Alpha Lambda Delta

Alpha Lambda Delta is an honor society for students who have achieved a 3.5 GPA or higher and are in the top 20% of their class during their first year or term of higher education.


Alpha Lambda Delta was founded in 1924 by the Dean of Women, Maria Leonard, at the University of Illinois to recognize academic excellence among freshmen women. One year before, Dean Thomas Arkle Clark had founded Phi Eta Sigma, an honor society to recognize academic excellence among freshmen men. Both groups operated as single sex organizations until the mid-70s when they both became coeducational in response to Title IX.

At the first meeting of the chapter, Florence Finn, president of the society, presented a passage from Plato’s Republic in which Socrates asks the question, “Will they hold torches and pass them to one another...?”. This idea, together with the symbol of a candle and the concept of sharing the love of learning with others, caught the imagination of the charter members.

The honor society soon became a national organization through the chartering of chapters at Purdue University in 1926, at DePauw University in 1927, at the University of Michigan in 1927, and at the University of Oklahoma in 1929. The first national convention was held in 1930 on the campus of the University of Illinois. Conventions were suspended during the Depression years because of travel expenses. The third convention was held in 1938 at the University of Michigan. A decision was made at that convention to suspend holding a national convention and to invest those funds into establishing a graduate fellowship fund. The first fellowship was awarded to Louise Houssiere for graduate study at MIT in 1940.

The Association of College Honor Societies was organized in 1925 to consider matters of mutual concern to member organizations; Alpha Lambda Delta has been active in the Association since its admission to membership in 1939. In 1976 in response to Title IX, the National Council voted for the Society to become coeducational. In 1981, the first two male members of the National Council were installed.

Alpha Lambda Delta has continued to be innovative and responsive in recognizing academic excellence by providing Senior Certificates and the Maria Leonard Senior Book Award since 1939, offering workshops since 1978, recognizing outstanding chapters with the Order of the Torch Award since 1989, recognizing an Outstanding Adviser of the Year since 1990, and taking advantage of technology by posting a national web site in January 1997.

The Society Today

Today, Alpha Lambda Delta has chapters at 251 campuses in the United States. Members are invited to join by the local chapters, after the chapter has determined that the student has achieved an 3.5 or higher GPA in their first year or term of enrollment in an institution of higher education. The members of the local chapters are also considered to be members of the National organization.

The National organization is governed by a National Council, which operates in the same fashion as a board of directors. The policies adopted by the National Council, and annually by the chapters, are administered by the National Office. The National Office is located in Macon, Georgia. All administrative details of operating the Society are carried out through the National Office.

As of Fall, 2005, the Society had initiated just over 720,000 lifetime members, and initiates roughly 25,000 new members each year.


Each year, National Alpha Lambda Delta awards over $150,000 in scholarships and fellowships to members. Undergraduate members may be awarded the Jo Anne Trow Scholarship, a non-renewable award of $1,000 to $3000. 35 such awards are given each year. Graduate members may be awarded an Alpha Lambda Delta Graduate Fellowship, ranging in value from $3,000 to $7,500. 23 such awards are granted each year.

Additionally, members are entitled to wear Alpha Lambda Delta honor cords at their graduation exercises. Students in each chapter who have succeeded in maintaining the highest GPA from among their school's membership may be awarded the Maria Leonard Senior Book Award, the presentation of a book with an inscribed bookplate.

External links

* [ Alpha Lambda Delta official website]

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