LEO’s Beginnings at Sigma Alpha Epsilon and His Evolution at the University of Florida (Florida Upsilon)
Shortly after SAE was founded at the University of Alabama on March 9, 1856, traditions began being incorporated. Noble Leslie DeVotie, the leader of the eight founding brothers, wrote the ritual, created the grip, and chose the name. John Barratt Rudolph designed the badge with Minerva standing with Leo lying docile at her feet. This use of Minerva and Leo were also placed in a prominent position on the later designed crest.
Leo the lion, overnight became the symbol of the SAE Nation’s strength and brotherhood. Chapters began placing a statue of Leo in front of fraternity houses guarding their chapters. The first use of the SAE’s mascot at the University of Florida occurred when the pledge class of 1929 donated LEO I to the chapter. This took place some 45 years after we received our charter and 6 years after we moved into our first house. Almost immediately LEO I became a landmark for not only the SAE house, but also the University of Florida and the City of Gainesville.
LEO I soon became a target as well as a landmark. He, as well as his followers, LEO’s II III and IV, suffered every imaginable indignity known. They have been painted, tarred and feathered, burned, stolen and buried, tried to be yanked away by trucks, rammed with vehicles, beaten with sledge hammers, and frequently vandalized.
Over the 1952 Xmas break LEO I was sledge hammered beyond repair. LEO II took LEO I’s place on DEC. 9, 1953 but his tenure was short lived. On May 13, 1956 he was dynamited to kingdom come. After an extensive search LEO III was dedicated on Apr. 28, 1958. LEO III ended up being a fixture in front of both the old and new SAE house for 55 years. After numerous face and body lifts he was retired during the fall 2012 semester. He lies in state in the front patio of the house with a headstone marking his remains. LEO IV now stands guard in front of the University of Florida SAE house. He is made of metal so hopefully he will with stand the injustices of the student body for many years to come. LEO IV is now the Guardian and Symbol of SAE Brotherhood at the University of Florida.
When we installed LEO IV into his thrown, we held a ceremony to commemorate all those who made LEO IV possible. Brothers, House Corporation, and Alumni all showed up to show support. Special thanks to Rip Van Winkle for his contribution to the history of LEO and the House.