Phi Beta Kappa - Tau of California

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History of Phi Beta Kappa

Members of the CMC
Chapter, Tau of California

The National Society

The Phi Beta Kappa Key

Additional Information

John Pitney
Roy P. Crocker Professor of Politics
Kravis Center 232
Phone: (909) 607-4224

The Organization

The Phi Beta Kappa Society is the oldest honorary society in the United States. Election to the Society is a significant achievement, which members should note on their resumes.

The Society began at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, on the 5th of December in 1776 and first extended its privileges to women on equal terms with men in 1875. The Society has always remained true to its original purpose in seeking to foster the love of wisdom and sound knowledge and to recognize and promote excellence in learning at the undergraduate level.


Membership in Phi Beta Kappa is for life. All members for whom the Society has an address receive a lifetime subscription to The Key Reporter, the Society's publication for members. The Key Reporter includes news about prominent members and about the Society's various programs, projects and activities, as well as information about benefits and other resources for members.

There are no dues or future time commitments. If members go on to join the faculty of an institution with a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, they may voluntarily choose to take part in chapter activities.


Normally the chapter will elect no more than ten percent of a graduating class. There is no fixed grade-point average that guarantees election. When considering candidates for membership, the chapter weighs the quality of work completed in the major, as well as the number, variety, and balance of liberal arts courses taken outside the major. Students must have completed the fourth college semester of one foreign language or its equivalent and CMC’s mathematics requirement before they are eligible for nomination. Over the years, many otherwise outstanding students have been ineligible because they failed to meet the language requirement.

Students do not apply for membership. Rather, the chapter bases its selections on its review of academic records. At its annual meeting each spring, the chapter considers students who are graduating in May, along with those who graduated in the preceding September and December. In exceptional cases, it may also consider a very small number of juniors.


After the chapter elects new members, it will notify them promptly. On the Thursday before commencement, the chapter holds its annual induction. At this ceremony, where the new members wear their graduation caps and gowns, an officer of the chapter will briefly describe each inductee's accomplishments. The induction is a high point of commencement week, and inductees may wish to invite friends and family. Following the induction is a banquet at the Athenaeum.