With their right hands raised, the USC undergraduates recognized as leaders in their disciplines proudly recited an oath promising to be faithful to the ideals of Phi Beta Kappa.
Vowing to uphold the Greek motto, “love of learning is the guide to life,” 221 juniors and seniors were named into the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society during the annual Phi Beta Kappa Society Epsilon Chapter of California at USC ceremony held March 30 at Town and Gown.
Those selected have demonstrated intellectual integrity, interest in various views and a range of academic interests. Students joined members who include United States Supreme Court justices, U.S. presidents and Nobel laureates.
Jennie Lee, a junior majoring in philosophy, politics and law in USC Dornsife, is proud to have been chosen as a member of the distinguished group.
“I feel really honored to be a part of Phi Beta Kappa,” Lee said. “Especially to be named among all these other students who are so highly qualified.”
Katherine Fu, a junior double majoring in biological sciences and neuroscience in USC Dornsife, was also among the new members.
“It is a huge honor especially as a junior,” Fu said. “ ‘Lifelong learning’ corresponds with my life goals.”
After reviewing their grade point averages, the Executive Faculty Phi Beta Kappa Board selects members to join the society and invites them to take part in the traditional induction ceremony. Initiation fees are underwritten by USC Dornsife.
Won Lee, a senior international relations major in USC Dornsife, was pleasantly surprised that he had been elected into the elite society.
“It is surreal because I’ve always heard about Phi Beta Kappa and knew of its reputation,” Lee said. “It’s slowly seeping in that I’m a member.”
USC faculty and administrators lauded the achievements of the inductees, the majority of whom were from USC Dornsife.
“The students we support and honor today have reached academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences,” said Robin Romans, associate provost for undergraduate programs and president of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at USC. “They are joining a society that represents a high calling in the life of the mind; a society that holds the hallmark of inquiry, accomplishment and civic responsibility — members in this society represent decades of values in liberal arts and sciences.”
Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1776 during the American Revolution by students at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. It is the oldest honor society in the U.S., recognizing stellar achievements in the liberal arts and sciences. Nationwide, 280 academic institutions have chapters. The USC chapter was founded in 1929.
In his keynote address, Edwin McCann, president of the USC Dornsife Faculty Council and professor of English and philosophy, said the Greek translation of Phi Beta Kappa perfectly encapsulates the society’s values. Phi is the root word for philosophy, a discipline grounded on inquiry and a liberal art’s cornerstone. Beta is Greek for life. Beta can indicate the study of life or the life we live as human beings, he said.
“It is an ongoing occupation to live a satisfying and fulfilling life,” McCann said. “It demands liberty and the freedom to make one’s own choices to pursue whatever one has identified as worthy.
“The best kind of education to this end is a liberal education,” he added. “One that liberates the mind from bondage and prejudice and sloppy thinking. It is liberal education that prepares the mind to accomplish what one pursues.”
Information about Phi Beta Kappa can be found at dornsife.usc.edu/phi-beta-kappa/