In the history of the United States, 1913 was an eventful year. Only a year before, Arizona had been admitted to the Union as the forty-eighth state, completing the continental bounds of the country. Woodrow Wilson was inaugurated President; the Federal Reserve System was established to strengthen the banking system; and the 16th amendment to the Constitution was adopted, providing for the progressive tax on income. The Panama Canal, one of the greatest engineering feats of modern times, was nearing completion and would be in operation in 1914. In that same year, at the School of Commerce of New York University, Alpha Epsilon Pi officially made its appearance in the fraternity world.
There have been rumors that preliminary organization may have taken place as early as 1911. This seems unlikely. However, it is fairly certain that the work of establishing a new fraternity at New York University began in the 1912-1913 academic year. Founder Charles C. Moskowitz, speaking at a banquet in his honor on November 13, 1952, indicated that the winter of 1913 was the time when organizational activity got into high gear. It appears certain, therefore, that by late 1912 or early 1913 the founding of the new fraternity was well under way.
Its Founders were all young men of serious purpose, employed during the day, coming from middle-class homes, who sought to get ahead by obtaining the formal training offered at New York University in the evening sessions. The catalyst for the founding of Alpha Epsilon Pi was the transfer of Charles C. Moskowitz from the College of the City of New York to New York University's School of Commerce.
While enrolling at C.C.N.Y., Charles Moskowitz, a fine basketball player, was heavily sought after for his athletic skills. When he enrolled at New York University, his reputation had preceded him, and he was immediately rushed and given a bid by one of the fraternities. Which fraternity is not known, and nothing exists to indicate its name. One of the seven campus fraternities rushed the young basketball star intensely. However, when Charles Moskowitz asked whether bids could also be extended to his friends, he was immediately told that the bid was for him alone. Brother Moskowitz had a circle of close Jewish friends which met after work for dinner before going to class. Evidently, Founder Moskowitz discussed this with his friends, and they decided that fraternities were good for the students, and, since there was no patent on the idea, they would start one of their own.
The group had its meals at German rathskellar on Second Avenue, within walking distance of the university. The basement was open to the public only in the evenings when business was especially brisk. The young men talked with the owner, who agreed that if six or eight men would eat there regularly every school night, he would give them a private area in the rathskeller. And that is how Alpha Epsilon Pi began.
One of the topics of conversation was “fraternity”: its pros and cons. Could this impecunious group of young students, busy with their daytime jobs and nighttime studies, successfully launch a new fraternity when there were already seven well-established groups at the School of Commerce, three of them nationals? They decided to try. Brother Moskowitz is quoted as saying, “Our aim was mutual assistance in our intellectual and social life—to strengthen the democratic character of student life.”
When the founding group finally jelled, there were eleven founding members: I.M. Glazer, Herman L. Kraus, Arthur M. Lipkint, Benjamin M. Meyer, Hyman Schulman, Emil J. Lustgarten, Arthur E. Leopold, Charles J. Pintel, Maurice Plager, David K. Schafer and Charles C. Moskowitz. Charles Moskowitz was chosen as the first master.
By common consent, the name Alpha Epsilon Pi had been chosen as best representing the ideals the founders wanted to express. Coincidentally, just four years earlier, a Jewish sorority had formed at Barnard College, a college for women related to Columbia University, and had chosen for itself the name Alpha Epsilon Phi. An even more remarkable coincidence, for coincidence it seems to have been, is that the badges of the two organizations were very similar. In both the three Greek letters are horizontally attached, and the only major difference is that there is a bar through the letters of the women's group. Research has failed to discover any link between the two groups, and it now appears that the young men at New York University who founded Alpha Epsilon Pi were completely unaware of the existence of Alpha Epsilon Phi.
After months of meetings and perfecting the organization, the young group decided it was time to obtain recognition from the university as an official School of Commerce fraternity. To gain recognition, it was decided to address a letter to Dean Joseph French Johnson of the School of Commerce, outlining the aims and ideals of the fledgling fraternity and asking of his consideration and approval. David K. Schafer was the only member who could type, so he, as secretary, was chosen to draft the request and type it, to give it a businesslike appearance. The letter was submitted, probably about early October, after which the waiting period began. As is the case today, the wheels of the decision-makers turned slowly. At last, however, the long-awaited reply came on November 7, 1913. It was in the affirmative. Alpha Epsilon Pi was a recognized fraternity at New York University.