Alumni Spotlight: Nate Watson ’89

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Recalling the Formative Days of His Youth On Cameron Avenue

Understanding the value the fraternity had in my growth and development as young man, I want to ensure it remains vibrant and healthy and continues to teach those lessons.

Though Nate Watson now lives in Seattle, Washington—about as far as a guy can get from UNC—those beautiful fall football weekends still echo in his mind. As do his evenings with brothers at Troll’s, countless games of pinball, and that friendly place at 207 W. Cameron Avenue that he was lucky enough to call home.

It seems the older he gets, the more Nate longs for those formative days of his youth and the many friends he met through Sigma Phi Epsilon.

“I am becoming more sentimental about the most meaningful aspects in my life as I get older,” he admits. “It makes my time in the fraternity even more significant.”

Nate’s older brother, Chris, was actually a Sigma Phi Epsilon when Nate arrived at UNC. After meeting some of the members, he quickly realized there were many like-minded individuals.

“It was always a fun-loving group that still focused on academics, got work done, and did things in community to raise money for the Ronald McDonald house,” Nate recalls. “And the facility on Cameron Avenue, which was fairly new at that time, was a place to belong at Carolina. It’s a large university, and it’s easy for students to feel lost. The Sigma Phi Epsilon house felt like home.”

The benefits go far beyond that, though. His fraternity years taught Nate about leadership and governance. As president of the chapter for a year, Nate learned how to lead a conversation and how to meet the expectations of a diverse group of people.

“That was a big part of my growth,” Nate says. “There was also the camaraderie and the notion of working together toward a common goal. It taught me the value of collaboration, which I continue to use in my career. Lastly, it showed me the importance of letting your hair down sometimes. We worked hard in school, but we also had a good time with each other. Our sorority mixers and other social events taught us how to approach social situations in a way that advances success. Life is really about forming and nurturing relationships—the fraternity taught me how to do that.”

Today, thanks to so many friendships and benefits gained through Sigma Phi Epsilon, Nate’s love for the NC Delta chapter and UNC is stronger than ever. In fact, he’s been a loyal donor to NC Delta Chapter over the years.

“Understanding the value the fraternity had in my growth and development as young man, I want to ensure it remains vibrant and healthy and continues to teach those lessons,” he says. “With my children getting older, the day is coming when maybe one will go to UNC. I hope that friendly home is still there to welcome me.”

Nate often wishes UNC was right next door, but laments that “unfortunately, life doesn’t work that way.” Despite the distance, though, Nate keeps in touch with brothers by phone and email, and he often shares memories from his undergrad years with his children—Ben (12), Clare (9), and Blake (7).

“They keep me and my wife very busy with activities,” Nate says. “But I am always trying to make sure they understand the importance of UNC to my growth and development. I take any opportunity I get to expose them to those important factors. Even while watching the success of the basketball team this year, I tried to create a link so they understand me better and potentially pursue education at UNC.”

He’s also made an effort to pass on his love for pinball, which was developed during his college years.

“Troll’s, a bar in Chapel Hill, was a favorite hangout for inexpensive pitchers of beer—and pinball,” Nate says. “There’s a pinball museum in Seattle I’ve taken my children to. I try to instill my love of pinball in them since it’s something we could enjoy together as I get older.”

Despite what may seem like a lot of daydreaming about Chapel Hill, Nate is kept busy as a researcher and Professor of Neurology at the University of Washington School of Medicine. After graduating from UNC with his MD in 1996, he moved out to Seattle to do his medical internship in Neurology and became board certified in Sleep Medicine. He’s been there ever since. In addition, he’s served on the board of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine and even served as president for a period of time.

For those of us who are unfamiliar with his field, Nate shares one important piece of advice. “Prioritize sleep in your life for optimal health,” he warns. “Adults should regularly be getting at least 7 hours of sleep to be as awake, alert, and effective in their lives as possible.”

Most of all, though, Nate’s hope for other brothers is that they got as much as he did out of his years at Sigma Phi Epsilon. He encourages brothers to reach out to him on twitter @sleepdocwatson or by emailing This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Did Sigma Phi Epsilon have a profound impact on your life, too? You can honor your experience by making a gift to ensure our legacy lives on. You can also contact our editor to share your story, much like Nate did.