The Phi Beta Kappa Society

Photo of PBK Induction
May 2018 PBK Induction Ceremony

Founded in 1776 to celebrate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and promote freedom of thought, Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) is America’s oldest and most eminent academic honor society.

Only about 10 percent of the nation’s colleges and universities have been awarded PBK chapters. At each college with a chapter, no more than 10 percent of a particular year’s graduating class is inducted. Students are elected whose achievements reflect broad cultural interests, outstanding scholarship, and good character.

Image of Phi Beta Kappa keyHollins was the 171st college to earn a PBK chapter: the Iota of Virginia. The commonwealth’s ninth chapter was awarded to Hollins in 1961 with installation taking place on February 20, 1962. Over the years, more than 900 Hollins students have been elected to the society.

One of the many benefits of having a PBK chapter is the society’s Visiting Scholars Program, which offers students the opportunity to spend time and exchange ideas with some of the nation’s most distinguished scholars. Those who have come to Hollins previously include:

  • Classicist Moses Hadas
  • Chekhov scholar Ernest J. Simmons
  • Nobel Prize-winning physicist Polykarp Kusch
  • Artist Lamar Dodd
  • Harvard nutrition expert Jean Mayer
  • Economist William C. Greenough

Photo of Laura BrownHollins is welcoming Visiting Scholar Laura Brown, the John Wendell Anderson Professor of English at Cornell University, in February 2019. As a teacher and scholar, Brown studies women writers, slavery and imperialism, species and racial difference, the portrayal of animals, and the imaginative force of “things.” Her most recent books explore the rise of the modern imaginative engagement with animals and the ways in which cultural history shapes literary form.

Brown will take part in a roundtable discussion and reception on Monday, February 18, at 5 p.m. in Wyndham Robertson Library’s Hollins Room. Then, on Tuesday, February 19, she will deliver a public lecture at 5 p.m. in Niederer Auditorium, Wetherill Visual Arts Center.

Pultizer Prize-winning author Natasha Trethewey M.A. ’91 is participating in the Visiting Scholars Program this year, speaking at colleges and universities around the country.

Phi Beta Kappa’s name originated from the motto “Love of learning is the guide of life.”