Welcome to the website of the Harvard chapter of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, the oldest fraternity at Harvard College, founded in 1893.
Find out firsthand what it means to be a true gentleman. More information
Congratulations to the 23 bontonious new brothers of SAE Mass Gamma who joined the chapter in the past year!
History of Mass Gamma
Massachusetts Gamma was founded at Harvard on March 17, 1893 by Buckminister and Brackett and for decades was one of Harvard's preeminent men's groups. In the late 1920s, under the leadership of EA George Barner '29, the chapter constructed a magnificent house on Boylston Street (now JFK Street).
By the 1950s, the house on Boylston Street was no longer the chapter's as a result of an earlier move by the College requiring all students to live in the 7 houses of the College. Instead, the brothers made use of a large, second-floor apartment at the corner of Mass. Ave. and Holyoke (next door to the Porcellian club); the entrance was on Holyoke Street. On the ground level was an all-night Hayes-Bickford cafe that served a tasty poached-egg-on-English-muffin sandwich.
Sadly, by the early 1970s, Harvard's housing system made it increasingly difficult to live off campus and interest in fraternities nationwide decreased dramatically. Membership began to dwindle and by 1980, the fraternity began its two-decade hiatus.
During this period, the chapter house at the time, located on Putnam Avenue, was sold and the mortgage burned, leaving $30,000. Housing corporation members, believing that the chapter would not return in their lifetimes, gave half of the money to SAE National and half to Harvard. The various properties that Mass. Gamma once controlled around campus are now mainly owned by the university.
From its inception until its closure, Mass. Gamma produced over 1300 brothers and was was viewed as SAE's flagship chapter in the Northeast. A small archive of SAE's history at Harvard can be found in the University Archives in Pusey Library and an extensive library on Mass. Gamma can be found at the archives in the Levere Memorial Temple in Evanston.
SAE was brought back to Harvard by four undergraduates in 2001 and rapidly rose to become one of the strongest colonies in the nation. Lucien Smith, whose father was an SAE, was approached by alumni in his hometown in Mississippi to contact the national office about restarting Mass. Gamma. On March 17, 2001 at Emerson College, Lucien and the other three founders were officially installed as pledges of the Massachusetts Gamma Colony of Sigma Alpha Epsilon. The ceremony took place before members of the Massachusetts Beta Upsilon chapter, the Massachusetts Epsilon Colony, and a former Eminent Supreme Archon as well as alumni from Harvard and the Massachusetts area. At this point, $15,000 was returned to Mass. Gamma by National in the form of a chapter educational fund.
Though there have been bumps along the way, the chapter is today stronger than ever. Mass. Gamma has become one of the best chapters in Province Alpha, winning awards at the 2006 Province Council for best scholarship and best recruitment and philanthropy, and runner-up for most improved chapter. Currently, there are 42 active brothers in the chapter and over 450 living alumni.
History of SAE
Sigma Alpha Epsilon was founded March 9, 1856 at the University of Alabama at Tuscaloosa. Its eight founders were led by Noble Leslie DeVotie, who had written the ritual, devised the grip, and chosen the Fraternity's name. The Fraternity had fewer than four hundred members when the Civil War began. Of those, 369 went to war for the Confederacy and seven fought with the Union forces. Seventy members of the Fraternity lost their lives in the war, including DeVotie, who is officially recorded in the annals of the war as the first man on either side to give his life.
The resounding miracle in the history of Sigma Alpha Epsilon is that it survived that great sectional conflict. 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 in exceedingly frail institutions. By 1886 the Fraternity had charted 49 chapters, but scarcely a dozen could be called active.
It was in 1886 that things took a turn for the better. That autumn, the young Tennessee Zeta chapter initiated a 16-year-old youngster by the name of Harry Bunting. 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 SAE chapters to enlarge their membership; they wrote encouraging articles in the Fraternity's quarterly journal promoting better chapter standards; and above all they undertook an almost incredible program of expansion of the Fraternity, resurrecting old chapters in the South and founding new ones in the North and West. In an explosion of growth, the Buntings single-handedly were responsible for nearly fifty Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapters.
Qualitative changes in recent decades have been profound. Alongside their colleges, chapters have democratized significantly. Membership today is for 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. These changes, among others, have secured SAE as one of America's most esteemed fraternities; Sigma Alpha Epsilon is today larger, stronger, and more respected than ever before.