Prestigious Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society Returns to UConn

Past members of PBK include 17 sitting U.S. presidents, 38 Supreme Court justices, more than 130 Noble laureates and other well known Americans like W.E.B Dubois and John Updike.
Past members of PBK include 17 sitting U.S. presidents, 38 Supreme Court justices, more than 130 Noble laureates and other well known Americans like W.E.B Dubois and John Updike.

Phi Beta Kappa, an honor society at the University of Connecticut, has been resurrected for UConn students.

PBK is a highly prestigious honor society, with past members including 17 U.S. presidents, 38 Supreme Court justices, over 130 Nobel laureates and many other well-known Americans like W.E.B. Dubois and John Updike.

Veronica Makowsky, the President of PBK and a professor of English at UConn explained why PBK’s resurgence is important.

“We know that students are besieged by emails from various kinds of honor societies and we know that some students think that all of them are some kind of scam, but it is very important for students to know that Phi Beta Kappa is known internationally as a marker of excellence and that many members of the UConn faculty and staff, current and retired, are proud members,” Makowsky wrote in an email.

Several years ago, PBK fell into a sort of remission due to faculty and staff “retirements and the demands of trying to check the criteria for membership against student transcripts at a university of this size involving large numbers,” according to Makowsky. Officers and committee members of PBK are traditionally voluntary UConn employees.

This year, with the help of CLAS Associate Dean Shirley Roe, improved technology allowing officers to recognize students who qualify for PBK, Vice Provost of Academic Affairs Sally Reis, and six members of the UConn faculty, including history, geography and sociology professors, as well as a curator at the Benton Museum and an assistant director of the UConn Honors Program, PBK is back.

“The sense of the PBK community here is that our qualified UConn students deserve the opportunity to have the prestige of Phi Beta Kappa on their resumes and to wear Phi Beta Kappa pins if they so desire, and so a group of faculty and staff reconstituted the chapter this year,” Makowsky said.

This year membership has been offered to 50 juniors and more than 200 seniors. There will be an initiation ceremony on Saturday, May 2 from 2:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. The Dean of CLAS, Jeremy Teitelbaum, will be the main speaker, and Provost Mun Choi will also be delivering complementary words. Those who accept the offer to join PBK will pay a single fee for lifetime membership, will graduate with honor cords and will learn the PBK handshake.

Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776. A chapter was established at UConn in 1956. PBK has rigorous standards, including that students must have at least 60 credits under their belt.

According to the New York Times: “Chapter members review the academic records of the top 10 percent of the class, to insure that most credits are earned in the liberal arts and sciences, in a broad array of subjects, and at an advanced level. The student must also take language and math classes, even if the college does not require them.”

Out of all of the higher education institutions in the U.S., PBK has chapters in only 10 percent of them. One in one hundred college seniors are asked to join the Phi Beta Kappa society.

For UConn students unsure of joining PBK, it is technically the eldest and most exclusive honor society in the country.


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