Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa


Phi Beta Kappa was founded by five students at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on December 5, 1776. They were determined to develop a student society that would be devoted to the pursuit of liberal education and intellectual fellowship. The Greek initials for the society's motto, "love of learning is the guide of life," form the name Phi Beta Kappa.

The first college society to bear a Greek-letter name, PBK introduced the essential characteristics of the Greek societies that followed it: an oath of secrecy, a badge, mottoes in Greek and Latin, a code of laws, an elaborate form of initiation, a seal, and a special handshake. The organization was created as a secret society so that its founders would have the freedom to discuss any topic they chose. Although no longer a secret society, freedom of inquiry has been a hallmark of PBK ever since. Today there are 286 chapters at American colleges and universities, and there are more than 50 active alumni associations located in all regions of the country.

Phi Beta Kappa recognizes and honors exceptional academic achievement in the arts and sciences. Only 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and these chapters select only the top 10 percent of their arts and sciences graduates to join, making Phi Beta Kappa membership one of the most prestigious honors a student can receive. Since the Society's founding in 1776, 17 U.S. Presidents, 39 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and more than 130 Nobel Laureates have been inducted as members, along with countless authors, diplomats, athletes, researchers, actors, and business leaders. All of Phi Beta Kappa’s members have one thing in common—their rigorous pursuit of excellence in the arts and sciences.

Mercer University was chartered to shelter the Zeta Chapter of Georgia in 2015. The members of the Society describe Mercer as a quintessentially Phi Beta Kappa institution in its values, its mission, in its curriculum and general education requirements, in the variety of opportunities it provides its students, in the quality of its best undergraduates, and in the engagement of the faculty in all aspects of undergraduate education. 

Mercer's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was installed on April 9, 2016. On that day, dignitaries including Phi Beta Kappa President Kate Berheide and Executive Secretary John Churchill dedicated the Phi Beta Kappa Plaza on the historic quadrangle, presented the charter for Zeta of Georgia, and observed the induction of Mercer's inaugural class of Phi Beta Kappa Members in Course.

Mercer's Phi Beta Kappa monument

Phi Beta Kappa Plaza at Mercer University. The base of the monument is made of granite slabs taken from the foundations of the science buildings on the original campus at Penfield, Georgia.