Sixty Seniors Join the Roll of Phi Beta Kappa
April 5, 2001
Regard for their "moral character and scholarly attainment" paid off on April 2 for sixty Davidson students with their induction into Phi Beta Kappa, the highest recognition of excellence in scholarship that an undergraduate can achieve in the United States.
Seniors who maintain an average of 3.6 or above, and meet the qualifications of "liberal culture and good character," are considered annually for election, which is conducted by the 70 Davidson faculty who hold membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Not more than 12-1/2 percent of the senior class may be elected.
New members were initiated in a solemn ceremony in the College Union. Each senior individually accepted initiation, signed the roll of chapter members, and received the society's handshake from Davidson chapter president Mark McCulloh, professor of German. Vice President Earl Edmondson, professor of history, recited the history of both the national Phi Beta Kappa organization and the Davidson chapter, as well as the significance of the markings on the Phi Beta Kappa key.
The new members then enjoyed a banquet in Chambers Gallery and an oration entitled "The Challenges and Satisfactions of Public Service" delivered by Maggie Markey, a University of Colorado Phi Beta Kappa member who has served as a member of the Mecklenburg County Board of Commissioners. The evening concluded with distribution of membership certificates and keys to each senior.
The key bears the Greek letters for Phi Beta Kappa, which are the initials of the slogan, "love of wisdom--the helmsman of life." In the upper left three stars symbolize the aims of the society: friendship, morality, and literature. A pointing hand in a lower corner symbolizes aspiration.
The particular interest of Phi Beta Kappa is in liberal education, which the society's Ritual Book describes as, "...the development by careful training of the capacity to appreciate what has been done and thought, the ability to make worth while appraisals of achievements, doctrines, theories, and proposals. It is liberal because it emancipates..."
Established nationally in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest of the American Greek-letter societies. There are presently chapters at 255 colleges and universities across the nation.
The Gamma of North Carolina Chapter was established at Davidson in 1923 as an outgrowth of the local Mimir Society, which had been established here in 1915 to recognize attainment in scholarship. Under the leadership of President William J. Martin, Jr. and Dr. Joseph M. McConnell, Professor of History and later Dean of the Faculty, members of the Mimir Society petitioned the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa in 1921 for the establishment of a chapter at Davidson. The petition was approved in 1922, and the chapter was installed and the charter publicly presented in Shearer Hall on March 1, 1923.
Charter members were President W. J. Martin, a Phi Beta Kappa of the University of Virginia; Professor Ray W. Pettingill, a Phi Beta Kappa of Bowdoin College; Professor W. L. Porter, a Phi Beta Kappa of Yale University; Professor E. F. Shewmake, a Phi Beta Kappa of the College of William and Mary; and Professor W.W. Wood, a Phi Beta Kappa of the University of Virginia. Ten foundation members, ten alumni members, and five members-in-course were initiated on March 1, 1923. The first member-in-course to sign the roster of members was Robert F. Davidson. The first officers of the Chapter were Dr. Joseph M. McConnell, President; Dr. E. F. Shewmake, Vice-President; and Professor W. W. Wood, Secretary-Treasurer.
On April 26, 1973 the Chapter celebrated the fiftieth anniversary of its founding. Among those present for the occasion were Carl Billman, Secretary of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, and Robert F. Davidson, the first member in course initiated by the Gamma Chapter. Both men received honorary degrees from the College at the Spring Convocation the next day.
In 1974, soon after Davidson became a coeducational institution, the chapter initiated its first Davidson women into membership, Virginia Howell Andrews '74 and Patricia Elise Morgan '74. At the 1976 Triennial Council of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, Professor Malcolm Lester, secretary of the Davidson Chapter, was elected to the Senate, the executive body of the United Chapters. He held that position until 1982. Since its founding, more than 1,500 men and 500 women have become members of the Davidson College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.
Students from Class of 2001 elected to membership-in-course by Gamma of N.C. Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa
Davidson is a highly selective independent liberal arts college for 1,600 students. Since its establishment in 1837, the college has graduated 23 Rhodes Scholars and is consistently ranked among the top liberal arts colleges in the country by U.S. News and World Report magazine. Davidson recently launched "Let Learning Be Cherished," a $250 million campaign in support of student financial assistance, academic resources, and community life.