SAE closure likely after death

The SAE house. Photo by Kendyl Seals.

For the second time in five years, Tech’s Sigma Alpha Epsilon chapter is facing closure. 

Chapter members received a letter last month informing them the fraternity faces closure for four years in connection with the December death of alumnus Paul Hamilton “Catfish” Ten Eyck. 

Ten Eyck, a 23-year-old from Maryville, was found unconscious Dec. 7 at the West Fifth Street chapter house and later pronounced dead. The investigation remains ongoing while officials await toxicology test results, Cookeville police Capt. Bobby Anderson said.

Ten Eyck is survived by his parents, a brother and a sister. His funeral was Dec. 15 at New Providence Presbyterian Church in Maryville, Tennessee. Almost 70 SAE brothers attended the funeral, chapter officials said. Ten Eyck was buried in Beaufort, South Carolina.

This is the second death this school year connected to SAE. Dalin C. Spencer, a 19-year-old chapter member, died unexpectedly at home on Nov. 9.

Student Dean Katie Williams and Karen Lykins, chief communication officer, declined comment on what specifically lead to the sanctions against the fraternity. SAE members also declined to comment and referred all questions to Johnny Sao, communication director for SAE. 

“The investigation is ongoing. No decisions will be made until that process is completed,” Sao said.

University officials are investigating whether the fraternity violated policies regulating Greek life. According to policy, Greek organizations must register any parties involving alcohol through the Greek life office and are required to have security officers present. Organizations must submit their event’s registration five business days prior to the event. 

A representative of The Oracle filed an open records request for any registration form filed by the fraternity in connection with the party. There were no records found indicating SAE had filed a form. 

The fraternity event was described as a “long celebrated senior transition night,” according to the email to members.

In a letter to Stephen Mills, the current chapter Eminent Archon, Williams outlined the school’s understanding of the events of Dec. 7 and the disciplinary processes available to student organizations.

The SAE Alumni Association and House Corporation said they will continue to show support to the chapter by: 


  • “Protecting them and loving on them to the best of our ability,” 
  • maintaining activities including the golf tournament and the 50th-anniversary celebration
  • looking for options to maintain the current chapter house. 

The same chapter survived a closure after a fire destroyed the previous fraternity house in 2014.

A March house fire occurred the last day members were scheduled to move from 158 W. 7th St. to 68 W. 5th St.

The West Seventh Street house was sold to Cookeville Regional Medical Center to expand their parking lot. Students were at the old house the night the fire was reported just after 2 a.m. The building was destroyed but no one was injured.

 There was not enough evidence to charge anyone, Anderson said.