Main Page | See live article | Alphabetical index

Phi Beta Kappa Society

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest undergraduate honorary society in the United States. Founded on December 5, 1776, election to it is considered by many to be the highest honor that can be granted to an undergraduate. Membership is granted to around 1% of college graduates.

Famous Phi Betes include:

ΦBK, the first Greek-letter fraternity, began as a secret literary and philosophical society at the College of William and Mary. The second chapter was established at Harvard University on December 4, 1779, and the third at Yale University on December 8 of the same year. Subsequent chapters were established at Dartmouth College in 1787, Union College in 1817, Bowdoin College in 1825, and Brown University in 1830. Secrecy was jettisoned during a period of strong anti-Masonic sentiment, in 1831.

By the time of the establishment of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa in 1883, there were 25 chapters in total. The first women were elected at the University of Vermont in 1875, and the first black member was elected at the same institution two years later.

Each chapter is designated by its state and a Greek letter indicating the order in which that state's chapters were founded. As an example, Alpha of Pennsylvania is at Dickinson College (1887); Beta of Pennsylvania, at Lehigh University (later in 1887); Delta of Pennsylvania, at the University of Pennsylvania (1892); and Gamma of Pennsylvania, at Lafayette College (1890).

In 1988, the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa officially changed its name to The Phi Beta Kappa Society.

As of 2004, there are 270 chapters and over half a million living members.

Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) stands for philosophia biou kubernetes, "philosophy, the guide of life."

External Links