Mercer Granted Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Nation’s Oldest and Most Prestigious Academic Honor Society


MACON – The nation's oldest and most prestigious academic honor society – Phi Beta Kappa – today approved the granting of a chapter to Mercer University during the organization's 44th Triennial Council in Denver, Colorado. Mercer becomes just the third Georgia research university – joining Emory and the University of Georgia – and one of only 286 nationally to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

The positive vote by delegates to The Phi Beta Kappa Society's Triennial Council, acting on a unanimous recommendation from the Society's Committee on Qualifications and Senate, is the culmination of a years-long and highly competitive process. Applications are only considered every three years.

“The granting of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter to Mercer University rewards the hard work and diligence of many faculty members and administrators who prepared our application, planned and hosted a successful site visit by the Committee on Qualifications in 2014, and advocated for Mercer's place in this most respected cohort of American academic institutions,” said President William D. Underwood. “It is an important affirmation of the rigor of Mercer's arts and sciences curriculum, the quality of its faculty and students, and the strength of its mission and values.”

In its recommendation for Mercer's membership, the Committee on Qualifications described Mercer as “a quintessentially Phi Beta Kappa institution in its values and its mission.”

“Phi Beta Kappa represents the very best ideals of the liberal arts, hosting chapters at fewer than 10 percent of national academic institutions. The granting of the chapter provides humbling acknowledgement of the College of Liberal Arts' commitment to the highest standards of undergraduate education, societal engagement and scholarly pursuits,” said Dr. Keith Howard, interim dean of the College of Liberal Arts and professor of mathematics. “Through the Phi Beta Kappa chapter, the College will have the means to confer a world-recognized badge of distinction to its most talented students.”

Mercer's chapter, which will be known as Zeta of Georgia, will induct its first members in spring 2016. In order to qualify for membership, students must excel in a rigorous liberal arts curriculum with coursework in foreign languages and quantitative reasoning and show good character. Students ranked exceptional among their peers in the junior and senior classes will be considered for membership, and they will be selected by the Phi Beta Kappa members of Mercer's faculty.

“The faculty and administration of the College of Liberal Arts have pursued a chapter diligently for several years and are elated to see this effort come to fruition. We eagerly anticipate inducting our charter class of students this year, recognizing that they are among the best and brightest in the nation,” said Dr. Jeff Denny, chair of Mercer's Phi Beta Kappa application committee, associate dean in the College of Liberal Arts and associate professor of mathematics.

Five students at the College of William and Mary founded The Phi Beta Kappa Society on Dec. 5, 1776, during the American Revolution. Today, the Society celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences while embracing the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression.

Only about 10 percent of the nation's institutions of higher learning have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. And only about 10 percent of the arts and sciences graduates of these distinguished institutions are invited to join The Phi Beta Kappa Society, which makes the invitation process one of the most selective in the nation. Since the Society's founding, 17 U.S. presidents, 39 U.S. Supreme Court justices and more than 130 Nobel Laureates have been inducted as members, along with noted authors, diplomats, athletes, researchers, actors and business leaders.