1896 | Don Robinson Almy

By Charles P. Wood, NY Alpha 1904
The Record of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, December 1927 edition

The flowers were piled high in the chapel on Broadway at noon on the 26th of October. Don Almy, badge 12081, lay among them, sleeping his last, as family and friends gathered around mourning their loss as they paid tribute to a glorious life.

The comforting strains of “Abide With Me,” the religious service and the fraternity ritual all together were not adequate to express the feelings of those present, yet a clue to the lasting influence of their departed brother might have been found in those words in unison by voices that faltered with a note of love and farewell; words from the ritual ceremony which every brother knows by heart.

Don was taken away in the prime of his usefulness at 53. An outstanding member of the New York Bar, gifted orator, devoted husband and father, this friend and brother to thousands had won the highest honors of the fraternity world and had worked his way through a position which insured comfort for his remaining days. His quality of leadership had been revealed during early college days, with the class of 1896 at Cornell.

He helped New York Alpha through early vicissitudes and came back year after year to put his shoulder to the wheel and inspire everyone in the chapter with his high ideals. He lived to see some of the results of his own and other national fraternities. He was elected eminent supreme archon and honorary eminent supreme archon of SAE and was chosen also president of the Interfraternity Conference, an organization with which he worked actively on the executive committee until the last.

An indication of the way he worked is found in one of his activities while president of the conference. A number of locals were petitioning national fraternities all over the country and most of these were faced with a long period of waiting before they could hope for admission. Don called them together and showed them how to organize their own national fraternity, which they did.


Don Almy was a practical dreamer, a liberal, unselfish friend. He spent his time and his money freely in support of the things that appealed to him. He was a leader by persuasion and example. He seemed always to give to the other fellow the first chance and never tried to be dominant, but his honesty, unselfishness, personal charm, and intellect made many more pretentious men seem small beside him.

We have known him to shine as he stood before large and exclusive gatherings but he was at his best, perhaps, and happiest when lounging around the chapter house, talking to the freshmen in their own language, and bridging the gap between the undergraduate and alumnus.

All of Don’s friends who have seen him in his recent years know how happy he was at home. As I sat with him at this year’s Founder’s Day banquet, he told me he had married “the finest woman in the world” and then went on to say more about plans he was making for Tom, his boy. All of us remember the things Don has said, reflecting his own character or influencing something that we have done or hoped to do.

Several years ago, in Europe, I happened to mention his name while talking with a man from New York. Don was an old friend he said. I asked if he had seen him or heard from him recently. “No,” he said, “Don does not know where I am. He helped me get started again when I was discouraged and having a mighty hard time. When I go home, I want to repay him by giving him a good account of myself.”

We know of many good things that Don Almy did, but we are sure that many more are known only to the objects of his kindness and generosity. Always modest, he found enough reward in the consciousness of a good deed. He had the courage to go down into the depths with a comrade and the will to rise with him to the heights far beyond the vision of any opportunist or poseur.

In his relations with our own and other college fraternities, he found a medium through which to express his real character. His conception of brotherhood embraced all classes, the strong forever helping the weak. He knew men and the limitations of the workaday world, but he knew also how to “follow where airy voices lead.”

We are thankful for the fate that guided us, even for a little while, into the same path with Don Almy, and we shall find inspiration in the thought that we have walked with a prince among men.

Biographical Sketch of Don R. Almy 1896

By Charles P. Wood, NY Alpha 1904

Don Robinson Almy, who died on October 23 at his summer home in Redding, Connecticut, was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, March 24 1874. He spent his boyhood in Jamestown, New York, and entered Cornell University with the class of 1896.

He was initiated by New York Alpha of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, January 20, 1894. At the close of his junior year, he obtained a year of absence and returned to college in 1896, graduating, A.B., in 1897, and L.L.B., in 1898. In college, he was active in undergraduate affairs, being a member of glee club, the law fraternity, Phi Delta Phi, and various committees and honorary clubs.

Brother Almy returned to Ithaca as an alumnus to help his chapter carry out its plan for building a new house of its own. He was a liberal contributor to the fund, besides serving as an active director and as president of the New York Alpha Association. He conceived a system of accounting which was first installed at the Cornell chapter and later adopted by the national fraternity.

He advocated also the central business office, now so successfully operated in Evanston. He was elected eminent supreme archon at the 1914 convention, serving two terms during which the fraternity made great progress under his leadership.

Following his term of office as ESA, Brother Almy was elected president of the Interfraternity Conference; he was a member of the executive committee of the conference until his death. He was elected also to the office of honorary ESA of SAE. He helped organize the SAE Diomedian Society in New York. He was the author of “Fables of the Student Life,” an anonymous series that ran in The Record.

He was a popular speaker at SAE and interfraternity gatherings, two of his latest appearances having been at the SAE national convention banquet in Boston last December and at the interfraternity banquet in New York several months later.

The funeral at Campbell’s Funeral Church, New York, October 26, was attended by the entire SAE Board of Trustees and several ex-members of the board besides representatives of the Interfratenity Conference and many SAEs and other intimate friends and admirers. The internment was at Rose Hill Cemetery, Chicago, on the following day, with members of the Supreme Council, SAEs from nearby chapters, and representatives from other fraternities in attendance.

The service at the grave was simple but impressive. Judge Alfred K. Nippert, speaking for the Supreme Council, spoke on the magnificent work of our departed brother as an outstanding leader of the fraternity. Judge Arthur J. Tuttle, speaking for the fraternity at large, told of the devotion, love, unselfishness, and magnanimity of the personality of the perfect fraternity man that was Don Robinson Almy.

After graduation from college, Don Almy joined the legal department of the Metropolitan Street Railway, New York, and within three years became assistant solicitor. Two years later, he resigned to practice for himself. He was senior member of the firm Almy, Van Gordon, and Evans, 46 Cedar St., New York, until shortly before his death, when he left the firm to open his own office.

He was the author of “Taxation of Imports Under Tariff Acts,” and a director of the First National Bank of Croton-on-Hudson. He was a mason and member of the Bankers, Manhattan, Cornell, and Leewood golf clubs.

On October 7, 1907, Brother Almy married Miss Marie Pattison, who survived him with a son, Thomas (who also became an SAE at Cornell, class of 1935).

Loyalty to the Brotherhood

Don Almy’s loyalty to the fraternity and interest in its work are all the more remarkable when one learns that his days as an active member were comparatively limited. He initiated at Cornell in the spring of his sophomore year, and in his junior year, the chapter failed to muster a sufficient chapter roll to justify continuing and was dormant during the remainder of his college course.

In this short time, however, he caught the spirit that held him in later years. While taking a postgraduate course, he assisted in reviving the chapter and participated in the re-installation ceremonies. As an alumnus, he took active interest in the chapter. To him, as perhaps to no other, is due credit for conceiving the idea of incorporating the house building association, with the issue of bonds and other features that have made the New York Alpha chapter house building plan both unique and successful.

He was one of the incorporators of the New York Alpha Association, has been on the board of directors since the beginning, and was the second president. Only once, and then on account of sickness, did he miss going back to Ithaca for the annual meeting.

His efforts as an alumnus were not restricted to his own chapter. He was a frequent contributor to Phi Alpha, and his utterances were characterized by an advocacy of new or improved plans for enlarging the fraternity and building it up.

He was among the first, if not indeed the first, to suggest and support the centralization idea as the method on which the fraternity business should be conducted. He was chairman of the Financial Code Committee, which formulated the standard accounts of SAE, the first attempt to standardize fraternity finances and which also prepared and published the “Steward’s Manual.”

He was literally drafted into the office of ESA because of his thoughtful attitude toward the fraternity’s affairs and his progressive ideas for developing the work. For the discharge of his duties, he joined a rare industry with a singular ability and marshaled an unbeatable array of enthusiasm, vision, judgment, and devotion.

His interest in the fraternity has always been keen and active. The records show that since his graduation, he has visited his mother chapter at least once every year with the exception of two years.

During those visits, he has devoted time and ability to the constructive measures that have brought his chapter to the occupation of its new $75,000 chapter house. Many of the objects and aims of New York Alpha’s Chapter House Association are the product of his fertile mind.

He has not been a mere critic, but at all times has remained a constructionist lending his force and influence to progress and ever ready to make a generous contribution in money o the house scheme.

In fact, he is the largest contributor of actual money, as befits the resident of the association. His visions reach far into the future, and he sees with a prophetic eye the time when proper administration will achieve a surplus fund in these chapter house organizations sufficient to provide scholarships for the benefit of any SAE who may be “down on his luck” or ambitious for special study in a chosen profession.

William Levere was the organizer and chief of staff of the great army of Sigma Alpha Epsilon; he planned day and night toward a still greater and better brotherhood among American college youth, but it was Don Almy, the champion in steel helmet and armor, girded for combat, who brought the ideals of Willam Levere to glorious victory and noble achievement.

We, his brothers in the bonds, will never forget the logic and eloquence, born of a righteous and noble cause, with which Don Amy carried all oppositions before him on the floor of many of our national conferences, as well as in the forum of interfraternal conferences.

He was a Demosthenes, full of fire, eloquence, and persuasive power, while Levere was a Thucydides, the man of historical traditions, of hope, of ideals and ambitions for his people, a great combination of two noble Greeks of which even ancient Hellas could well be proud.

Their places cannot be filled. This is no empty phrase or commonplace eulogy, for we of the Supreme Council of Sigma Alpha Epsilon, who worked and lived with these two outstanding leaders of men, day by day and year by year know that William Levere and Don Almy stood like mighty watchtowers on the ramparts of the Greek world. Both men at the time of their passing were members of the Supreme Council.

Don Almy had been advanced at the Boston convention in December 1926 to the office of eminent supreme archon, while William Levere had been for many years and was at the time of his death eminent supreme recorder of Sigma Alpha Epsilon.

They were among the master builders who laid the foundation for the present greatness of our fraternity, two noble spirits that we hope will live on forever and ever in the memory and traditions of our order.

Almy's Jewels

In the summer of 1920 at the convention in Buffalo, during a chat with Don R. Almy, the suggestion was made by him that sometime he would like to see a jewel of appropriate design presented to a retiring eminent supreme archon, province archon, or eminent archon as a symbol or appropriate appreciation for earnest effort on behalf of the fraternity; something of personal recognition; something which might be retained by the recipient and worn by him on appropriate occasions.

In later years, Don Almy referred to this idea on many occasions, but his work on behalf of the fraternity ended before it found fruition in the adoption of such a jewel by the fraternity that he loved so well.

At the last convention of province alpha, December 14, 1929, Brother Almy’s idea bore fruit, a committee being appointed to bring in recommendations and designs for such a jewel. The cuts show the design adopted by that convention for jewels to be presented to each retiring province archon and eminent archon by the province and chapters respectively in province alpha.

It is known as the Almy Jewel in honor and remembrance of Don R. Almy. This jewel can be presented to and worn only by past province archons or past eminent archons. It is presented as a reward of meritorious service to the fraternity by its recipient.

At the joint Founder’s Day banquet of province alpha and the Boston Alumni Association, a past archon’s jewel was presented by province alpha to Brother Charles F. Collins, PPA, and past eminent archon’s jewels were presented to 16 past eminent archons by the chapters in the province.

Each jewel is appropriately engraved on the back of the fraternity shield, a standard form being adopted. The one presented to Charles Collins being engraved as follows: Presented bt province alpha to Bro. Charles F. Collins, PPA, December 14, 1929.

The idea of this recognizing the service of these brothers was highly commended by those present. It is hoped that this custom may be adopted by all other provinces and by the national convention at Evanston in December of this year.