Phi Beta Kappa

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See also Wikipedia's article about "Phi Beta Kappa".

Phi Beta Kappa is an academic honor society. Dean Michael Pippenger is Columbia's representative officer of the organization.


Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, and subsequent chapters were opened at other schools. Columbia's was founded in 1869. Notably, while Columbia is the oldest institution of higher education in New York State, its chapter of Phi Beta Kappa is only the fourth-oldest, which is why it is referred to as "New York Delta".


Each year, ten percent of the senior class is elected to membership (roughly corresponding to those who receive the Latin honors of magna and summa cum laude). Two percent are elected in December, with the remainder inducted in mid-May just prior to Commencement. Spring nominees are notified by mail in late April. Election is not solely based on grades, but also requires nomination by faculty.

The induction ceremony takes place the day before Class Day in the Low Library rotunda, following the conferral of academic awards. New members receive plaques and, if they have elected to pay for them, Phi Beta Kappa inscribed keys. The inductees then inscribe their signatures in the books that have held the names of Columbia Phi Beta Kappa inductees since 1900. Core Curriculum pioneer John Erskine is the most conspicuous signature appearing on the 1900 page. Lawrence Wien was also a member, and his PBK key is on display in the Butler Library reference room.

Members have the honor of receiving a rather lame Phi Beta Kappa magazine and some other knicknacks for life.

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