Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest academic honor society, founded in 1776 by five students at the College of William and Mary. The Society 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, the fine arts, and the natural sciences — in higher education and in society at large. Only about 10 percent of the nation's institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Only about 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates of these distinguished institutions are selected for Phi Beta Kappa membership. Each year, about one college senior in a hundred, nationwide, is invited to join. Membership in Phi Beta Kappa shows commitment to the liberal arts and sciences and to freedom of inquiry and expression.
Theta of Minnesota, our chapter at the College of Saint Benedict and Saint John's University, was established after delegates from more than 200 chapters and associations of Phi Beta Kappa voted to establish it on October 2, 2009, during their Triennial Council in Austin, Texas. Our chapter was the eighth Phi Beta Kappa chapter established in Minnesota and was named 'Theta' after the eighth letter of the Greek alphabet. The chapter elected its first class of members in the spring of 2010. Our annual induction ceremony and banquet is held every spring around the end of April.
There is no application for membership in the Society. Students are elected by the faculty and staff members of the Chapter, based on criteria including a major in a field included among the liberal arts and sciences, minimum GPA of 3.65 for seniors and 3.75 for juniors, breadth and depth of coursework, and good character.
Students have two occasions to be considered for election to Phi Beta Kappa:
PBK Key: The Symbol of the Society
The Greek letters "Phi Beta Kappa" stand for the motto Philosophia Biou Kubernetes, "Love of learning is the guide of life." The three stars in the upper left-hand corner on the front of the key symbolize the aims of the Society: Friendship, Morality, and Literature (or Scholarship). A pointing hand in the lower right-hand corner stands for aspiration. On the reverse side are inscribed the letters S and P, which stand for the Society's second motto, the Latin words Societas Philosophiae, meaning "philosophical society." Below them appears the date of the founding of the first chapter: December 5, 1776. The member's name and electing chapter are engraved above.