Students frequently ask us why they should join Phi Beta Kappa. We have asked some UNH current students, alumni and members of our chapter to reflect on what PBK means to them. Some point to practical advantages, and some to less tangible benefits. Phi Beta Kappa membership is an honor that does not diminish with time.
In addition, you may be surprised at some of the well known persons who are PBK members. You can find a list on the National PBK website.
Reflections from Recent Graduates
Some students have the additional honor of being elected as juniors rather than seniors, so we are including their comments here with those of students who have graduated in the last few years.
"Sometimes it seems as though there are a variety of honor societies thrown your way, all costing money and making promises … but Phi Beta Kappa is the real deal! It's the most prestigious, and by far the most well-known of the bunch. Everyone I asked for advice gave me the same answer — join Phi Beta Kappa and it will help you not only network with amazing people in the present, but far into the future as well. I am going to graduate school next year at George Washington University in DC, and I am already planning on using Phi Beta Kappa connections to set myself apart from the rest. Great experience, great honor, no question — join!"
—Hannah Waller '15, PBK UNH '14
"I am most proud to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa as it is an honor achieved through hard work and discipline. Phi Beta Kappa has left a time-honored legacy. As part of the current generation of Phi Beta Kappa scholars, I can say that this legacy has and will continue to inspire future generations of Phi Beta Kappa scholars to leave their own mark on the world and that this incentive to succeed will set the stage for a continuation of positive goals."
—Andrew Ntapalis '14, PBK UNH '13
"...My mother gave me my grandmother's key to wear on a bracelet at the initiation last year... My invitation to PBK has inspired me to go after all of my dreams and believe in myself..."
When I told my mother that I was invited to join Phi Beta Kappa, she started crying. My grandmother (who passed away thirteen years ago) was a Phi Beta Kappa at Cornell. My mother gave me my grandmother's key to wear on a bracelet at the initiation last year. Another funny story is that when I was invited to join PBK, my grandfather actually called me to congratulate me. (He never calls me, ever.) Phi Beta Kappa is a huge deal in my family and many students do not realize the importance of this distinction.
Also, having PBK on my resume has been crucial. Last semester, I applied to graduate schools in education. PBK definitely made me stand out. I was recently accepted to the University of Pennsylvania Graduate School of Education. (I even received a huge scholarship from Penn.) I have also applied to seven other competitive schools. I will hear the decisions from these schools mid-March.
I know that being a part of Phi Beta Kappa will help me in my future. It is amazing to think that I am part of a society that includes so many influential people from our country's history. My invitation to PBK has inspired me to go after all of my dreams and believe in myself.
—Megan Katz '12, PBK UNH '11
"PBK was definitely helpful to me after I left UNH during my job/internship search. It seemed to jump off of my resume when I met with people, and even remember one lawyer saying 'Phi Beta Kappa, I see. That's very impressive.' Also, if I end up in Washington I am definitely planning on trying to connect with other PBKs for networking purposes."
—Gregory Manz '11, PBK UNH '11
"As far as PBK goes, I think that Phi Beta Kappa has been an invaluable addition to my resume. Interviewers have actually gone out of their way to congratulate me and explain how impressive it is to see as part of an applicants overall package.
So far I've gotten into BU and U Southern California and I'm waiting on scholarship offers and news from Cornell. I also have a final interview at Teach for America on Monday."
—Paul deTurk '10, PBK UNH '10
Reflections from Other UNH Alumni Members
"There is only an upside to becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa..."
There is only an upside to becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa, and it would be a shame if students do not realize this. There is some prestige that comes along with being a member of PBK, as it conveys to others that you excelled in your undergraduate work. What students should understand is that as they enter the professional world, their reputation, and how their biography or resume reads, are things that can make all the difference. Having Phi Beta Kappa attached to your name and reputation can only help students.
—Jackson D. Toof, Esq. '99, Attorney with Washington, D.C. law firm and Lieutenant Commander in U.S. Navy JAG Corps Reserve
"When I attended UNH, I decided to earn a dual degree, so that I could be eligible to join the esteemed ranks of Phi Beta Kappa..."
When I attended UNH, I decided to earn a dual degree, so that I could be eligible to join the esteemed ranks of Phi Beta Kappa. Becoming a Phi Beta Kappa was a big deal to me back then...and it still is. It is a highly recognized and prestigious honor that I have proudly carried throughout the various phases of my career and my life. Those of us on the board of Trustees who are Phi Beta Kappa's proudly wear our keys on our regalia at all official University events. It is truly a 'badge of honor'.
—Jude Blake '77, Trustee, University System of New Hampshire; PBK UNH '76
"When I was in my last semester at UNH, I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa...we never doubted the honor of election...
When I was in my last semester at UNH, I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa. While I was a married student, since most of us were expecting to be commissioned as officers on graduation day and we had decided to spend at least our last UNH year with our new spouses, we never doubted the honor of election. At that time I did not see an advantage to buying the pin and in fact never did buy one. However, I believe having the certificate and being able to list the honor on my resumes helped me in several decision situations.
First, while I was an economics graduate at UNH, I had decided to enter public education as a history teacher, which would require an extensive retooling of my resume. Before I had completed my basic officer course at Fort Lee, VA, I was called to the post headquarters and offered the job as Post Education Officer, responsible for on-duty and off-duty high school, vocational, and college courses. Many of my contacts were with deans of graduate schools at five universities in Virginia. I have no doubt that my military superiors must have considered the value of a Phi Beta Kappa in this position. The experience was invaluable and personally rewarding, as in my role in helping an Army captain become the first African-American to receive a transcript from the College of William & Mary.
My value to the command, since my monthly goals were always met and exceeded, helped keep me on the post, when several times I was considered for assignment to Vietnam. My wife and two small daughters were happy we were able to stay together.
After twelve years of teaching, I prepared for high school administration and was a building principal for twenty-six years, feeling that the role in providing a positive climate was critical to the future of our coming leaders. I got to serve five school districts in two states and retired in that role, after a most rewarding run. Since I was sometimes assumed by well-educated professional people to be one of those who ;probably couldn't compete in their professions, I always displayed my Phi Beta Kappa certificate prominently on my wall, along with my degrees. I always considered this to be justifiable pride. I urge any who are wondering if you need another honor to consider this one, to me the highest honor to be bestowed by a university on its graduates.
—Roderick W. Story '59, Editor-in-Chief, 1959 Granite
"I was honored to be invited to join... it supports Liberal Arts education and its newsletter and magazine contain articles about the intellectual life of the nation..."
Back in those days, PBK was considered prestigious and I was honored to be invited to join. It seemed to be a positive recognition of my academic achievements. I was proud to list it on my resume. As an organization, it supports Liberal Arts education and its newsletter and magazine contain articles about the intellectual life of the nation. It recognizes individuals who make significant contributions in politics, the social sciences, the arts, and literature.
—Priscilla Daggett, PBK '57
"...I never thought not to join. Wearing the key has provided unspoken perks many times.."
I was elected to PBK in 1956. I never thought to not join. Wearing the key has provided unspoken perks many times. I am a microbiologist/medical technologist and my last job was with the State of NH reviewing and inspecting medical laboratories, large and small, for compliance with federal and state regulations. This program was begun in 1992 and was the first time that laboratories were federally regulated. Needless to say, it was unpopular. Small doctor office laboratories had to create procedure manuals, keep records and follow test procedures. I would arrive for the inspection and be greeted with a certain amount of hostility: "This program is costing me money. I don't understand why my little lab has to be inspected, I know what I'm doing. You are going to put me out of business." The first step in the inspection was to look at the staff credentials, starting with the physicians. Most doctors proudly hang their medical diplomas and various honor society notices on their office walls. Many of them were PBK members. When I passed by the PBK certificate I would casually say, "Oh, I have one of those, too." Hostility would begin to fade. After all, they were the cream of the crop, how could they ignore this white haired lady who was a peer in the eyes of PBK.
—Sylvia Sawyer Miskoe '56
Reflections from UNH Chapter Members
Beta Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa consists of UNH faculty and staff who have been elected to PBK at any institution.
"...I wasn't AIMING for an invitation from Phi Beta Kappa, but I was thrilled when it arrived so unexpectedly in my mailbox that spring day... It is a joy to be a member of a community of Phi Beta Kappa members whose hard work and intellectual curiosity shape their lives and provide them more opportunities than they probably imagined..."
I grew up in Alabama and Tennessee with the knowledge that Phi Beta Kappa was the most prestigious academic honorary organization a student could aspire to join. My mother had grown up in genuine poverty in Tennessee, but had miraculously received a full scholarship to attend Northwestern University in Chicago. She earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa as a double major in English and Math. Her Phi Beta Kappa key was her most valued piece of jewelry, which I often admired.
Even so, I was completely surprised by the invitation to join Phi Beta Kappa as a junior when I received it at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill in 1975. I had no idea juniors could be invited.
I raced to the telephone and called the school where my mother taught English and asked the secretary to go to my mother's classroom to tell her the news. The secretary understood completely why I was so excited, and the celebrations began with that conversation. I wasn't AIMING for an invitation from Phi Beta Kappa, but I was thrilled when it arrived so unexpectedly in my mailbox that spring day. I immediately ordered my own Phi Beta Kappa key, which I paid for with money I earned working in a local bakery. Since then, my pride in membership has only grown, especially when I have had the opportunity to congratulate my best UNH students at the UNH Phi Beta Kappa chapter's initiation ceremony each May. Last year, I had taught NINE of the UNH initiates. It is a joy to be a member of a community of Phi Beta Kappa members whose hard work and intellectual curiosity shape their lives and provide them more opportunities than they probably imagined.
—Cathy A. Frierson, Professor of History, PBK University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
"My membership in Phi Beta Kappa was responsible for a Library Director in California selecting me for my first interview for a professional library position..."
My membership in Phi Beta Kappa was responsible for a Library Director in California selecting me for my first interview for a professional library position. I did get the job and later became a charter member when that university was awarded a PBK Chapter.
—Linda B. Johnson, Associate Professor, Library PBK University of Arizona
"Being elected to Phi Beta Kappa was a highlight of my senior year in college..."
Being elected to Phi Beta Kappa was a highlight of my senior year in college. I had heard it was the oldest and most prestigious honor society in the country, and I was thrilled when I received the invitation. It has remained near the top of my resume ever since then. I suspect it played a role in admission to graduate schools, and I know that when I served on the graduate admissions committee of my department here at UNH, we quickly noticed election to Phi Beta Kappa on the record of new applicants.
—Jeffry Diefendorf, Professor of History and Pamela Shulman Professor of European and Holocaust Studies, PBK Stanford University
"Association with PBK really opened a lot of doors."
—Edward L. Chupp, Professor Emeritus of Physics, PBK University of California, Berkeley
"...I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, honoring my somewhat eclectic collection of courses, all in the liberal arts tradition of exploring the world and looking for hidden truths... it is the gold standard saying that you are a person of depth, intellectual, curious, and serious about learning..."
I remember my senior year at the University of Massachusetts very well. With large classes, in a popular major, economics, I earned high grades, but also took many political science and history courses, as those subjects are so linked to economics. I often wondered if my studies and achievements were being recognized, and if there was a way to stand out from the crowd. At that time, there were no awards or recognition for my major, or minors, at the University.
Then, I was notified that I was elected to Phi Beta Kappa, honoring my somewhat eclectic collection of courses, all in the liberal arts tradition of exploring the world and looking for hidden truths. I was very excited, it felt wonderful. And my parents, both college graduates, were ecstatic. They knew the 'bragging rights' that came with Phi Beta Kappa designation, how it separates one from the crowd. So, I immediately accepted the offer of election, and gladly.
I have never regretted being involved in PBK. It stands on its own as an indicator of achievement on your resume, and on other credentials. It is especially useful coming from a large state university, where so many students graduate each year, and it can be hard for employers to discern a quality applicant from 'the pack'. Further, I knew that I would attend graduate school at some point, and it served me well in the admissions process, especially since so many folks in graduate admissions are scholars first, administration folks later in their careers. In fact, I know that my acceptance to Cornell University for graduate studies in business were heavily leveraged by my liberal arts training, as the Director of Admissions to the Johnson School was trained as a European historian, and much of our interview centered on the causes of World War II, and the rise of Hitler, hardly the stuff of a typical business school interview. PBK is an indicator of intellectual curiosity and achievement. You earned it.
Now, here you are at the University of New Hampshire, with an offer of joining Phi Beta Kappa. It is an honor to be selected, and it is a designation that can only help you in the future. In a crowded market for professional employment, it is the gold standard saying that you are a person of depth, intellectual, curious, and serious about learning, aptitudes that cut across many fields of future interest. PBK will open doors for you that are closed to others, many on the 'other side of the desk' will be impressed, and may in fact also be members of this most ancient of honor societies. Seemingly 'small' things matter in selecting the right candidate, and PBK gives you a distinct edge.
Make the right choice, accept your nomination to Phi Beta Kappa, it will open doors you did not even know existed. And yes, there is a secret handshake – more on that when you accept your certificate at the May ceremony.
—Bill Troy, Lecturer of Business, Manchester Campus, PBK University of Massachusetts
Reflections from UNH Chapter Member Affiliate
"The decision to join Phi Beta Kappa is more than simply deciding to join an (or another) academic honor society. PBK values a liberal arts education -- even in an increasingly highly technological society. Critical thinking, a vitally important tool in today's world, needs a broad and deep knowledge base from which to draw."
I am thankful for each of the two advisors I had in my undergraduate double-major of French and Religious Studies at the College of the Holy Cross. My days as an undergraduate occurred at the tail end of what I consider the 1960s experiment in educational freedom. There were no area requirements nor any core curriculum. Both of my advisors recommended that I follow the distribution requirements of the local PBK chapter at Holy Cross to ensure that I had an introduction to disciplines that I would have naturally avoided (math and science, and its contemporary incorporation in computers). Given my choice of profession as a librarian, I am thankful that my advisors had the foresight to make this recommendation.
The importance of having interdisciplinary understanding is basic to librarianship. For several jobs did PBK play a role in my getting interviews for two public library directorships and a Librarian III job in the Houston Public Library. The reasons were recognition that I had been introduced to a broad general base of knowledge, was able to critically think between and among different disciplines, had a capacity to be able to think outside the box, and, particularly in Houston Public Library's case, had knowledge of and appreciation for different cultures. Furthermore, PBK members due to their awareness of broad general knowledge develop a thirst for learning more and finding ever-newer ways to help solve common problems: "the love of learning, the guide of life."
—Pius Charles Murray Librarian III, Houston Public Library, PBK College of the Holy Cross