Phi Kappa Phi

Phi Kappa Phi

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi (or simply Phi Kappa Phi) is the oldest, largest and most selective all-discipline honor society for land-grant and public colleges or universities in the United States. Induction into The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is considered one of the highest and most prestigious forms of individual academic achievement for graduates of land-grant and public colleges or universities. The society's motto is "Philosophía Krateítõ Phõtôn" which translated is "Let the love of learning rule humanity".


Membership is by invitation only and is reserved for the top 7.5 percent of second-semester university juniors and top 10 percent of seniors and graduate students. Faculty, professional staff and alumni who have achieved scholarly distinction also qualify. Good moral character is an essential supporting attribute of membership in Phi Kappa Phi.

Approximately 32,000 new members are added each year from the 300 college-based chapters in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Since its creation, more than 1.2 million members have been initiated into Phi Kappa Phi. Among its prominent members are former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, former Republic of the Philippines presidents Ferdinand E. Marcos, Manuel Roxas and Fidel V. Ramos, incumbent U.S. senators Hillary Rodham Clinton, Thad Cochran, Russ Feingold, Jon Kyl, and Harry Reid who is also the US Senate Majority Leader, incumbent U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, two-time Nobel Laureate Linus Pauling and Chemistry Nobel Laureate George Olah, best-seller novelist John Grisham, internationally renowned sculptor Glenna Goodacre, Kathleen Blanco, incumbent and first woman governor of the State of Louisiana, acclaimed jazz musicians Dave Brubeck and Ellis Marsalis, former United Nations General Assembly president and Pulitzer Prize winner for Literature Carlos P. Romulo, noted historian Stephen Ambrose, NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence, pioneering engineer-mathematician and father of "information theory" Claude Elwood Shannon, Pulitzer Prize winner for Poetry and US Poet Laureate Rita Dove and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner for Journalism John Noble Wilford, Netscape founder Jim Barksdale, incumbent US Defense Secretary Robert Gates, and poet and literary critic Andrew Christensen.

Marcus Urann, the founder of Phi Kappa Phi in 1897, was a successful lawyer and businessman who made a name for himself as founder and chief executive of Ocean Spray Industries.

Initiation fees

Initiation can cost around $80, depending on the chapter and the number of guests taken to the initiation ceremony. The initiation fee covers the cost of an engraved membership certificate, the Society emblem, an initial subscription to its publications, and makes the member eligible for Society grants and monetary awards. To maintain the "active" status, which provides for the publication subscription and eligibility for monetary wards, one must pay annual dues of approximately $50 or alternatively at any time pay a one-time active-for-life membership fee of approximately $325. However, an initiated member retains membership for life regardless of whether active status is maintained.


Phi Kappa Phi was founded in 1897 at the University of Maine as "Lambda Sigma Eta" (renamed less than three years later to "Phi Kappa Phi") under the leadership of undergraduate student Marcus L. Urann. In all, the society was founded by 10 senior students, two faculty members, and the university president, Abram Winegaard Harris. At the time, Phi Beta Kappa existed but limited its membership to those in the liberal arts. Phi Beta Kappa served the purpose of an all-campus honor society for the liberal arts colleges and universities of the time. However, for the newly created and burgeoning land grant universities, which were created "to promote the liberal and practical education of the industrial classes in the several pursuits and professions in life" [ Accessed 2008-08-01.] and thus encompassed more than just liberal arts education, this meant that Phi Beta Kappa could not serve as a campus-wide honor society. The goal of Urann, Harris and others was the creation of an honor society that drew the best and brightest members not only from the liberal arts, but from all academic disciplines. In doing so they created the first all-discipline honor society.

In 1900, it became national in scope by action of the presidents of the University of Maine (the founding chapter), University of Tennessee, and Pennsylvania State University. That same year, the first national convention was held in New Haven, Connecticut and attended by delegates representing the three original chapters. Chapters gradually increased in number between 1904, when the University of Massachusetts was chartered, and the early 1920s when chapters were established in the west coast. Phi Kappa Phi was instrumental in creating the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) in 1925, being one of its six charter members. [Association of College Honor Societies: Historical Information. Accessed 2008-13-09.] That same year, the first issue of "The Phi Kappa Phi Journal" was published.

In 1933, the first chapter outside of the United States was founded at the University of the Philippines. Chapter 105 was chartered at the Universidad de Puerto Rico in 1963. Today, Phi Kappa Phi has 300 active chapters in select private and public colleges and universities.

In 1969, the Phi Kappa Phi Foundation was incorporated to promote academic excellence and achievement by means of scholarships and fellowships. To support first-year graduate work, the Society offers annually through the Foundation 60 Fellowships and 30 Awards of Excellence, on a competitive basis, to graduating students who have been initiated into the Society and who have also been nominated by their chapters for the competition.

The history of the Society has been recorded in two volumes, "In Pursuit of Excellence: The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, 1897-1971", by Edward Schriver (c. 1971), and "Making Heroes of Scholars: The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, 1971-1983", by Neal O'Steen (c.1985).


Phi Kappa Phi's mission is "to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others." According to the society website, the society awards more than $800,000.00 in national and local scholarships annually, as well as grants and graduate fellowships. [Scholarships & Awards. Accessed 2008-08-19.] Phi Kappa Phi awards the largest amount of scholarships and fellowships of any college honor society in the world today. It is a 501(c)(3) organization under the United States Internal Revenue Code. [Phi Kappa Phi 2006-2007 Annual Report. Accessed 2008-09-23.]

For example, the society grants "60 fellowships annually in the amount of $5,000 each and 40 Awards of Excellence in the amount of $2,000 each to students pursuing first year graduate or professional study on a full time basis." [Florida State University Office of National Fellowships. Accessed 2008-08-19.] In addition to the above, according to the Society, in 2007 awards granted were $10,000 in Scholar & Artist Awards, [Phi Kappa Phi Schlar & Artist. Accessed 2008-08-19.] $15,000 in Emerging Scholar Awards, [Emerging Scholars. Accessed 2008-08-19.] $50,000 in Study Abroad Grants, [Study Abroad. Accessed 2008-08-19.] $35,000 in Literacy Grants, [Literacy Grants. Accessed 2008-08-19.] and $25,000 in Love of Learning Awards. [Love of Learning. Accessed 2008-08-19.]

Phi Kappa Phi aims to foster community service and leadership through its grants for local and national literacy initiatives, promotion of excellence grants, and training and leadership opportunities available to its membership.

According to the website of the National Association of Fellowships Advisors, "The multidisciplinary nature of Phi Kappa Phi is reflected in its Fellowship and Award of Excellence recipients. Awardees represent a variety of fields including biology, chemistry, engineering, political science, mathematics and psychology. Likewise, the professions they select are equally diverse: law, medicine, business, education, science, or the arts" [National Association of Fellowships Advisors. Accessed 2008-08-19.] . This multidisciplinary nature is represented by the rays of light on the [
] : "The sun's rays signify equivalence among the various branches of learning and represent the dissemination of truth as light. In extending its interest and eligibility across the entire range of subject matter of the modern university, Phi Kappa Phi aims to harness the knowledge of all fields of understanding and action in the service of humanity." [General Questions. Accessed 2008-08-19.]


Phi Kappa Phi publishes a multi-awarded quarterly journal, "The Phi Kappa Phi Forum", for distribution to its active membership. Each issue of "The Phi Kappa Phi Forum" is devoted to a significant theme and addresses prominent issues of the day from an interdisciplinary perspective. The journal features articles by scholars inside and outside the academic community. In addition to timely articles, each issue of "The Phi Kappa Phi Forum" contains selected poetry and reviews of current books and periodical literature.

"The Phi Kappa Phi Forum" and the "Honor Chord" e-zine received 2008 APEX Awards for Publication Excellence. [The Twentieth AnnualAwards for Publication Excellence: A Competition For Communications Professionals. In "Writing that Works: The Business Communications Report" (2008)]

Active members of the Society also receive bimonthly issues of the "Phi Kappa Phi Newsletter". The Newsletter features news items of interest to members on both the national and local levels.


The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is governed ultimately by the Triennial Convention, supplemented by any interim - though rare - special conventions deemed necessary. Each chapter may send two official delegates to a convention held every three years at a major city in the United States.

Between conventions, the business of the Society is conducted by the Board of Directors, composed of 12 directors, of whom nine are elective (president, president-elect, a national vice president, five regional vice presidents, and the immediate past president) and three are appointive (executive director of the Society, regent and director of fellowships). The executive director is in charge of the Society's national office.

Each of the 300 active chapters of Phi Kappa Phi elect their own set of chapter officers and is governed by the chapter constitution and by-laws. Chapters are numbered chronologically based on their date of founding, with the oldest chapter at the University of Maine identified as Chapter 001.

Phi Kappa Phi's national headquarters are housed in a building of its own at Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

ociety symbols

The Seal

The Seal of the Society has at its center the badge. This, in turn, is surrounded by a crenelated line which represents the battlements and walls of Troy and which symbolizes a technological aspect of the ancient Greek culture reflected by the Society. In the space between this line and the periphery of the seal appear three stars just above the badge, one for each of the three original chapters. Just below the badge is the phrase "Founded 1897."

The Badge

The badge, which appears on the key, is the terrestrial globe with the sun's corona extending behind it in eight symmetrical configurations. The sun has traditionally been a symbol for the source of truth and knowledge that enlightens the world. Derived from the eight divisions of general education common in 1900, the eight equivalent rays represent the equal value of truth in all academic fields. Encompassing the globe is a band with the Greek letters Phi Kappa Phi, representing the honor society's motto, "Philosophía Krateítõ Phõtôn". This band represents the bond of fellowship that binds all lovers of learning in a common purpose.

The Ribbon

The ribbon of the Society portrays the meander pattern common in Greek art, suggesting the enduring values and ideals of learning and community leadership promoted by Phi Kappa Phi.

Notable members

*David Baldacci
*James Barksdale
*Jimmy Carter
*Hillary Clinton
*Ruth Bader Ginsburg
*Glenna Goodacre
*John Grisham
*Edith Killgore Kirkpatrick
*Ellis Marsalis
*George Olah
*Jim Tressel
*John D. Zeglis

External links

* [ Phi Kappa Phi]
* [ The Political Graveyard: Phi Kappa Phi Politicians]


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