Rensselaer Society of Engineers

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Rensselaer Society of Engineers
RSE Crest.jpg
Founded 1866
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Type Social
Scope Local
Motto In time, through friendship, science and knowledge will rule the world
Publication The oveRSEer
Chapters 1
Headquarters 1501 Sage Avenue
Troy, New York, United States

The Rensselaer Society of Engineers (RSE) is a social fraternity founded in 1866 at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in Troy, NY. Originally named The Pi Eta Scientific Society, the organization was incorporated in 1873 with New York State. The fraternity has remained exclusive to Rensselaer throughout the entire course of its existence.[1]

Society history[edit]

The Rensselaer Society of Engineers was founded as the Pantotherian Society or The Pi Eta Scientific Society in 1866.[1] The society was subsequently incorporated under the laws of the state of New York in 1873. Originally members of the society were required to do original scientific research and present a paper before the membership. In 1883, the Pi Eta scientific society became the Rensselaer Society Of Engineers. The reason for this was to distinguish themselves from the other fraternities in the region as well as to show their close ties with Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The RSE clubhouse is the fifth location of the Rensselaer Society of Engineers in Troy and the second residence of the brothers. Prior to the present headquarters location, the current Pi Kappa Alpha house at RPI was used for approximately a four-year period between 1920 and 1924. The previous three locations were used for only for meeting and study purposes.

In chronological order, these locations were:

  • Before 1881: 4th Street, Troy, NY
  • 1881 - 1908: 219 River Street, Troy, NY
  • 1908 - 1920: 257 Broadway, Troy, NY (second floor above a bank - three rented rooms)
  • (1917 Sage Ave, East of 15th Street, 2 Lots Purchased, Troy, NY for future headquarters building)
  • 1920 - 1924: 128 12th Street, Troy, NY (the current location of the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity at RPI)
  • 1924 through Present: 1501 Sage Ave, Troy, NY[2]

Arriving on campus at about the same time as some of the first fraternities, it has remained one of the oldest “local” organizations in the U.S.[3] RSE is the only independent fraternity at RPI. They have chosen to remain independent because they feel that their complete freedom to set their own policies and make their own decisions far outweigh the small advantages of being associated with a national. Contrary to what their name may imply, members major not only in engineering, but also in such disciplines as science, management and architecture. Society members are active in not only campus and local activities, but are also in many national organizations.[1] The fraternity was suspended in 1997 for violations of the University's disciplinary policy, but was reinstated ahead of the original (2003) term of the suspension.[4]

The Clubhouse[edit]

The RSE Clubhouse from the South Side

The current clubhouse was designed by famous architect Bertram Goodhue for the Rensselaer Society of Engineers in 1922 at the behest of alumni leader Edwin S. Jarret. Construction began in 1923 and ended in 1924. The clubhouse was one of the first structures on the East side of 15th street. The clubhouse was also put together under the contributions of one John M. Lockhart, who contributed approximately $200,000. There are multiple specialized rooms in the clubhouse. There is an archive room, billiards room, and a library. Originally, members lived in a dormitory located on the third floor of the clubhouse. The remaining levels of the house were full of study rooms, a lecture hall, a room for the chef, and an infirmary. Since then multiple rooms have been built on the second and third floors to house the members that decide to live in the clubhouse. The historic house is an iconic image in the Rensselaer landscape. For this reason, RSE is a host to a variety of functions, both Greek and Academic. This includes the Annual Alumni Greek Chowderfest[5]

Beginning in the Fall of 2009, renovations were done to the living room. $100,000 was spent to fix plaster damaged by water leaks. The windows and doors were also replaced to enhance house security and allow for usage as the old ones were sealed shut. The purpose of the living room is not only for house functions, but is used to host guest speakers throughout the year. The goal is to eventually have a lecture series in the space. The living room is also the venue for the annual Holiday Banquet.

Events and activities[edit]

Each year, RSE hosts a Holiday Banquet. The banquet has been a long standing tradition of the fraternity, in which each member invites one or two of their professors to attend. Invitations are also sent out to the RPI Board of Trustees and the current President of the Institute. Each year a speaker is asked to present on a topic of their choice.


The Rensselaer Society of Engineers donates many hours and dollars each year to both local and national charitable organizations. Through Children International, RSE has supported children in Colombia as they struggle to grow up in poverty.[6] RSE also hosts an annual breakfast to raise money for The Children's Miracle Network. This popular event involves the cooking of hundreds of breakfast sandwiches which are sold to students and delivered to various campus faculty and offices. Since the 1960s RSE has also proudly hosted an annual holiday party for local children through the Troy Boys and Girls Club.

RSE Scholarships[edit]

The Rensselaer Society of Engineers offers a number of scholarships annually to its members.

  • The RSE-RPI Academic Scholarship is awarded to a sophomore and is applied by RPI to tuition for both the junior and senior years. It is based on excellence in the classroom.
  • The RSE-RPI Brotherhood Scholarship is awarded to a junior who has shown exceptional community, school, and fraternity spirit and involvement while maintaining strong academic success. It is applied by RPI to tuition for senior year.
  • The Becker Scholarship, in memory of Frank W. Becker ’83, is awarded to a sophomore who has shown exceptional dedication to RSE brotherhood. It is applied by the RSE Foundation to room and board for the junior year.
  • The Rudy Bergfield Scholarship was started by a substantial donation for Rudy Bergfield '49. This scholarship is for a brother who is involved with athletics, is in good academic standing, who shows dedication to the RSE brotherhood. Rudy Bergfield was the captain of the men's lacrosse team during his years at RPI.

Notable alumni[edit]

  • Sandford Fleming - Canadian railway engineer and inventor of worldwide standard time & early honorary member
  • William Metcalf - 1858 - American steel manufacturer & early honorary member
  • Leffert L. Buck - 1868 -American civil engineer and a pioneer in the use of steel arch bridge structures
  • John Hampden Randolph - 1870 - Confederate Civil War veteran and son of John Hampden and Emily Randolph, builders of Nottoway Plantation
  • Charles G. Roebling - 1871 - Designed and invented an 80 ton wire rope machine and founded the town of Roebling, New Jersey where the John A. Roebling's Sons company steel mill was built.
  • Don Carlos Young - 1879 - Son of Brigham Young, American architect and the Church Architect for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Feramorz Little Young – 1879 – Son of Bringham Young and Lucy Decker. Railroad engineer and Mormon missionary to Mexico
  • Wilberforce Beecher Hammnond – 1879 – Inventor of an improved automatic sprinkler head
  • Robert Rufus Bridgers - 1879 - Railroad engineer and son of Robert Rufus Bridgers Confederate politician during the American Civil War
  • Ernesto Joaquin Balbin - 1882 - Chief of the Cuban Lighthouse board and erection supervisor for the Colorados Reef Lighthouse
  • Francis H. Bainbridge - 1884 - Railway engineer and designer of the Ashfork-Bainbridge Steel Dam, the first large steel dam in the world, and one of only three ever built in the United States
  • John M. Lockhart - 1887 - Son of one of the founders of Standard Oil, Lockhart lived his life as a Pittsburgh financier, steel maker, and benefactor with a passion for anonymity.
  • Eduardo Justo Chibás - 1888 - Prominent Cuban engineer and father of Eduardo Chibás
  • Edwin S. Jarrett - 1889 - Founding officer of The Foundation Company, America’s premier soils & foundation engineering firm of the early 20th Century. They designed and constructed the foundations for most of the tallest buildings in Manhattan (Trinity, Woolworth, Whitehall, Singer, Banker’s Trust, and Municipal Buildings).
  • Harry H. Rousseau - 1891 - Civil Engineer and Rear Admiral in the US Navy. Member of Isthmian Canal Commission
  • Matthew A. Hunter - 1908 - Honorary member, metallurgist and inventor of the Hunter process for producing titanium metal
  • Lester C. Higbee - 1912 - Brigadier General in the New York State National Guard and Commander to the upstate New York State Guard during WWII
  • Henry G. Taylor - 1913 - Rear Admiral US Navy during WWII
  • Archibald D. Hunter - 1930 - Commodore in the US Navy
  • Clayton O. Dohrenwend – 1931 – Former Rensselaer graduate school head and vice president and provost
  • Albert J. Fay - 1932 - Rear Admiral in the US Navy
  • Horace B. Jones - 1932 - Rear Admiral in the US Navy


  1. ^ a b c RSE JM Website
  2. ^ Pozzi, Lombard John (1974). Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue: A Brief Biography, His Evolution of Design Philosophy, and the Rensselaer Society of Engineers. Troy, New York: Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. 
  3. ^ Rensselaer Magazine, June 2003: Go Greek! (page 4)
  4. ^
  5. ^ [1]
  6. ^ [2]
  7. ^ "Obituary for Mr Lombard John Pozzi". Samson Funeral Home. July 2013. Retrieved September 17, 2013. 
  8. ^ Don Black
  9. ^ NASA - Frank Batteas

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 42°43′47″N 73°40′32″W / 42.72972°N 73.67556°W / 42.72972; -73.67556