Next week, 13 Yale juniors and 62 seniors will join the ranks of the prestigious academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa.
The Dec. 12 ceremony will begin with a brief summary of the history of the society and of Yale’s chapter, followed by a formal induction and a closing speech by undergraduate PBK President Mari Kawakatsu ’17. During the formal induction, new members sign a book, shake the hands of the student president, vice president and other current members — according to Graduate Secretary for Yale’s PBK chapter and Associate Dean of Yale College George Levesque, performing a “secret handshake.” The original charter of Yale’s chapter of PBK is also displayed during the ceremony.
“The order of service is very similar every year, and it follows an historic pattern,” said Levesque. Yale has been following that induction pattern for 235 years.
Yale’s chapter of the society chooses members of each class through three elections — one at the beginning of a student’s junior year, another at the start of senior year and a third during the annual spring Commencement ceremony. Inductees are chosen only on the basis of each student’s grades, and thus each class of inductees reflects a wide variety of majors. No more than 10 percent of any undergraduate class can be inducted into PBK.
Students in the latest group of PBK inductees said they were proud to join a society that crosses so many disciplines, while some students had pride for the general strength of their own majors.
“I’m proud of my major because three of the nine linguistics majors in my year have been elected, and we haven’t even had the third round yet,” said Aidan Kaplan ’17, who will be inducted on Monday. The other two linguistics majors are Emily Wu ’17, who will also be inducted on Monday, and Tom McCoy ’17, who was inducted during his junior year.
Political science major Azeezat Adeleke ’17 recalled the moment when she found out that she had been elected in late September. She received an email from her residential college dean’s assistant asking her to meet in person. The email did not include a specific reason, however. According to PBK rules, new members must receive the news of their election in person.
“It was kind of mysterious,” Adeleke said.
Kaplan, too, described an aura of mystery around the announcement. In the email he received, the dean assured him he “wasn’t in trouble.” Nonetheless, Kaplan said he feared the worst going into the meeting.
Adeleke said she surprised by the news.
“I knew what PBK was, but I wasn’t expecting to get it,” she said.
The academic society was established at the College of William and Mary in 1776.