College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
Phi Beta Kappa Society

Phi Beta Kappa celebrates and advocates outstanding achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. Through its chapters at America's leading colleges and universities, it invites top-ranking arts and sciences students for initiation. The Society sponsors activities to advance the study of the humanities, social sciences, and natural sciences in higher education and in society at large.

PBK stands for disciplinary rigor, breadth of intellectual perspective, pursuit of wisdom, freedom of inquiry and expression, personal integrity, and the application of scholarship and research in daily life. Its members champion these values in the belief that doing so can make the world more just and peaceful.

How Does a Student Qualify to Join Phi Beta Kappa?
A student candidate for PBK membership must be either a liberal arts and sciences major or a major in a professional field who has completed a minor in a liberal arts and sciences area.

In addition, the candidate must display integrity, tolerance, and a broad range of intellectual interests. The candidate must also have demonstrated breadth of academic study in the liberal arts and sciences, have completed at least three full semesters of course work at Alfred University, and be registered as a full-time student for a fourth semester.

If the candidate is a senior, he or she must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.5. If the candidate is a junior, he or she must have a cumulative GPA of at least 3.75 and have completed either 90 credit hours or three-quarters of the hours required for his or her undergraduate degree.

Preference will be given to candidates who have completed non-introductory college math courses and more than two semesters of college-level foreign language study.

Each year the members of Alfred's chapter meet to select students whose academic and personal achievements qualify them for membership. To become members, students must accept the chapter's invitation, participate in an initiation ceremony, and sign the chapter's roll.

Alfred's Chapter History
PBK awarded Alfred University its chapter in August 2003. In March 2004 John Churchill, Executive Secretary of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, travelled from its Washington headquarters to install the chapter. Marvin Bell, AU alumnus and Poet Laureate of Iowa, spoke at the ceremony.

Alfred University received the Alpha Gamma Chapter of New York in recognition of its historical dedication to liberal arts education and its rigorous curriculum today. Since the school's founding, the liberal arts and sciences have been central to its mission and its humanist values visible in its remarkably egalitarian environment for women. President Kenyon exhorted the graduating class of 1856: "men and women are demanded of great intellects, of disinterested philanthropy. . .In your reliance upon yourselves-you have become independent thinkers and actors." Jonathan and Abigail Allen fought for human equality throughout their fifty years of service to Alfred. They believed that education itself should be radical and reforming. Abigail Allen wrote, ". . . keep abreast of the world's advance movements; in one word, be radical, radical to the core."

Alfred continues its commitment to these founding principles through its support of individual student aspirations, research opportunities for undergraduates, a challenging intellectual environment, and a strong Honors program.

Why Does Membership Matter?
The PBK key is a symbol of scholarly excellence as well as of membership in the oldest and most prestigious academic honor society in the United States. If you choose to purchase one, it will be engraved with your name, year of initiation, and the University's name.

Both graduate programs and employers in all sectors of American society recognize the significance of this extraordinary achievement.

For more information about the PBK Society, go to the national website at, or contact Alfred's Chapter President Leah Houk.

Selected Activities
Visiting Scholar Program and Phi Beta Kappa Fellows Lectureship: Chapters host distinguished scholars or lecturers for public presentations, participation in classroom lectures and seminars, and informal meetings with undergraduates and faculty members.

Advocacy: The Society has participated in programs to encourage excellence in teaching, increase public understanding of the value of the liberal arts and sciences, and encourage both public and private support for liberal education.

Awards and Fellowships: The Society sponsors several awards and fellowships that recognize significant contributions in the liberal arts and sciences.

The American Scholar: Available by subscription, this award-winning quarterly journal publishes work by many of our country's best writers, thinkers, critics, and poets.

Election of New Members: All 270 chapters elect and initiate new members at least once per year.

Phi Beta Kappa Historical Timeline
1776 Five students at the College of William and Mary (Williamsburg, Virginia) founded Phi Beta Kappa.

1780-81 Yale College and Harvard College receive the second and third chapters.

1875 The University of Vermont chapter admits the first women into PBK.

1877 The University of Vermont selects PBK's first African American members. PBK establishes its first regional association in New York City.

1883 Phi Beta Kappa creates a National Council of the United Chapters to oversee 25 chapters.

2004 Eight new chapters receive charters, bringing the chapter total to 270 chapters and the membership total to half a million. Alfred University receives its charter for the Alpha Gamma Chapter of New York.

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