CSB/SJU receives new Phi Beta Kappa chapter

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October 5, 2009

The College of Saint Benedict, St. Joseph, and Saint John’s University, Collegeville, will be home to a new chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Delegates from more than 200 chapters and associations of Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society which was founded in 1776, voted to establish a new chapter at CSB/SJU Oct. 2 during their 42nd Triennial Council in Austin, Texas.

The joint CSB/SJU chapter will be known as Theta of Minnesota (“theta” is the eighth number in the Greek alphabet, and is the number of Phi Beta Kappa chapters in Minnesota).

The CSB/SJU chapter expects to induct its first student members into the Society during spring semester, 2010. CSB and SJU senior students will be selected for induction into the Society on the basis of excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. The selection of the best 10 percent of arts and sciences graduates each year will be made by the current CSB/SJU faculty, administrators and staff who are themselves already members of Phi Beta Kappa. 

“The quality of a liberal arts and sciences education at CSB/SJU has been high enough to merit a Phi Beta Kappa chapter for many years, but it was only recently that we were able to mobilize the time, the talent and the sheer will to get us through the three-year application process,” said Richard Albares, associate professor of sociology at CSB/SJU and one of the faculty leaders of the chapter application process. “Phi Beta Kappa is extremely thorough. The Society put us through a real test of endurance as well as a very detailed examination of our faculty, our curriculum, our administration and our budgets. It took the efforts of dozens and dozens of people to make this happen.”

The CSB/SJU joint chapter was one of four new chapters established at the council meeting. The addition of the four chapters brings the total number of chapters to 280 nationwide. Only about 10 percent of the nation’s institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Each year, approximately one college senior in 100 nationwide is invited to join Phi Beta Kappa.

"Phi Beta Kappa membership is a validation of College of Saint Benedict/Saint John's University's place among the nation's best liberal arts and sciences institutions, and a reflection of our long history of academic excellence,” said CSB President MaryAnn Baenninger and SJU President the Rev. Robert Koopmann, OSB,   in a joint statement. “The granting of the chapter both acknowledges the teaching and scholarly accomplishments of our faculty and offers an opportunity for our very best students to become members of this illustrious honor society. 

“We are thrilled with this news, and we are especially grateful to Professors Richard Albares and Sanford Moskowitz and to CSB administrative staff members Sonja Gidlow and Emily Cook for their leadership during the three-year application process," Baenninger and Koopmann added.

There are more than 500,000 members of Phi Beta Kappa, including 17 U.S. presidents (Bill Clinton and George H.W. Bush among them), seven of the current U.S. Supreme Court Justices and more than 130 Nobel Prize laureates.

Prominent members of Phi Beta Kappa include former U.S. Secretaries of State Condoleezza Rice, Henry Kissinger, Dean Rusk and Daniel Webster; Indianapolis Colts’ quarterback Peyton Manning; author and activist Betty Friedan, author/writers John Updike and Michael Crichton; journalist Tom Brokaw; and chairman of the Federal Reserve System Ben Bernanke.

Phi Beta Kappa celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters invite for induction the most outstanding arts and sciences students at America’s leading colleges and universities. The Society sponsors activities to advance these studies – the humanities, the social sciences and the natural sciences – in higher education and in society at large.

Its national office sponsors various awards, fellowships, lectureships and scholarships, and works with other institutions with similar goals to advance the liberal arts and sciences. Phi Beta Kappa publishes two quarterlies, including the award-winning magazine The American Scholar.