Brothers for Life: Hal Sieling '62 & Harris Palmer '62
Alumni Association Announces 2007 True Gentleman of NY Alpha Awards

For as long as I have been involved in New York Alpha, there has been one constant: the involvement and leadership of Harris Palmer '62 and Hal Sieling '62. For the last 25 years, Hal and Harris have been the most active alumni that SAE has known in its storied history. Their initial involvement was, unfortunately, born out of urgent necessity.

Ever been in a bind, a real bind?

Well, that is where New York Alpha and Hillcrest found itself at the start of the 1980s. In came Harris and Hal as the linchpins to a deal that had finally been struck between Cornell University and Chapter Advisor Bob Dean '49 to hand Hillcrest over to Cornell. The deal was struck even though it was against Cornell policy to take on Hillcrest because SAE had considerable debt from not paying its bills and still owing on loans for the New Wing.

Cornell's deal came with a big catch. Of course. The catch was that other alumni besides Bob Dean would have to team up with the actives to sign the agreement and live by conditions that included keeping a full house to pay off all of SAE's debts to Cornell over a 30-year period and attracting enough annual alumni giving to pay for all of Hillcrest's mounting maintenance needs. Bob Dean had done his part for SAE over the years--new blood was needed. Enter Harris Palmer and Hal Sieling to save the day for New York Alpha by signing on as the alumni representatives who would accept responsibility for implementing the 1984 agreement with Cornell.

Harris lived in New York City at the time and became the front man with the Cornell administration for the new two-man SAE alumni board. And Hal stepped forward to do his part, using his marketing skills to conduct annual fund drives to raise the necessary alumni money to keep the house afloat. Because Hal lived in California, he needed an on-site partner like Harris to co-chair the new SAE alumni fund committee and do the necessary in-person liaison work with Cornell and the actives that could not be done by phone.

To put it simply, without Hal and Harris stepping up and donating their time so generously, SAE at Cornell would have ceased to exist. Harris and Hal kept SAE afloat and, for almost 20 years, they were the SAE alumni board. They were great friends as active brothers, and they formed a wonderful partnership as alumni that lasted until they both agreed to reformulate the New York Alpha alumni board in 2001, beginning a recruiting job that culminated in an unprecedented 24-person SAE alumni board. To their credit, 25 years later, Hal and Harris remain actively involved on our alumni board today.

For me, when I think of what Hal and Harris did to save SAE at it lowest point, I think of the lyrics from one of my favorite REM songs: "Empty prayer and empty mouths, Talk about the passion...Not everyone can carry the weight of the world, Talk about the passion." And that is exactly what Harris and Hal did. They showed a passion for SAE that has lasted a lifetime and enabled them to form a two-man team that carried the weight of New York Alpha from the empty prayer of our darkest hour back to the pinnacle of the Cornell Greek community and our national fraternity. And their success lay in spreading their own passion for SAE to the rest of us.

They started in 1984 by sending out letters discussing our grim plight. Although it was not an instant success, they quickly learned that alumni were willing to contribute to New York Alpha if instead of seeing their money go down a black hole they saw their donations having tangible benefits for the brotherhood and our beloved Hillcrest. Hal and Harris worked with and advised Tony Treadwell '65 and Lance Peters '89, some of the most able chapter advisors in New York Alpha history, and they saw to it that the actives held up their part of the bargain.

And did they--in no time at all, SAE grew from nine active brothers in 1983 to 70 actives by 1986. Twice since then, in 1994 and 2004, New York Alpha was honored with the John O. Moseley Zeal Award recognizing the one chapter that out of 209 chapters nationwide that performs at a level best exemplifying the strength of our fraternity on its respective campus.

But perhaps their finest work was in re-engaging the over 1,200 brothers who make up our alumni base. They quickly began exceeding even the fundraising targets that Cornell thought were possible. Hal became a master at fundraising while Harris excelled at tracking down dollars that were pledged to SAE, but somehow never would get credited to our Cornell account. As many of you know, Harris is the best financial sleuth around.

His tenacious efforts enabled SAE to get credit for the largest gift it has ever received, a real estate gift that somehow was never properly credited to New York Alpha. And to this day, Hal is still constantly trying new techniques in alumni communications and fundraising to see what works. As our webmaster, Hal prides himself on sending out more e-mails than the entire rest of our SAE alumni board combined. As he likes to say, he is a world-class ankle-pecker. We all agree! And we love you for it, Hal.

What we also learned was that Hal and Harris would do anything for the cause. They always were there for their beloved SAE and have worked tirelessly to make certain that SAE was first in the minds of various CU administrators who were essential to keeping up the university's part of the 1984 agreement. And through it all, Hal and Harris have been committed to the mission, as well as being energetically committed to the mission of good stewardship and leadership from the actives. For Hal and Harris, Brotherhood has been for Life.

It gives us great pleasure to announce that after 25 years of New York Alpha alumni board membership and fundraising that reached over a $1,000,000, Harris H. Palmer, Jr., and Hal Sieling will be honored on the occasion of their 45th Reunion as the 2007 recipients of the True Gentleman of New York Alpha Award. There could be no truer gentlemen of New York Alpha than Hal and Harris.

Rest assured, if you are ever in a bind, you can count on Hal and Harris to bail you out. New York Alpha did, and look where it got us. Please come to the 2007 reunion, June 7-10, to honor these re-founding fathers of NY Alpha. Here's to Brothers Palmer and about the passion!

You can catch up with Hal at his hospitality industry consulting practice: Hal Sieling & Associates, 7657 Galleon Way, Carlsbad, CA 92009; at a San Diego restaurant while he is checking out its atmosphere, food, and of course beer; or by e-mail at

Sadly, Harris passed away on January 2, 2010. Read SAE's tribute to Harris here.

Yours in the bonds of brotherhood,
Mike Slusar '86 & The New York Alpha Alumni Board