On Sunday, April 18 at 3:00 p.m. Phi Beta Kappa, Zeta of Connecticut inducted new members into the fold in a ceremony held over Zoom. 

Margaret M. McClure, Ph.D., and chapter president, opened the ceremony before passing the floor over to Chapter Historian William Abbott Ph.D. to give a brief history of Phi Beta Kappa. 

Abbott goes on to state that in 1776 five students at the College of William & Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa during the American Revolution in the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Va. “which they dedicated to high purposes of eighteenth-century eloquence.”

This makes Phi Beta Kappa the oldest academic honor society in the United States, and as Abbott said, one that now has over 250 chapters. Fairfield was able to start its own chapter in 1995.

“The most important function of our chapter,” Abbott states, “Is to award membership in Phi Beta Kappa to deserving students.” 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this ceremony inducted students invited from 2020 as well as students invited in 2021. From last year’s inductees, there were 35 members from the Class of 2020 and four members from the Class of 2021. This year, there were 25 members from the Class of 2021 and eight members from the Class of 2022. 

Yet this induction ceremony was especially unique due to its induction of President of Fairfield University Mark Nemec Ph.D. as an honorary member of Phi Beta Kappa. 

Nemec was inducted into the society by Frederick M. Lawrence, JD, Secretary and CEO of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. 

Lawrence began Nemec’s induction by discussing the history of honorary membership in Phi Beta Kappa, where the first honorary member was William Short in 1779. Short is often seen as a protege to Thomas Jefferson, where Jefferson went as far as to call Short “his son.” 

In a statement to The Mirror, Nemec stated that “As steward of a Jesuit, Catholic university which is committed to the ‘Magis’, excellence in all things, I am honored to join an organization, Phi Beta Kappa, which is dedicated to excellence in the liberal arts, and congratulate our students for their induction into this most prestigious honor society.”

After Nemec was inducted into the society, Lawrence went on to give a keynote speech celebrating Fairfield’s twenty-fifth anniversary as a chapter (a year late due to COVID-19 cancellations).

“By dint of the fact that you have been elected to this Phi Beta Kappa chapter, I know that you understand the value of studying the liberal arts and how it prepares us in three ways for the lives that stretch ahead of all of us, particularly our young graduates today,” Lawrence stated. 

He went on to say that the liberal arts prepare us for meaningful, productive and engaged lives, “as global citizens, national citizens and citizens of our local communities.” 

He goes on to say that the Phi Beta Kappa members are called on to be leaders. But, when it comes to what type of leader, he looks to the definition provided by the first United States President that was a member of Phi Beta Kappa, President John Quincy Adams. 

“As a leader, your actions should inspire others to dream more, learn more, to do more and to become more,” Lawrence said. 

He continues to say that these new inductees have been trained and educated “to have that goal for yourself and it is my hope for you that you will learn, do and become more with those you interact with as well.” 

He highlighted that the inductees join the ranks of Phi Beta Kappa members, which includes 17 United States Presidents, 42 Supreme Court Justices and 150 Nobel Laureates. But, he paused to say that more importantly, the students are joining the ranks of Phi Beta Kappa members that are front-line workers, caregivers, researchers, policymakers and those that have challenged the policies. 

He ended by saying, “This is the community that you join today.”


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