In late 2006, the Sigma Alpha Epsilon (SAE) Fraternity house closed its doors after 80 years at 306 West Laurel St.
But with a new school year and location, the fraternityâ€™s President AJ Gowdy hopes to usher in a fresh era for SAE at CSU with a brand new, one-of-a-kind fraternity lodge.
â€œWe have the same facilities,â€ Gowdy said of the 3,000-square-foot lodge, which features a couch-filled common room, a full catering kitchen and a large meeting roomâ€”all located on the first floor of the Flats on the Oval building.
The one thing not offered to members is actual lodging â€” a new trend in greek-life housing across the nation.
â€œIâ€™d say itâ€™s a step in the right direction for where fraternities are going,â€ Gowdy said, adding that, by not offering room and board, SAEâ€™s membership fees are, at $200 per semester, considerably lower than that of other chapters on campus.
â€œThis organization is a huge opportunity for people to become leaders,â€ Gowdy said. â€œAnd the lodge also gives the opportunity for sharing and for bonding.â€
At its peak, SAE had almost 120 members it was one of the largest fraternities on campus before the 2004 alcohol-related death of CSU student Samantha Spady at the Sigma Pi house, which caused fraternities to become â€œdryâ€â€”prohibiting the consumption of alcohol.
â€œFrom that time forward (after going dry) the membership started to decline a little more,â€ said Bill Woods, SAEâ€™s long-time advisor who the lodge is named after. â€œLetâ€™s say we had 100 guys in the house and the next fall we only had about 75. It just started to go down, but I think that was pretty common across the board for fraternities.â€
After a freshman student was involved in an alcohol-related incident in the fall of2006, Woods said the fraternity house ultimately had to close its doors and go through a membership review, restarting the chapter in 2007 with almost 30 members.
â€œAs far as the house itself, we had been looking for some time at other alternatives because of the lower membership,â€ Woods said. â€œIt was built in 1927 and had a lot of mileage on it.â€
After looking into refurbishing the house, which would cost upwards of $2 million, Woods started looking into other housing options.
â€œWe didnâ€™t know if we could raise that kind of money, so we started looking for alternatives and we said,
â€˜Well letâ€™s start looking at a lodge,â€™â€ Woods said. â€œAt that point we got together as an alumni group and entered into this agreement with Brinkman Partners to build this apartment complex and, within it, have the lodge.â€
But with pieces of metal fencing from the original house in the lodgeâ€™s outdoor patio area, as well as a brick from the former residence inside, members are often reminded of SAEâ€™s past at CSU.
As the chapter advisor, Woods, who is known as â€œColonelâ€ within the fraternity, is also acknowledged in the lodge with an honorary plaque recognizing his dedication to CSU Greek Life and SAE.
â€œHeâ€™s been our adviser for a long time,â€ Goudy said. â€œIf it wasnâ€™t for Colonel, we probably wouldnâ€™t be on campus.â€
After graduating from CSU in 1958, Woods went on to a 25-year career in the U.S. Army before coming back to Fort Collins to work at a law firm and provide adult leadership as SAEâ€™s advisor in 1980.
â€œIâ€™m very happy to be a greek; some of my best friends in the world were in SAE,â€ Woods said, adding that his wife was a CSU greek and his two sons and father were also in SAE.
â€œWe have excellent programs â€“â€“ programs that lead you to open a lot of doors not only as an undergraduate, but also in your post-graduate life,â€ Woods added.
With some of the lowest membership rates in the fraternityâ€™s history on campus, Woods and Gowdy both stressed how much the lodge can offer to its current and future members.
â€œItâ€™s great. If I have an hour, I can come over here and sleep and not look creepy on campus,â€ Gowdy said. â€œI just look at all of these empty rooms and bookshelves. Itâ€™s just waiting for guys to fill it.â€
Senior Reporter Erin Udell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. _
- Want to learn more about SAE? Shoot an e-mail to SAEColoradoDelta@gmail.com.