Phi Beta Kappa, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, has named John Churchill GRD ’77 its new executive secretary.

Churchill will assume the position of executive secretary on Dec. 3 at the Society’s national headquarters in Washington, D.C. He said he was exhilarated to take on the job and that the new title will be a wonderful challenge for him.

The executive secretary has several responsibilities to fulfill, including the maintenance of the outreach, membership and award programs, and spokesman for the Society to its constituents, donors and the nation, Churchill said.

“The moral and intellectual virtues — ranging over knowledge, skills of critical inquiry, deliberative abilities, agile appreciation of differing perspectives, powers of judicious judgment in matters of value — lie at the basis of our capacity to sustain democratic societies,” Churchill said. “I hope to assist in bringing the stature of Phi Beta Kappa to bear on broader recognition of this function of liberal education and hence on public and private choices that will enhance this function.”

Churchill graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Rhodes College in 1971. He then came to Yale in 1973 to earn a degree in philosophy of religion. While at Yale, Churchill worked as the assistant American secretary to the Rhodes Scholarship Trust, which was then based at Wesleyan University.

Since 1984, Churchill has served as vice president of academic affairs and dean of Hendrix College in Conway, Ark., and is currently their interim president. He is also a professor of philosophy there.

Five students at the College of William and Mary founded the honor society in 1776. In the 1830s, John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster helped transform Phi Beta Kappa from a student-run society to a faculty-administered organization. In December, the organization will mark its 225th anniversary.

Phi Beta Kappa advocates academic excellence and aims to promote education in the liberal arts and sciences. It supports and sponsors the National Honor Society, the nation’s oldest and largest high school honor society.