Please join us on Thursday, May 24th, at 11am in the Hyman Forum of the Ungar Athenaeum for the Annual Spring Initiation Ceremony and Champagne Reception. We’re proud to induct 32 members of the Class of 2018, and honored to welcome PBK Society Secretary/CEO Frederick Lawrence as a special guest at the event.
Thanks to all who joined us at the 2017 Annual Spring Initiation Ceremony and Champagne Reception, which took place on Thursday, May 18th, 2017 in the Hyman Forum of the Athenaeum. We hope to see you at the next one, on May 24th, 2018, at 11am, in the Forum!
Constitution of the Beta Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society in the State of Maryland at Goucher College, Baltimore. Charter Granted September 7, 1904
The Society is one of the co-ordinate branches of the body known as THE UNITED CHAPTERS OF PHI BETA KAPPA, and shall be called the Beta Chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, in the State of Maryland.
The object of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is the promotion of scholarship and of friendship among students and graduates of American Colleges.
The members of the Chapter shall be elected primarily from the best scholars of the graduating classes of the College; secondly, from those graduates of said college whose post-graduate works entitles them to such honor, and lastly from persons distinguished in letters, science, or education; provided, however, that the selection from each graduating class shall not exceed one-fourth of the number graduated. But the Chapter may make further limitations or restrictions.
In addition to scholarship, good moral character shall be a qualification of membership and any member who is found to have lost this qualification may be expelled from the Society by a four-fifths vote of the members present at a regular annual meeting of the Society.
This Chapter shall send a delegation to represent it at each National Council of the United Chapters, shall contribute its equal part to the financial support of the United Chapters and shall conform to the Constitution of the United Chapters and all the lawful requirements of the National Council.
This Chapter shall, by the enactment of suitable By-Laws provide for its elections of officers, the initiation of members, and the conduct of meetings, and for such other matters as it may deem wise so to regulate.
In typical Goucher spirit, the sanctity of the Phi Beta Kappa Society has always been tempered by humility and ironic self-awareness. From the very beginning, Goucher students tried to find a way of making this exclusive society less defined by elitism, usually in the yearbook, The Donnybrook Fair. The yearbook photo of the 1923 PBK initiates is captioned with “They tried to look human.” In her humorous essay for the Donnybrook Fair in 1926, Elizabeth B. Locke ‘23, ranked types of students and came to the conclusion that “To the first class belong the Phi Betas, secure in the fact that within those hallowed walls and within those walls only, is the key appreciated with sufficient awe.”
By far the best example of comic self-deprecation to come out of Goucher’s PBK chapter is a one page vignette included in the 1927 Donnybrook Fair entitled Phelice, or the Phate of the Phrivolous Phi Bete, which brilliantly lampoons Goucher’s early cultures of academic achievement and debutante society.
A counterpart to Phi Beta Kappa was the short lived Sigma Zeta which was created in 1925 to award outstanding achievement in extra curriculars “inspired by a love for Goucher.” However Sigma Zeta failed to attract serious attention and was discontinued in 1930.
A more enduring and more charming spin-off of the Phi Beta Kappa Society was the society of “Also-Rans.” The tradition was established as early as 1924, but probably earlier and persisted into the 1940’s. This group of students was comprised of those individuals who were high achievers but did not quite make the cut for PBK. The name is a pun on the fact that PBK members are “elected” to join the society, as if they were running for some public office. Instead of a gold PBK key, the Also-Rans wore a crude and comically large cardboard cut-out of a door key. After the abolition of Sigma Zeta in 1930, the Also-Rans assumed the semi-serious role of honoring extra curricular achievement, although poking fun at PBK remained integral as PBK members were ineligible for the Also-Rans. An essay by Professor Ernest P. Kuhl from 1925 speculates that had Ralph Waldo Emerson graduated from Goucher College, he would have likely been among the Also-Rans. An amusing description of the Also-Ran tradition is found in the 1928 Donnybrook Fair and is reprinted below:
“Goucher College has the distinction of being the first (and probably only) college to try out this plan for the suppression of the Bigger and Better spirit. ALSO RANS are immune to “servicitis”, “spiritosis” and “versatiloid fever”. The keynote of the group is casual futility. They do not burden themselves with an organization; their motto, if any, is: “Let’s not and say we did.” They abhor, if they bother to be that violent, all that smacks of arduous determination. Their life should be called a placid, enjoyable amble, but the eager Phi Betes and Sigma Zetes insist on referring to their happier sisters as those who “also ran”. Election to the society is a mysterious and spontaneous process which occurs simultaneously with the PBK proclamation in chapel. As the names of the Phi Betes are read, every one who is a doubtful candidate for that society is eagerly watched by a certain unknown, pre-installed ALSO RAN; when the doubtful PBK candidate’s name is not read, she is immediately embraced by the other ALSOS, crowned with a huge door-key on a purple ribbon and given the name of Filia Alsa Reanae. The eventful chapel over, the ALSO RANS mold themselves in a straggly line and saunter out singing jovially :
“We also ran, we did,
And came in very late ;
Thank Heaven for small blessings
For we are not Phi Bete.
We also ran, we also ran
A record to create;
We did: we ran and ran
And did not make Phi Bete.
We would not strive for Big and Better,
We did not crave an A. A. letter,
We didn’t get the grades that rate,
So thank the stars- we’re not Phi Bete.”
And thus the anti-uplift society announces itself to the college.”