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22 students inducted into Junior Phi Beta Kappa

Monday, February 18, 2013

Columbia College’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter welcomed 22 new members on February 15 in an initiation ceremony attended by parents, faculty and friends.

Students were welcomed into the national honor society by Marcellus Blount, associate professor of English and Comparative Literature and president of Columbia’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter; Hazel May, senior associate dean of academic affairs for the College and secretary of the New York Delta Phi Beta Kappa chapter; and James J. Valentini, dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education and a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

“Phi Beta Kappa inductees represent the best of what our system has to offer,” Professor Blount said to the students and guests at the induction ceremony. “In this room, intelligence abounds… it is so clear that you have been motivated to distinguish yourselves.”

The 22 students were chosen by a faculty selection committee of Phi Beta Kappa members based on the breadth, depth and rigor of their academic programs, as well as recommendations from faculty members who have worked closely them. 

“The seniors to be initiated today are those that our chapter’s faculty members consider the academic stars of the Class of 2013,” Dean May said. “But as academically accomplished as these students are, what is also clear is that there are also good and generous human beings.”

Each year, 10 percent of the Columbia College graduating class is elected to membership in Phi Beta Kappa. Two percent (Junior Phi Beta Kappa) is elected in the fall and the remaining eight percent is elected in the spring. 

Columbia College Dean James J. Valentini said the Junior Phi Beta Kappa inductees justify his claim that “Columbia College is the greatest college in the greatest university in the greatest city in the world.”

“You are the all-stars,” he said “I am equally proud of all of you.”

Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 for the pursuit of “friendship, morality, and literature.” It was the first student group to adopt Greek letters, standing for the Greek words philosophies bios kubernetes, or “love of wisdom, the guide of life.” Today, this honor society celebrates and promotes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. To be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa is one of the highest academic honors for undergraduate students and recognizes their exceptional scholarship.

During the February 15 induction ceremony, students signed a book that has been signed by every Columbia Phi Beta Kappa inductee since 1900. Columbia founded its chapter of Phi Beta Kappa in 1869.

The book includes signatures of the nine graduates of Columbia College who have won the Nobel Prize. All were members of Phi Beta Kappa, Dean May said.

“It is this very impressive group that you are joining today,” she said. “No pressure!”

Professor Blount said he is confident that the students will continue to distinguish themselves after graduation.

“I’m vested in the notion that this is just the beginning for you,” Professor Blount said to the inductees. “Phi Beta Kappa is a mark not only of where you’ve been but of where you are headed.”


The Class of 2013 Junior Phi Beta Kappa members are:

Travis Baseler
Jason Bell
Tyler Benedict
Caitlin Brown
Woo Chang Chung
Peter Conroy
Kevin Crowley
Hannah Deresiewicz
Joel Dierbeck 
Frederic Dulson
Leah Friedman
Matthew Gladstone
Cynthia Harris
Yuxiao Huang
Samuel Kohn
Gavin McGown
Gerard Ramm
Billy Rees 
Rotem Rusak
Matthew Salant
Katharina Shaw
James Wiseman 

Click here to see photos from the ceremony.