Phi Beta Kappa is the most prestigious academic honorary society in the United States. Founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Virginia, and nurtured early on at Harvard and Yale, the Society is currently established at 262 of the foremost colleges and universities in the nation. Annually it elects to membership the most outstanding seniors, and a handful of truly exceptional juniors, who have followed curricula in the liberal arts and sciences. The criteria for election are superior scholarship and good character.
The Boston College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Omicron of Massachusetts, was chartered in 1970. Following careful faculty scrutiny, the very best undergraduate scholars in the College of Arts and Sciences are invited to join Phi Beta Kappa as members in course. Students who join the BC Chapter remain members of the Chapter throughout their lifetime. Approximately 120 faculty, elected by other Chapters during their own undergraduate careers, are considered resident members of the Chapter. The Chapter has also elected several honorary members for their contributions to the liberal arts and sciences.
Each year, the BC Chapter presents the Phi Beta Kappa Teaching Award to a faculty member at the annual initiation ceremony, which is held the Sunday before Commencement. In keeping with the Society's concern with academic excellence, student initiates are asked to nominate an outstanding teacher who has positively influenced their experience at BC, either in or outside the classroom. Faculty are selected for the award based on the cumulative nominations from students over multiple years.
The national organization, headquartered in Washington DC, promotes liberal arts education through an active program of publications, distinguished visiting scholars and the Phi Beta Kappa Fellows Lectureships. But the importance of Phi Beta Kappa is less in what it does, than in what it is, an organization of men and women of the highest scholarly attainments who believe in the ideal of a liberal education.