Lambda of Virginia Chapter

Phi Beta Kappa Graduates of the Class of 2017

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society and a respected national advocate for the liberal arts and sciences. The Society was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776, and only 283 of the more than 2,400 colleges and universities in the United States have since been selected to shelter chapters.  Today there are approximately 500,000 members worldwide; about 500 of them were elected by the Lambda of Virginia chapter.  Associate Justice of the Supreme Court of the United States Sonia Sotomayor, technology executive Sheryl Sandberg, theoretical physicist Lisa Randall, activist Kerry Washington, theatrical director and designer Julie Taymor, U.S. Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice, journalist Christiane Amanpour, and Dress for Success founder Nancy Lublin are all members of Phi Beta Kappa, as are President Bill Clinton, Governor Jeb Bush, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, quarterback Peyton Manning, and Chief Justice John Roberts.  Famous Americans from Mark Twain to W.E.B. Du Bois to Franklin D. Roosevelt showed their early promise when they were elected to the Society.

When and how does election to Phi Beta Kappa occur?

At Mary Baldwin University, membership screening occurs during the spring semester, and the names of those elected are announced at Honors Convocation.  The electors are faculty and staff who were themselves elected to Phi Beta Kappa during their undergraduate careers.  Initiation takes place on the Saturday evening before Commencement. There is an address by a member of the Society, and the chapter sponsors a reception for new members, their families, and friends. Top

What are the requirements for election to Phi Beta Kappa?

Election to Phi Beta Kappa is an earned academic honor.  The requirements for election, or  “stipulations,” are defined by the national organization.  Election does not merely reflect high grades but also a sustained commitment to excellence in learning in the liberal arts and sciences — the core disciplines in the humanities, social sciences, and sciences that provide the theoretical base and historical perspective for study in all fields.  At least three-fourths of a candidate’s course work must be in the liberal arts and sciences and must include successful completion of at least one course in college-level mathematics, one laboratory science, and the study of a foreign language through the intermediate college level.  To be elected, a student’s work must demonstrate breadth, and her character and outlook must be appropriate for a liberally educated person.  Normally, one must be a graduating senior to be considered for election.  A very small number of juniors are also considered.  Top

What else does the Lambda of Virginia chapter do?

The chapter works with academic departments to sponsor Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars and Visiting Lecturers. Visiting Scholars spend two days on campus, meeting informally with students and faculty members, taking part in classroom discussions, and giving a public lecture open to the entire academic community.  Visiting Lecturers typically visit for shorter periods.  Both programs seek to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and Lecturers and the resident faculty and students. Top

Where can I obtain further information about the Lambda of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa?

For further information, please contact Dr. Lydia Petersson, Secretary-Treasurer of the Lambda of Virginia Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Mary Baldwin University. Her e-mail address is

Visit the Phi Beta Kappa National Home Page