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Academic prestige at Loyola

In 1776, students at the College of William and Mary founded what would become the oldest and most prestigious honors society in the country.

Phi Beta Kappa is an academic honors society that celebrates the depth and breadth of study in the liberal arts and sciences.

Loyola is one of the 283 universities to have a chapter—less than 10 percent of colleges and universities in the country.

“My personal experience is that being a Phi Beta Kappa member is very valuable,” says Anne Hupert, the faculty secretary treasurer of Loyola’s chapter. “It’s really a phenomenal list of people who are Phi Beta Kappa members.”

Notable past and present members include former president Bill Clinton, author Nathaniel Hawthorne, former secretary of state Condoleeza Rice, and former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Hupert, who is also math professor at the University, has been a Phi Beta Kappa member since 1971.

“I wanted to help our students recognize this high standard of excellence,” she says.

This May, 54 Loyola students were initiated, including three juniors and 51 seniors. To be eligible, students must have a wide range of study in the liberal arts and sciences, have at least two years of a foreign language, and take at least one math class. Inductees must also have good moral character and keep a GPA of at least 3.90 for seniors and 3.95 for juniors.

Among the three initiated juniors was Thomas Serena, a pre-med psychology student.

“I decided to join because Phi Beta Kappa is considered to be one of the most, if not the most prestigious national honors society,” says Serena, now a rising senior. “It celebrates and advocates for excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and celebrates lifelong learning.”

Tracey Riley, another junior inductee, embodies Phi Beta Kappa’s motto: “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

Riley, also a psychology major, added Phi Beta Kappa to her list of honors societies, including Alpha Sigma Nu and Psi Chi.

“This one is the most important one to me, by far,” says the 21-year-old, “because it’s the most well known and it’s the hardest one to get into.”

Riley says that she has worked very hard for to excel in her studies and admits that sometimes it is difficult to talk about her high GPA with other students.  Her membership to Phi Beta Kappa recognizes her success and is a testament to her dedication to education.

Last year, Phi Beta Kappa decided to raise membership standards to include four years of a foreign language and include an axiomatic reasoning (or theoretical) math class.

Hupert suggests that interested students take these new criteria into consideration when deciding which CORE classes to sign up for. For example, taking CALC 161/162 would count, whereas CALC 131/132 would not.

Phi Beta Kappa’s national chapter also gives funding to the University to bring in notable members to give talks. In 1998, Loyola’s chapter brought Dr. Joseph Brown, then head of the Human Genome Project.

Hupert says they are “making preparations” to have an esteemed speaker give a lecture for this academic year.