Texas Archival Resources Online

TABLE OF CONTENTS


Overview

Historical Note

Scope and Contents of the Collection

Arrangement of the Collection

Restrictions

Access Terms

Related Material

Administrative Information

Description of Series

Correspondence on the Establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at SMU, 1916-1949

Efforts of Other Institutions to Found Phi Beta Kappa Chapters (mostly correspondence as well, same general time period)

Installation Proceedings and Governing Documents of SMU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter

Documents on the SMU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter’s Activities and Internal Operations

Southern Methodist University

Southern Methodist University Phi Beta Kappa records

A Guide to the Collection



Overview

Creator: Phi Beta Kappa. Gamma Chapter of Texas (Southern Methodist University)
Title: Southern Methodist University Phi Beta Kappa records
Inclusive Dates: 1916-1968
Abstract: Contains the papers of the Southern Methodist University chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, from the time the University began the process of founding a chapter in the years shortly after SMU was founded in 1915, until the late 1960s. The collection includes documents used to found and operate the SMU chapter, correspondence regarding SMU’s petition for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, the charter, the constitution, and the bylaws drawn up for the SMU chapter. The collection further contains financial records, secretary’s annual reports, addresses, publications, chapter activities, and lists of SMU members of Phi Beta Kappa including two boxes of member information cards.
Accession No: SMU 2005.0371
Extent: 5 boxes (2.5 linear feet)
Language: Material is in English
Repository Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University

Historical Note

As is clear from the correspondence contained in the collection, efforts to install a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Southern Methodist University began not long after the establishment of the school in 1915. SMU was successful in its efforts in 1949; the approval of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter there was considered to be "a true vote of confidence for the intellectual life of what was then a young university." SMU President Umphrey Lee became the first to sign the charter register.

The SMU chapter is today part of the South Central District of the national organization, and is the Gamma Chapter within the state of Texas. Requirements for membership in Phi Beta Kappa, briefly, include an excellent GPA and a challenging course of study that is based in the liberal arts. Those who are invited to become members represent the highest echelons of academic performance, prospective inductees being selected from the top 10% of their respective classes. The SMU chapter holds its Initiation ceremony each spring; faculty members who are themselves members of Phi Beta Kappa are on hand to pass along the society to its newest members.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest undergraduate honors society in the United States. It was founded at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia in 1776. Due to the ongoing Revolutionary War and the resulting closure of the college, the original society lasted only four years, but not before establishing the basic structure and characteristics of the society (and thus serving as a model for similar organizations). These included an oath of secrecy, governing rules and documents, initiation procedures, and a motto in Greek or Latin (Phi Beta Kappa’s motto is Philosophia Biou Kubernetes: "the love of wisdom is the guide of life"). A golden key is representative of the society and symbolic of Phi Beta Kappa’s emphasis on academic achievement and pursuit of learning.

Despite the interruption due to the American Revolution, the Virginia chapter was still able to found two other chapters at Yale and Harvard. These two chapters kept Phi Beta Kappa going, and the society expanded considerably during the 1800s, growing to 25 chapters nationwide by 1883. In the following three decades, over sixty new chapters were established, and today, The Phi Beta Kappa Society (the official name of the organization since 1988) has 276 chapters across the United States.

Prior to the establishment of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter, the main honor society at SMU from 1916 until 1949 was Alpha Theta Phi. Several faculty members—who were also members of Phi Beta Kappa—brought Alpha Theta Phi to SMU. This honor society must have been fairly obscure, as the chapter at SMU was only one of three in the entire United States. The other two chapters of Alpha Theta Phi, or at least those that were in existence as of 1949, were at the University of North Carolina and Vanderbilt University. The SMU chapter of Alpha Theta Phi was disbanded on December 6, 1949; the official installation of Phi Beta Kappa took place six days later.

Source of Quote: http://www.smu.edu/registrar/Honors_Convocation/Honor_Societies.asp

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Scope and Contents of the Collection

This collection contains the papers pertaining to the efforts to establish a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at SMU, as well as relevant documents and records used after that chapter was installed. The papers cover roughly a 50-year time period. Documents from Alpha Theta Phi, precursor to Phi Beta Kappa, are included in this collection, although early records on this society, especially regarding its founding, are either lost or unavailable.

The Southern Methodist University Phi Beta Kappa records are organized into four series. The first contains the correspondence generated by SMU’s request for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter from about 1916 through the 1940s (Boxes 1 and 2). The second series concerns efforts by other colleges and universities during this period to establish Phi Beta Kappa chapters at their respective institutions, and this also is mostly correspondence between the various schools and Phi Beta Kappa (Box 2). The SMU chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was founded in 1949, and Series 3 holds important society documents, including information on the installation proceedings as well as the chapter’s charter and governing documents (Box 2).

Series 4 contains various documents and information dealing with the operation of the Phi Beta Kappa chapter at SMU: chapter activities, officers, committees, financial records, annual reports, and records on society members including two boxes with member information cards (Boxes 2 through 5).

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Arrangement of the Collection

The collection is organized into 4 series:
Series 1: Correspondence on the Establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at SMU, 1916-1949
Series 2: Efforts of Other Institutions to Found Phi Beta Kappa Chapters
Series 3: Installation Proceedings and Governing Documents of SMU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter
Series 4: Documents on the SMU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter’s Activities and Internal Operations

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Restrictions

Access to Collection:

Collection is open for research use.

Publication Rights:

Permission to publish materials must be obtained from the Director of the DeGolyer Library.

Copyright Statement:

It is the responsibility of the user to obtain copyright authorization.

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Access Terms

This collection is indexed under the following terms in the Southern Methodist University Libraries' online catalog. Researchers desiring related materials may search the catalog using these terms.
Southern Methodist University --Societies, etc.
Southern Methodist University --Students.
Phi Beta Kappa. Gamma Chapter of Texas (Southern Methodist University).

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Related Material

Southern Methodist University Phi Beta Kappa Charters, 1949. (SMU 1991.0034x)

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Administrative Information

Preferred Citation

Southern Methodist University Phi Beta Kappa records, Southern Methodist University Archives, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Acquisition Information

Deposit.

Processing Information

Finding Aid Written by Paul H. Santa Cruz, 2007.

Encoded by

Lara Corazalla, 2007.

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Detailed Description of the Collection

 

Series 1:
Correspondence on the Establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa Chapter at SMU, 1916-1949

Box Folder
1 1 South-Central District of PBK, Correspondence: 1916-1926 (Incl. undated items)
2 South-Central District of PBK, Correspondence: 1927-1929
3 South-Central District of PBK, Correspondence: 1930-1937
4 Minutes, South-Central District Conference
5 South-Central District, PBK—H.J. Leon, Secretary: 1952-1958
6 South-Central District, PBK—Karlem Reiss, Secretary: 1958-1961
7 South-Central District, PBK—Karlem Reiss, Secretary: 1961-1967
8 Alpha Theta Phi (Predecessor to PBK)
Box Folder
2 1 Correspondence—SMU’s petition for PBK Chapter, 1925-1929
2 Correspondence—SMU’s petition for PBK Chapter, 1930-1942
3 Correspondence—SMU’s petition for PBK Chapter, 1946-1949

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Series 2:
Efforts of Other Institutions to Found Phi Beta Kappa Chapters (mostly correspondence as well, same general time period)

Box Folder
2 4 Agnes Scott College: Decatur, GA
5 University of Arkansas: Fayetteville, AR
6 University of Florida: Gainesville, FL
7 Birmingham-Southern College: Birmingham, AL
8 University of Kentucky: Lexington, KY
9 University of Richmond: Richmond, VA
10 Rice Institute: Houston, TX

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Series 3:
Installation Proceedings and Governing Documents of SMU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter

Box Folder
2 11 Installation of SMU’s Chapter PBK (Gamma Chapter of Texas)
12 Other Installation Information
13 SMU’s PBK Charter, Constitution, By-Laws (Gamma Chapter of Texas)

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Series 4:
Documents on the SMU Phi Beta Kappa Chapter’s Activities and Internal Operations

Box Folder
2 14 SMU’s Officers, Committee, Emeritus Members, Faculties of PBK
15 Phi Beta Kappa Activities
Box Item
3 1 Alpha Theta Pi: Card File of Members, 1917-1949 (box)
2 Alpha Theta Pi: Misc. Records: change of address, financial items, invoices, correspondence, news clippings, ledger book of constitution, bylaws, etc (box)
Box Folder
4 1 Alumni and Honorary Members PBK, SMU
2 PBK Members at SMU
3 PBK Financial Records
4 Secretary’s Annual Reports (PBK SMU’s Chapter)
5 PBK Lectures and Addresses, 1940-1954
6 PBK Lectures and Addresses, 1954-1968
7 PBK Publications
Box Item
5 1 PBK Bank Statements, Cancelled Checks, SMU Chapter (box)
2 SMU PBK Members card catalog (box)
3 3 PBK member pins (box)

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