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The Phi Beta Kappa Society honored the University of Wyoming as one of the nation’s two top public university chapters during its recent Triennial Council meeting in Denver.
The society presented two awards of excellence in each of three categories: private colleges, private universities and public universities, based on excellence in representing the ideals and commitments of Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) during the 2012-15 triennium. UW was selected from among 283 chartered institutions nationwide.
In making the selection, the society considered the initiation rate (100 percent at UW, almost unheard of in public universities) and programming that included a strong track record of visiting scholars, relations with the university and quality speakers at the initiation ceremonies, among other factors.
“I was totally unprepared to be called forward to accept this award for our chapter,” says Eric Nye, chapter secretary and a longtime Phi Beta Kappa member. “The values prized by PBK have never been more needed by our nation or our institution and, once chosen, we never cease to be members of Phi Beta Kappa.”
Nearly 300 delegates from the nation’s top colleges and universities meet once every three years to conduct the society’s business, charter new chapters (three this time), confer awards and elect the members of the PBK senate, the general governing body of the Phi Beta Kappa Society.
Nye was elected to the senate, marking the first time UW has been represented there. The senate consists of 24 senators each serving a six-year term (12 elected each triennium) who sit as the board of directors and guide the society in matters of policy, setting the direction for Phi Beta Kappa's future.
“The officers and resident members of our chapter should be justly proud of this national recognition by the representatives of the 282 other chartered institutions in the United States,” Nye says. “I hope we’ll find more and more of our 114 resident members at UW willing to join in our activities as we prepare to celebrate the 75th anniversary of our charter.” He says the UW chapter was founded in November 1940.
Several chapter officers recently received certificates of appreciation from John Churchill, executive secretary of PBK. UW Department of English Professor Erin Forbes was joined by Mary Aguayo of Student Affairs and Betsy Bress of the Department of Art and Art History.
America's original scholastic honor society, Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1776 to recognize and promote intellectual excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Less than 1 percent of U.S. college graduates in any year are selected, roughly 19,000 per year. The selection process is rigorous and conducted by the faculty members of the Alpha Chapter at UW who themselves were elected at their undergraduate institutions.
Nationally, there are fewer than 600,000 living members but, in its history, PBK members include 17 U.S. presidents, 38 Supreme Court justices and more than 130 Nobel laureates. The UW chapter sponsors lectures, scholarships and other academic activities.