Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest and most prestigious scholarly honor society in the United States. The society recognizes outstanding achievement in the liberal arts and sciences and fosters a community dedicated to the pursuit of intellectual inquiry and integrity. Five students at the College of William & Mary founded Phi Beta Kappa in 1776. There are two hundred eighty-three Phi Beta Kappa chapters in the foremost institutions of higher education throughout the country.
Being elected to Phi Beta Kappa is a great honor. Members include Sonia Sotomayor, Condoleeza Rice, Bill Clinton, George Bush, David Souter, Rita Dove, Marv Levy, Peyton Manning, Glenn Close, Paul Robeson, Helen Keller, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Daniel Webster, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Alexander Graham Bell, and Theodore Roosevelt.
The symbol of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is a gold key. The name Phi Beta Kappa derives from the initial letters for the Greek phrase, "Philosophy the Guide of Life." The stars represent the ambition of young scholars and the three distinguishing principles of the Society: friendship, morality, and learning. For over two and a quarter centuries, the Society has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression.