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The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest and most distinguished academic honorary society in America. It was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, and chapters were subsequently established at Yale in 1780 and at Harvard in 1781. In 1989 a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter--Beta of Oklahoma--was chartered on the University of Tulsa campus, the second to be established in the state of Oklahoma.


The Society champions and promotes the freedom of scholarly inquiry and the liberal ideal in education. By liberal we mean free and broad, in the sense of an educational breadth that crosses disciplines, and is suffused with a relish for the adventure of lifelong learning. Liberal Studies generally refer to disciplines and courses in the arts and sciences (such as English literature, psychology, art history, biology, and physics) that are not just for the purpose of preparing one for a profession, but also for providing an understanding of the complexity and diversity of the world around us, the vastness of the universe that encompasses us, and the cultural and historical foundations of human societies that comprise our global communities. A liberal education leads to the formation of a broadly educated person who is equipped with the tools and skills for effective and critical thinking, writing, and speaking; and it enables one to make a positive and a distinctive difference in the world, regardless of what profession or environment one enters. Election to membership in Phi Beta Kappa acknowledges that an individual has attained high scholarly distinction and possesses the potential for a lifetime of learning and outstanding achievement.


  • PBK - History

    Phi Beta Kappa was founded by five students at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. The first meeting was held in the Apollo Room of the Old Raleigh Tavern on December 5, 1776.

    John Heath, the first president of Phi Beta Kappa, was determined to develop a student society that would be much more serious-minded than its predecessors at the college, one devoted to the pursuit of liberal education and intellectual fellowship. The Greek initials for the society’s motto, “Love of learning is the guide of life,” form the name Phi Beta Kappa.  
    The first college society to bear a Greek-letter name, ΦBK introduced the essential characteristics of the Greek societies that followed it: an oath of secrecy, a badge, mottoes in Greek and Latin, a code of laws, an elaborate form of initiation, a seal, and a special handshake. The organization was created as a secret society so that its founders would have the freedom to discuss any topic they chose. Freedom of inquiry has been a hallmark of ΦBK ever since.
    In the winter of 1781, when General Charles Cornwallis positioned the British army on the York peninsula for what became the climactic siege of the American Revolutionary War, the College of William and Mary closed. Though it reopened a year later, ΦBK activities were not permanently re-established there for many years. 
    This closure would have been the end of ΦBK had the group not earlier agreed to a vision of their only non-Virginian member to establish chapters in New England. Elisha Parmele, a native of Connecticut who had studied at Yale and graduated from Harvard, helped to create chapters at Yale in 1780 and Harvard in 1781, thus ensuring the continuation of the society. 
    In 1831, after anti-Masonic agitation prompted much discussion about the ΦBK oath, Harvard dropped the requirement for secrecy, an action that probably saved the society from further open criticism as well as from rivalry with the social fraternities that made their appearance around that time.
    Other chapters were added gradually, and the number nationwide stood at 25 in 1883, when the National Council of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa was created. 
    At about the same time, the first women and African-Americans were invited to join ΦBK. The first chapters to induct women were at the University of Vermont, in 1875, and at Connecticut’s Wesleyan University, in 1876. The first African-Americans were elected at Yale, in 1874, and at the University of Vermont, in 1877.
    Between 1887 and 1917, 64 new chapters were established, and by 1983 another 147 had been chartered. In 1988 the national organization’s name was changed to “The Phi Beta Kappa Society.”
    Today there are 280 chapters at American colleges and universities and 61 active alumni associations located in all regions of the country.
  • PBK - Charter Members

    Charles I. Abramson

    Bruce Ackerson

    Robert W. Allen

    Laura Belmonte

    Susan Bobo

    Jennifer Regan Borland

    Pamela U. Brown

    William S. Bryans

    Richard A. Bunce

    John D. Carlson

    Jonathan C. Comer

    James F. Cooper

    David M. D'Andrea

    Randi Eldevik

    James R.Fain

    Mark Fishbein

    Christopher Alan Francisco

    Janice R. French

    Richard R. Frohock

    Jami A. Fullerton

    Perry J. Gethner

    DeMond M. Grant

    Alyson L. Greiner

    Jennifer Grindstaff

    Gene B. Halleck

    Marty Henry Heitz

    Patricia Hipsher

    Jesse Johnson

    Stanley Eugene Ketterer

    Pamela Goodrick Lloyd

    Trish MacVaugh

    Jason Stuart Maloy

    Lisa A. Mantini

    Robert L. Matts

    Melinda H. McCann

    David W. Meinke

    Jeanette Morehouse Mendez

    Robert Verne Miller

    Mckenzie Mohler

    Amanda Morris

    Michael Morris

    Stephanie N. Mullins-Sweatt

    J. Robert Myers

    Michael W. Palmer

    Tracy M.Quan

    Lionel Mischa Raff

    Eric H. Reitan

    Mark G. Rockley

    Albert T. Rosenberger

    Peter Joseph Rudloff

    LeGrande M. Slaughter

    Lindsey C. Smith

    Robert Lewis Spurrier Jr.

    Janette A. Steets

    Robert J. Sternberg

    Stacy L. Takacs

    David G. Thomas

    Sheryl A. Tucker

    Tony T. Wells

    Nancy Van Winkle

    B. Peter Westerhoff

    Joshua Lyle Wiener

    Elizabeth A. Williams

    LaRicka Wingate

    David J. Wright

    Roger C. Zierau

    Chapter of Initiation

    Epsilon of Massachusetts
    Alpha of Nebraska
    Beta of Oklahoma
    Alpha of Georgia
    Alpha of Kansas
    Delta of Pennsylvania
    Alpha of Oklahoma
    Delta of Colorado
    Gamma of Ohio
    Epsilon of Michigan
    Gamma of Indiana
    Epsilon of Connecticut
    Beta of Rhode Island
    Alpha of Minnesota
    Alpha of Texas
    Iota of Illinois
    Gamma of Illinois
    Kappa of California
    Beta of Colorado
    Alpha of Oklahoma
    Beta of Minnesota
    Lambda of Pennsylvania
    Kappa of Virginia
    Delta of Illinois
    Beta of New York
    Theta of Illinois
    Beta of Kansas
    Beta of Vermont
    Alpha of Missouri
    Alpha of Missouri
    Mu of Pennsylvania
    Alpha of Rhode Island
    Xi of Pennsylvania
    Zeta of Minnesota
    Alpha of Missouri
    Kappa of Ohio
    Pi of California
    Alpha of California
    Gamma of Washington
    Theta of Texas
    Theta of Texas
    Alpha of Kentucky
    Beta of Texas
    Delta of Indiana
    Sigma of California
    Alpha of Oklahoma
    Iota of New York
    Zeta of Michigan
    Beta of Washington
    Gamma of Missouri
    Gamma of New York
    Beta of Arkansas
    Alpha of Missouri
    Pi of Pennsylvania
    Alpha of Connecticut
    Alpha of Illinois
    Beta of Michigan
    Nu of Ohio
    Alpha of Texas
    Lambda of Pennsylvania
    Epsilon of Connecticut
    Mu of Ohio
    Alpha of Oklahoma
    Alpha of Florida
    Theta of New York
    Beta of Connecticut

  • PBK - Foundation Members

    Mr. Gary Carl Clark
    Vice President and General Council, Oklahoma State University

    Dr. Bruce Charles Crauder
    Associate Dean College of Arts and Sciences, Oklahoma State University

    Dr. Robert Edward Graalman, Jr.
    Director of Scholar Development, Oklahoma State University

    Mr. V. Burns Hargis
    President, Oklahoma State University

    Mrs. Patricia Truax Houston Prawl
    Alumna, Oklahoma State University

    Mr. L. E. “Dean” Stringer
    Regent Emeritus, Oklahoma State University

  • PBK - Chapter Officers


    Dr. Perry Genther
    Regents Professor of Foreign Languages

    Vice President

    Dr. Robert V. Miller
    Regents Professor of Microbiology & Molecular Genetics


    Dr. Gene Halleck
    Professor of English


    Dr. Jon Comer
    Professor of Geography


    Dr. Charles I. Abramson
    Regents Professor of Psychology

  • PBK - Election Criteria
    The Gamma of Oklahoma Chapter of The Phi Beta Kappa Society

    Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is by election.  There is no application process.  Students majoring in the liberal arts and sciences are considered for membership in Phi Beta Kappa.


    In selecting new students for membership in Phi Beta Kappa (referred to by the Society as "Members in Course"), the chapter selection committee (Committee for the Selection of Members in Course) meets to review student achievements with the basic criteria of a 3.7 or higher GPA combined with a broadly based liberal education. Candidates must be presently in their junior or senior year and have attended Oklahoma State University for a minimum of three semesters of full-time work, and be enrolled in a fourth. (The completion of transfer work at another institution during a regular semester of enrollment at OSU is not regarded as a favorable indicator of eligibility for Phi Beta Kappa.) In addition, students must have taken at least 90 hours of liberal arts courses (not counting professional courses) demonstrating breadth as well as depth in their course of study. Fifteen hours or the equivalent of a foreign language must have been completed and proficiency in mathematics is also required. While a high GPA is necessary, it is not the sole deciding factor. A GPA 4.0 taken by itself is not a sufficient indicator of scholastic distinction.


    Finally, the local chapter is limited by a constitutional stipulation that a number equivalent to no more than 10 percent of those graduating from the College of Arts and Sciences may be selected in any one year. Within this numerical cap the selection committee determines the most qualified candidates. The transcripts of all students having taken at least 90 hours of liberal arts courses are examined by the committee, and the committee spends much time in discussing and comparing the accomplishments of the students in making their final selection. After the committee has completed its work, the Oklahoma State University chapter meets and votes on whether to offer membership to those students who have been recommended by the committee.

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