Guide to the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association and Lambda Chapter Records, 1921-1998

1140

Collection Overview

Title:
Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association and Lambda Chapter Records
Dates (Inclusive):
1921-1998
Creator:
Phi Beta Kappa. Lambda Chapter (Pennsylvania State University)
Abstract:
Alumni of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest national honor society in the nation, organized a Phi Beta Kappa alumni association at Penn State in 1921. This group initiated the Lambda chapter in 1937.
Abstract:
The collection documents the efforts of a Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association to establish a local chapter of the honorary fraternity at Pennsylvania State University. This collection contains records of both organizations, including founding records, manuals, publications, programs, rosters, 1 scroll and 1 scroll panel, and as well as correspondences.
Collection Number:
1140
Size:
4 Cubic feet
Location:
For current information on the location of these materials, please consult the Special Collections Library  library catalog.
Repository:
Special Collections Library. Pennsylvania State University.
Languages:
English

Biographical Note

In 1921 several professors gathered in a meeting the persons in the State College area who had been initiated into the national honorary fraternity as undergraduates in other colleges and universities. This group met regularly from 1921 until 1937 and occupied itself by working toward starting a Penn State Chapter. Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at the Pennsylvania State College on December 7, 1937, as the culmination of sixteen years of effort exerted by certain members of the College faculty. Founded in 1776 at William and Mary College, Phi Beta Kappa had become moribund until the decades following the American Civil War when it again began to issue charters to liberal arts institutions throughout the nation. Pennsylvania got its first o Alpha Chapter at Dickinson, its Beta Chapter at Lehigh, etc., in this period. In the 1920's, however, the officers of the national organization believed that chapters should not be instituted at State universities because of their principal orientation toward scientific, mechanical, agricultural or other vocational matters. By an active campaign among colleague Phi Betas in the country, the Penn State faculty managed by 1937 to glean the requisite ninety percent favorable vote on their application for charter. The installation was conducted on the 161st anniversary of the founding of the first chapter in Williamsburg. More than 100 persons attended a subsequent banquet at the Nittany Lion Inn addressed by the national president, Frank P. Graves, Commissioner of Education for New York State. The first undergraduate members were initiated the following June, thirteen of the 5,419 undergraduate students being so honored. Subsequent activities were limited largely to annual banquets and occasional sponsorships of public lectures, of which one, "Can we keep America out of War" by American Firster Gerald Nye, was notable in that he appeared in State College just eight weeks before the Fall of France, when the national answer became "No.". In the first twenty-five years the Chapter initiated 528 persons, of which only two were honorary, one of whom was President R.D. Hetzel.

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Collection Overview

The collection consists of the records of two organizations: the Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association formed in 1921 and the Lambda Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa from its 1937 founding to 1998. These records form the bulk of the collection. In addition to these materials there is printed matter, a miscellaneous series which includes the outstanding calligraphy of William S. Hoffman in the Phi Beta Kappa scrolls, and a series which includes papers of President Carl E. Marquardt and Secretary C.V.D. Bissey concerning their Phi Beta Kappa activities.

The Phi Beta Kappa records described in this inventory present a complete picture of the organization's history. All of the prime movers in its formation have deposited their papers in this collection and most surviving minutes and printed records seem to be contained as well. The trials of the establishment of the chapter are well represented.

The Phi Beta Kappa activities of Professor Carl Marquardt in particular are well documented in the collection. Others who were chapter presidents reveal something of their character as well. The collection is rich in correspondence of many of the University's most eminent faculty members. The scroll and subsequent calligraphic panels annually record the officers for the year and the program for the foundation dinner. Another panel shows the names of the new members. By exception one panel is devoted to Lt. Harry Wagner, in whose honor the Wagner Building is named. He was initiated into the Lambda Chapter in May 1940. He died on June 28, 1944, in action in France in World War II. The last completed panel is devoted to Dr. Hetzel, who died in 1947 after twenty years as Penn State President.

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Administrative Information

Access Restrictions

This collection is open for use only by verified members of the honor society and/or researchers with written permission of the honor society.

Copyright Notice

Copyright is retained by the creators of items in these papers, or their descendants, as stipulated by United States copyright law.

Preferred Citation

[Identification of item], Phi Beta Kappa Alumni Association and Lambda Chapter Records. (1140), Penn State University Archives, Special Collections Library, Pennsylvania State University.

Processing Information

Processed by Special Collections staff.

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Controlled Access Headings

Corporate Name(s)

  • Phi Beta Kappa. Lambda Chapter (Pennsylvania State University)

Genre(s)

  • Scrapbooks
  • Photographic

Subject(s)

  • Greek letter societies Pennsylvania University Park

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Collection Inventory

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