Phi Beta Kappa inducts 72

Assistant Dean George Levesque speaks to 62 seniors and 10 juniors at Yale’s Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony in Battell Chapel in December.
Assistant Dean George Levesque speaks to 62 seniors and 10 juniors at Yale’s Phi Beta Kappa induction ceremony in Battell Chapel in December. Photo by lauren rosenthal.

Ten juniors and 62 seniors were inducted into Yale’s chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society at a brief ceremony Monday afternoon in Battell Chapel.

The students, who were selected based on the percentage of “A” grades earned in a wide variety of subjects, joined the ranks of such luminaries as George H.W. Bush ’47, Eli Whitney 1792 and Phi Beta Kappa Graduate President Haun Saussy GRD ’90.

Though Saussy, a “kid of the 1960s” whose grandmother had to convince him to attend his own induction ceremony, rebelled against Phi Beta Kappa in his youth, Saussy told the News that he has come to realize that it is more important to recognize high-achieving students.

“It’s good to have this moment to congratulate people on their hard work,” Saussy said.

The40-minute ceremony began with a welcome and explanation of the organization’s history by George Levesque, Yale College assistant dean for academic affairs, and chemistry professor Ann Valentine concluded the event with a traditional adjournment used throughout the organization’s history.

A student becomes eligible for election to Phi Beta Kappa beginning in the fall of the junior year. Those chosen are inducted in the fall of junior year, fall of senior year or at Commencement in May of their senior year. No more than 10 percent of the entire class may join the society over the course of three elections, according to the society’s Web site.

“I am not sure grades, being such subjective measures of performance, are really the best indicators of one’s love of learning,” molecular biophysics and biochemstry major and new inductee Michael Vishnevetsky ’10 said in an e-mail Monday night. “I think that for most of us, ‘What grade I am I going to get?’ is not the main question in our minds when are doing coursework. The grades probably are indicators of passion for learning and competence in the subject matters we have studied.”

But for Gabriella Tortorello ’11, an art history major, election to Phi Beta Kappa has motivated her during a long and arduous finals period.

“It’s nice to be able to step back, look at the work I’ve done for the past two years and see that it’s come to something,” Tortorello said.

The Yale Phi Beta Kappa chapter was established in 1780.

Correction: Dec. 15, 2009

An earlier version of this article misreported the number of Yale students inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at a ceremony this month. There were 72 students in total, not 62. Sixty-two of the inductees were seniors, and 10 were juniors.

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