Phi Beta Kappa inducts 73

Just over 70 high-achieving upperclassmen — 61 seniors and 12 juniors — were inducted into the academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa on Monday.

The inducted seniors represent the top 5 percent of their class, while the juniors represent the top 1 percent of their class. Students are generally elected to the Yale chapter based on the percentage of their grades that are A or higher, according the Yale Phi Beta Kappa Web site.

“The idea is to pick a handful of the really distinguished scholars with a consistently high average in a number of different fields,” said East Asian languages and literatures professor Haun Saussy GRD ’90, the graduate president of Phi Beta Kappa.

Associate Dean of Yale College Penelope Laurans kicked off the hour-long ceremony with a speech on the history of the society and the Yale chapter, Saussy said. Members were then inducted and instructed to write their names in the official book of the chapter.

Undergraduate Phi Beta Kappa president Monica Wood ’09 then gave a speech, followed by remarks from Saussy, who spoke about the importance of a liberal arts education.

“An education that has more breadth and flexibility may not immediately fulfill a certain need,” Saussy said in a phone interview Tuesday. “But it gives people the tools to figure out new solutions to unanticipated problems.”

Roshan Sethi ’09, one of the new inductees, said he thinks belonging to Phi Beta Kappa amounts to more than just a line on a resume. Instead, he said, the society sponsors activities and discussions with faculty members, allowing students — who will hold lifelong membership — to interact with successful individuals.

Yale College Dean Mary Miller said that in addition to the inductees, over 150 other guests were present at the ceremony, which was held in Battell Chapel.

Phi Beta Kappa, founded in 1776, calls itself “the nation’s oldest academic honor society.” Yale possesses a handwritten copy of the society’s charter, the oldest one in existence, that dates to 1780.


  • PhysicsAlum

    Yale's guidelines for election to Phi Beta Kappa have always seemed overly concerned with GPA to me. Not even GPA, actually - purely the number of A's gained by the student. Other schools such UPenn and Harvard carefully consider not only GPA (often separated into different concentrations) but also confidential recommendations from faculty members. A well-considered system like this would, to me, make membership in PBK somewhat more of an honor. This is in no way to disparage the accomplishments of the inductees (I myself was one several years ago). Wouldn't it be better to examine the actual intellectual accomplishments of the students, however, rather than rewarding the mathematical accumulation of A's?

  • Recent Alum

    What are the guidelines for election to Phi Beta Kappa? Simply based on number of A's? Are A-'s worth the same as A's? What if someone has a lot of B's but also a lot of A's because he took, say, 6 credits each semester?

  • hmmm

    depends of class year of inductee, but it's percent of A's, not raw number, and A- don't count (i think)

  • elitist

    sick fraternity. those dudes know how to party.