December 6th, 2011 | University

Phi Beta Kappa inducts 71

Photo by Wikimedia Commons.

Thirteen juniors and 58 seniors were inducted into Yale’s chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society at a ceremony in Battell Chapel Monday afternoon.

Election to the nation’s oldest academic honor society in the United States is based on the percentage of straight-A grades earned in college coursework. At Yale, students may be elected to Phi Beta Kappa in their junior fall, senior fall or at Commencement, but no more than ten percent of a graduating class may be elected in total, according to the society’s rules. Traditionally, only a small number of juniors are elected at the “first election” to the society.

This fall, the juniors inducted had all earned straight-A’s in at least 95 percent of their course credits at Yale, and the seniors had earned straight-A’s in 81.4 percent of their course credits, Assistant Dean of Academic Affairs George Levesque said at the ceremony.

While noting that the number of A grades a student receives are an “imperfect measure” of academic accomplishment, Levesque said they do “indicate at least one kind of achievement.” Members of Phi Beta Kappa have included 17 U.S. presidents, 38 U.S. Supreme Court justices and 136 Nobel laureates, he said.

Levesque presented a brief history of the society, from its founding on Dec. 5, 1776 — exactly 235 years before this year’s induction ceremony — at the College of William and Mary to the present day, where it is present at about 10 percent of universities in the United States. Phi Beta Kappa was the first college society to have a Greek letter name, and until the 1830’s members had to swear an oath of secrecy, he said.

Today, members of the society still learn a special handshake — the “Phi Beta Kappa grip” — that Levesque asked inductees to perform as they were called up to shake hands with current Phi Beta Kappans and sign their membership into the society.

Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations professor and Phi Beta Kappa Graduate President Benjamin Foster spoke to the new inductees, explaining that Phi Beta Kappa stands for the Greek words “philosophia” (love of wisdom), “biou” (life) and “kybernetes” (helsman of a ship).

“Thus, the love of wisdom sets the course of our lives,” he told them.

A reception at the Berkeley College Master’s house followed the ceremony.

Read the list of the most recent inductees:

First Election from the Class of 2013

Elizabeth Ann Chrystal

Maria Louise Haras

Micah Alexander Johnson

Stephen Worthing Leh

Jonathan James Liang

Jerome Luo

Matthew James Mitcheltree

Sudharshan Mohanram

Benjamin Marc Sherman

Jessica Su

Samuel Charles Telzak

Christine Michelle Willinger

Connie Wu

Second Election from the Class of 2012

James August Biondi

Noah Benjamin Bokat-Lindell

Luke O’Neill Bradford

Philip Jason Bronstein

Ryan Michael Caro

Janice Hanlu Chen

Zoe Beatrice Cheung

Jordana Alter Confino

Elizabeth P. Cowell

Nazih Hazem El-Khatib

Christopher Ryan Ell

Harris Ross Eppsteiner

John Tyler Ettinger

Daniel William Ewert

Adam C. Fields

Rebecca Sharon Fine

Jennifer Marie Fischer

Louis Landowne Gilbert

Jonathan Lazar Holbrook

Marian Philips Homans-Turnbull

Helen Elizabeth Jack

Paul Joo

Matthew Eric Pessar Joseph

Phillip Jay Kaplan

Tomoki Kimura

Faizaan Teizoon Kisat

Tobias Kuehne

Emily Rose Langowitz

Samuel W. Lasman

Tyler Lau

Jin Won Lee

Yang Li

Jian Li

Robert Leonard Liles

Chenyu Lin

Lauren Rose Lisann

Isabella Lores-Chavez

Carmen Xiao Wei Lu

Vanessa Jean Murphy

Cameron Nicholas Musco

McKaye Lea Neumeister

Jason Evan Parad

Finola Anne Prendergast

Lauren Elaine Provini

Allison Rabkin Golden

Michael C. Rauschenbach

Courtney Blair Rubin

Jonathan Lyle Rubin

Rick Daniel Russotto

Tal Eylan Shachar

Durga Thakral

Qi Ning Tian

Rebecca Simone Treger

Amy Huilin Tsang

Cyril Villarosa Uy

Michael Nathaniel Wysolmerski

David Yuxuan Zhang

Gabriel Mereson Zucker

  • 1234qwer

    10/13 junior inductees are math/science/engineering majors. Crazy

  • River_Tam

    ^ That’s pretty cool. I’d like to see some majors posted here…

  • PhysicsAlum

    Congrats to the awesome folk above, but basing induction on % of grades which were A’s is still a very silly way to choose PBK membership. Other schools base induction on teacher recommendations, grade distribution in that particular major, etc., in addition to raw GPA (this isn’t even GPA – it’s just “yeah, but DID YOU GET AN A??”). It becomes more of an accounting exercise than a real, considered honor. “One kind of achievement” indeed.

  • Yale12

    Patrick Witt gets a 3.9 as a history major and fifteen different people jump in saying history is the easiest major ever, there’s nothing impressive about a 3.9 in history, etc., etc. And yet 10/13 junior PBK inductees are science majors and nobody says anything? If humanities are such easy majors, why are most PBK inductees not humanities majors?

    • anon12

      Last year 9/13 junior inductees were not in the sciences. This year 39/58 seniors inducted were not in the sciences. Further, if you exclude the large proportion of science inductees in MB&B and Biology (aka premeds), the numbers drop even more. A grand total of 8 non-Biology science/math/engineering majors in this years inducted senior class. (Looking at to get these numbers)

      One other thing is that it may be that it is easier to get straight As in the sciences. Whereas top grader earners in the humanities/social sciences may get a lot more A minuses just due to subjective grading.

    • kdaysandtou

      There’s probably a small set of science students at the top getting all A’s. I would guess that performance on tests is more consistent than performances on papers.

      DS probably lowers a lot of humanities GPAs as well – the grading there is significantly harder than in general English, History, and Poli Sci courses.

  • Inigo_Montoya

    Also, selection effects! A lot of people come to Yale intending to major in STEM, get a few bad grades, and switch to some sort of humanities or social science (hereafter, HUSS). This means two things:

    (1) a lower %age of HUSS majors will be inducted into PBK. A few non-As freshman year kill your PBK chances, and these former-science types fit that bill. By becoming HUSS majors, they inflate the total number of HUSS majors without increasing the number of PBK inductees.

    (2) A higher %age of STEM majors will be inducted, as those that stick with STEM tend to be those who do well early on, and therefore have a better chance of meeting the induction standards.

    This effect could be mitigated if people started in HUSS and, after getting bad early grades, switched to STEM. But we all know that doesn’t happen.

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