CORVALLIS, Ore. – Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society, will install a new chapter at Oregon State University at a special ceremony on Thursday, April 28.
The Epsilon of Oregon chapter will become the 286th Phi Beta Kappa chapter installed in the society’s 240-year history. The installation, led by Phi Beta Kappa President Catherine White Berheide, begins at 6 p.m. in Room 100 of the Learning Innovation Center on OSU’s Corvallis campus. It is free and open to the public.
Immediately following the installation, the new chapter will induct its first class of members. About 200 Oregon State University juniors and seniors will be recognized for their accomplishments in the liberal arts and sciences.
The new chapter also will induct four notable individuals as members, called Foundation members, selected in honor of their achievements, as well as their ongoing commitment to the arts and sciences. They are: writer, journalist, and educator Ta-Nehisi Coates, and OSU graduates Jon DeVaan, Patricia Reser and Patrick Stone. A chapter many induct chapter Foundation members only at installation.
Coates will offer a video message at the ceremony; he is planning a visit to OSU in the future to acknowledge his induction, meet with students and give a public lecture.
OSU President Edward J. Ray, who has been a member of Phi Beta Kappa since he was inducted during his studies at Queens College in the City University of New York, will also provide remarks at the event.
“I am genuinely pleased that we are now able to offer Phi Beta Kappa membership to some of Oregon State’s many high-achieving students,” Ray said. “Becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa had a profound impact on my life and on my career as a higher education leader.”
When Ray was in college, he could not afford the membership fee, but a family friend generously paid it for him. That inspired Ray and his late wife, Beth, to set up a fund to make sure OSU students with similar financial limitations aren’t prevented from becoming members.
The Kay Bowers Fund for Phi Beta Kappa Students, established by the Rays, will provide assistance for eligible students who don’t have the resources to pay the society’s lifetime membership fee.
Because of the generosity of the Rays and with support from OSU administrators Larry Rodgers, Sastry Pantula, Toni Doolen and Susie Brubaker-Cole, OSU is covering membership fees for all students in the inaugural class of inductees, said Christopher McKnight Nichols, an assistant professor of history at OSU and vice president-elect of the new chapter.
“The level of commitment OSU has displayed in encouraging and advancing student achievement is truly remarkable,” said Phi Beta Kappa Secretary John Churchill. “The faculty and staff have worked together to create an environment that embodies academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. OSU Phi Beta Kappa graduates will be tomorrow’s critical thinkers and creative problem-solvers. We are very pleased to recognize OSU’s commitment and look forward to the chapter’s bright future.”
Only about 10 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities shelter Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Prospective inductees are usually seniors among the top 10 percent of their graduating class who have completed a broad range of liberal arts and science coursework, including foreign language study and mathematics. Exceptional students meeting the society’s requirements may also be considered as juniors.