Columbia College’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter welcomed 22 new members as Junior Phi Beta Kappa members on January 31 in an initiation ceremony attended by parents, faculty and friends. The 22 students have been 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 with them.
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.
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.
The ceremony began with an introduction from Hazel May, senior associate dean of Academic Affairs. May noted that the inductees embodied not just academic achievement but also achievement of character. "As accomplished as they are, what is also clear is that they are good and generous human beings," she said, after reading excerpts from the inductees' faculty recommendation letters.
During the January 31 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.
Dean James J. Valentini gave a nod to the society's past and to its future. "We no longer have a secret handshake and [Phi Beta Kappa] is no longer a secret society,” he said to the students. “But I hope it will be both an intellectual and social society [for you].”
The book includes signatures of the nine graduates of Columbia College who have won the Nobel Prize. All were members of Phi Beta Kappa, May said.
"In signing this book you write yourselves into the history of this institution," said Marcellus Blount, associate professor of English and comparative literature. "And of course I mean Phi beta Kappa, but I also mean Columbia College."
The Class of 2014 Junior Phi Beta Kappa members are:
Margarete Diaz Cuadros
Ling Feng Ye