Phi Beta Kappa History

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Phi Beta Kappa was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776. Chapters were established at Harvard, Yale, and Dartmouth before the end of the 18th century, setting a pattern for slow expansion that has continued to the present. There are currently 280 chapters at colleges and universities throughout the United States.

Phi Beta Kappa in North Carolina

In ceremonies on April 17, 1995, officials of the national Phi Beta Kappa Society conferred upon the Phi Beta Kappa faculty at NC State University their charter as Zeta of North Carolina chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. The new chapter then elected officers and initiated the first undergraduate members of Phi Beta Kappa elected from the NC State University student body. Phi Beta Kappa leaders attending the ceremony included Charles Blitzer, national president of Phi Beta Kappa, who is also a former Director of the National Humanities Center in Research Triangle Park.

There are seven chapters of Phi Beta Kappa sheltered at colleges and universities in North Carolina: the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (Alpha, 1904), Duke University (Beta, 1920), Davidson College (Gamma, 1923), Wake Forest University (Delta, 1941), the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Epsilon, 1956; but originally chartered as a section of the Alpha chapter in 1934), North Carolina State University (Zeta, 1995), and Elon University (Eta, 2010).

The Phi Beta Kappa Key

KeyThe symbol of Phi Beta Kappa is the key, inscribed with the letters S P, the Greek letters Phi Beta Kappa, a pointing finger, three stars, and the date of founding, December 5, 1776. The Greek letters are the initials of the society's motto, Philosophia Biou Kybernetes, "The love of wisdom is the guide of life." The letters S P are the initials of the Latin words Societas Philosophiae. The pointing finger and the three stars symbolize the ambitions of young scholars and the three distinguishing principles of the Society -- friendship, morality, learning.

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