WMU celebrates 20 years as home to a Phi Beta Kappa chapter

Contact: Cheryl Roland
2002 Phi Beta Kappa officers Paul Pancella, John Petro, Maria Perez-Stable, Joe Reish, and Art McGurn.

2002 Phi Beta Kappa officers, left to right: Paul Pancella, John Petro, Maria Perez-Stable, Joe Reish, and Art McGurn.

KALAMAZOO, Mich.—An early April induction of up to 81 top juniors and seniors will mark the 20th anniversary of Western Michigan University's chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most prestigious honors organization in the nation.

The April 10 ceremony will bring the total of members in the WMU chapter to nearly 1,500 since WMU was authorized in 1997 to shelter a chapter, formally installing the honorary society in 1998 during a spring ceremony. Securing the right to have a chapter was a 28-year effort at WMU and a goal of then-President Diether H. Haenicke, from the start of his 13-year presidency to the successful realization of the effort just months before his retirement.

Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. Today, just 286 college and universities are authorized to shelter chapters. Members have included 17 U.S. presidents, 40 U.S. Supreme Court justices and 136 Nobel Laureates. Phi Beta Kappa members have ranged from John Quincy Adams and Eli Whitney to Robert Frost, Condoleezza Rice and E.J. Dionne.

The mission of the organization is to foster and recognize excellence in undergraduate liberal arts and science education. Eligibility requirements include being among the top 10 percent of a graduating class's degree candidates in the liberal arts and sciences.

With just over 100 public universities approved for a chapter, WMU remains among an elite group both nationally and in Michigan. In Michigan, only four public universities are authorized to have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. In addition to WMU, they are Michigan State University, University of Michigan and Wayne State Universities. Four Michigan private colleges also are part of the Phi Beta Kappa network.

For more WMU news, arts and events, visit wmich.edu/news.