A frat for smart students

John Heath cropON THIS DATE in 1776, eighteen-year-old John Heath (above) and four of his College of William and Mary classmates created the Phi Beta Kappa honorary society.

Some say the Phi Beta Kappa society came to be after an established fraternal order snubbed John. According to this version, the studious teenager got the thumbs down from the College of William & Mary’s P.D.A. (which may have stood for “Please Don’t Ask”) Society, and then promptly established his own fraternal order.

Other sources say the initial Phi Beta Kappa members had no interest in P.D.A. They preferred a society that emphasized liberal education and intellectual fellowship, unlike P.D.A., which had devolved into a party-hearty club.

Heath’s new society took the name Phi Beta Kappa, based on the Greek phrase, “Love of wisdom, guide to life,” and he served as its first president while attending the Williamsburg, Virginia, college.

The society eventually became an academic honor group, with membership earned by achievement rather than invitation. According to the Phi Beta Kappa website, 17 U.S. Presidents, 38 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and 136 Nobel laureates have been members of the academic honor society

Notable members, past and present, include ex-presidents John Quincy Adams, Chester A. Arthur, Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, George H.W. Bush, and Bill Clinton as well as former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Supreme Court justice Sonia Sotomayor, actors Paul Robeson and Ashley Judd, broadcaster Tom Brokaw, and football player Peyton Manning.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s