith in their best, most wholesome traditions, while seeking to adapt creatively to a new and invigorating college climate. Sigma Alpha Epsilon looks to a future full of promise while it instills values in young men across North America.