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Phi Beta Kappa at MBC

Lambda of Virginia Chapter


What is Phi Beta Kappa?

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation’s oldest and most respected society honoring liberal arts students of genuine academic and personal accomplishment. The Society was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776. Mary Baldwin has sheltered a chapter (Lambda of Virginia) since 1971. Only 280 colleges have such chapters. About 65 per cent of them are in private academic institutions. Only 11 per cent of baccalaureate institutions have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. There are also 47 associations of Phi Beta Kappa members who are not affiliated with any academic institution. Today there are approximately 500,000 members of Phi Beta Kappa. For further information on the national society, see the Phi Beta Kappa Society homepage at


When and how does election to Phi Beta Kappa occur?

At Mary Baldwin College, election to membership usually occurs in the Spring of the senior year and is done by the members of the chapter, that is faculty and staff who were themselves elected to Phi Beta Kappa in their undergraduate careers.


What are the requirements for election to Phi Beta Kappa?

Election to Phi Beta Kappa is an earned academic honor. It does not merely reflect high grades, but a sustained commitment to excellence in learning in the liberal arts. Students elected to membership must demonstrate excellent scholarship, and at least three fourths of their course work must be in the liberal arts, including college mathematics, two years of the same foreign language or equivalent intermediate proficiency, and a laboratory science. To be elected, a student’s work must demonstrate breadth, and her character and outlook must be appropriate for a liberally educated person.


When is the election of new members announced at Mary Baldwin?

The announcement of newly elected members of Phi Beta Kappa takes place each Spring Semester at Mary Baldwin College’s Honors Convocation.

When are newly elected members of Phi Beta Kappa initiated?

The initiation of newly elected members usually takes place on the Saturday evening before Commencement. There is an address by a member of the Society. The chapter sponsors a reception for new members, their families, and friends.


What special events does the Lambda of Virginia chapter sponsor?

Lambda of Virginia sponsors the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program on the Mary Baldwin College Campus. The Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar Program makes available each year 11 or more distinguished scholars who visit approximately 100 colleges and universities. Visiting Scholars spend two days at each campus, meeting informally with students and faculty members, taking part in classroom discussions, and giving a public lecture open to the entire academic community. The purpose of the program is to contribute to the intellectual life of the campus by making possible an exchange of ideas between the Visiting Scholars and the resident faculty and students.

Lambda of Virginia also sponsors the Phi Beta Kappa Associates Lectureship Program on campus. The Phi Beta Kappa Associates Lectureship provides speakers for special occasions sponsored by Phi Beta Kappa groups. Through its four regional panels, the Lectureship assists the chapters and alumni associations with arrangements for addresses given at such events as honors convocations, initiation meetings, and annual dinners. Established in 1942, the Lectureship is one of the important activities sponsored by the Phi Beta Kappa Associates, a group of Phi Beta Kappa members organized to foster and advance the welfare of the Society and the ideals for which it stands. By way of its panels of distinguished speakers, the Lectureship contributes directly to the intellectual life of the campus and community.


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 College. Her e-mail address is

Visit the Phi Beta Kappa National Home Page