Phi Beta Kappa Is Founded

On December 5, 1776, Phi Beta Kappa, America's most prestigious undergraduate honor society, was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Membership in the organization is based on outstanding achievement in the liberal arts and sciences and typically limited to students in the upper tenth of their graduating class.

Organized by a group of enterprising undergraduates, Phi Beta Kappa was the nation's first Greek letter society. From 1776 to 1780, members met regularly at William and Mary to write, debate, and socialize. They also planned the organization's expansion and established the characteristics typical of American fraternities and sororities: an oath of secrecy, a code of laws, mottoes in Greek and Latin, and an elaborate initiation ritual. When the Revolutionary War forced William and Mary to close in 1780, newly-formed chapters at Harvard and Yale directed Phi Beta Kappa's growth and development.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is an academic honor society with the mission to "celebrate and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences; and for induction of the most outstanding students of arts and sciences at America’s leading colleges and universities." Founded at the College of William and Mary on December 5, 1776, as the first college fraternity, it is now the oldest, and considered the most prestigious, liberal arts and sciences honor society in the United States. Phi Beta Kappa is also the first collegiate organization to adopt a Greek-letter name. Today there are 276 chapters and over half a million living members.

Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) stands for Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης or philosophia biou kybernētēs — "Love of learning is the guide of life."