The Nation's Oldest and Most Widely Known Academic Honor Society
Five students at the College of William and Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa in 1776, during the American Revolution. For over two and a quarter centuries, the Society has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. Laptops have replaced quill pens, but these ideas, symbolized on Phi Beta Kappa's distinctive gold key, still lay the foundations of personal freedom, scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience and creative endeavor.
Phi Beta Kappa celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at America's leading colleges and universities. The Society sponsors activities to advance these studies - the humanities, the social sciences, and the natural sciences - in higher education and in society at large.
The Greek Initials Phi Beta Kappa stand for a phrase that can be translated "Love of Learning is the Guide of Life." Accordingly, the Phi Beta Kappa Society honors and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Invitation to membership both recognizes achievement by the prospective member and recommends that high attainment to others.
To qualify for this honor, a candidate must have realized, to a very high degree, the aims of liberal learning, and should espouse the values implicit in that endeavor. Therefore, invitations to membership should reflect Phi Beta Kappa's commitment to:
- Academic excellence
- Rigorous pursuit of the liberal arts and sciences
- Breadth of intellectual perspective
- Cultivation of capacities of deliberation and ethical reflection
- Love of learning as the guide of life.
To this end, the Society has specified requirements for eligibility. As a consequence, the F&M Chapter (Theta of PA) identifies candidates whose academic records demonstrate not only excellence but also breadth and depth in the traditional disciplines of the natural sciences, mathematics, social sciences, and humanities.
Demonstrated excellence in undergraduate studies is a necessary condition for election to Phi Beta Kappa, but it is not sufficient. Our stipulations are intended to ensure that candidates for induction into the Society have met certain minimum curricular thresholds of liberal education. The breadth requirement for Theta is described below. (*Taken from the Preamble to the new stipulations from National PBK, 2011)
On February 2, 2010, the Theta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa adopted the following selection criteria for new initiates beginning in 2012: "Students should normally have completed either coursework in three different disciplines in at least two divisions (a minimum of two courses, one of which must be beyond the intro level) or a double major or major/minor in two different divisions. These guidelines will obtain for Special Studies and interdisciplinary majors as well."
The F&M Chapter (Theta of PA) was founded in 1908.
Charter Members were John S. Stahr (class of 1867) and John B. Kieffer
Foundation Members were (class years):
- Joseph Henry Dubbs (1856)
- J. Spangler Kieffer (1860)
- William Nevin Appel (1880)
- Nathan C. Schaeffer (1867)
- W. Uhler Hensel (1870)
- John W. Appel (1874)
- George H. Keller (1891)
- Walter M. Franklin (1872)
- Samuel H. Rauck (1892)