Phi Kappa Phi History

Image of Phi Kappa Phi GraphicIn 1897, ten seniors at the University of Maine, envisioning a society whose membership would be open to the superior college student regardless of the academic discipline, were helped by interested professors to organize the Lamda Eta Sigma Society. A year or so later, the name was changed to the Morrill Society, in honor of the sponsor of the Congressional Act, which provided for land-grant colleges. In 1900, the presidents of the University of Maine, the Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University), and the University of Tennessee pledged their support; the Society thus became national, with three chapters. It was renamed Phi Kappa Phi, from the initial letters of the three Greek words forming its adopted motto “philosophia krateito photon” (filo-so-FEE-uh Krah-TAY-toe foe-TONE) or “Let the love of learning rule humanity.”

Currently, there are nearly 300 chapters of Phi Kappa Phi scattered from Maine to Hawaii and the Philippines, and from the state of Alaska to Puerto Rico. Over 1,000,000 scholars have been initiated into the Society, which is now in its 108th year (Adapted from Phi Kappa Phi Promotional Materials). In 1972, Chapter 143 of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi was chartered at Youngstown State University with charter members and new initiates. Since 1972, more than 2,310 scholars have been inducted into the Society through Chapter 143.

Image of Phi Kappa Phi Badge including Founded 1897The badge of this Society is a globe against the background of the sun, whose rays form an expansive corona and radiate in eight symmetrical concentrations from behind the globe.  These signify equivalence among the various branches of learning and represent the dissemination of truth as light.

Encircling the globe is a band containing the Greek letters for Phi Kappa Phi and symbolizing a fraternal bond, which girds the earth and binds the lovers of wisdom in a common purpose.

The ribbon of The Society, bearing at one end the letters FKF (Phi Kappa Phi) is a meander pattern that is common in ancient Greek art and that thus symbolizes the classical features of The Society.  The seal of The Society has at its center the Badge.  This, in turn, is surrounded by a crenelated line representing the battlements and walls of Troy and symbolizing the technological aspects of the ancient Greek culture reflected by The Society.  In the space between this line and the periphery of the seal appear three stars just above the badge, one for each of the three original Chapters.  Just below the badge is the phrase “Founded 1897.”

Image of Dr. Rick Shale
Dr. Rick Shale

By its 75th year, Phi Kappa Phi had chartered 142 chapters on campuses around the nation. Youngstown State University became the 143rd campus to receive a charter, and the installation of the YSU chapter was held on May 19, 1972. Twenty-one professors and administrators became the charter members of Chapter 143. Six of them, including John Cernica from Civil Engineering, Clyde Hankey from English, YSU Vice-President Earl Edgar, and YSU President Albert Pugsley, were already members of Phi Kappa Phi, having been inducted previously.

YSU’s first Phi Kappa Phi convocation was held in Schwebel Auditorium. Earl Edgar, YSU’s vice-president for academic affairs and the first president of the new chapter, welcomed the guests and new initiates. The installation ceremonies were conducted by Dr. John McDow of the University of Tennessee, PKP’s vice-president for the East Central Region (and later national president from 1980 to 1983). Dr. Pugsley gave the address, and the new chapter officers handled the initiation of ten graduate and sixty-one undergraduate student members. Dr. Howard Jones, who served as YSU’s first president from 1931 to 1966, was named an honorary member. Larry Esterly, a faculty member in Political Science, served as a marshal for the ceremony. Phi Kappa Phi’s national president, Dr. Albertine Krohn of the University of Toledo, gave the closing remarks, and the group adjourned to the Kilcawley Faculty Lounge for a reception.

Since that first initiation ceremony, Chapter 143 has inducted approximately 2,600 members, and twenty-nine faculty members have served as president of the chapter. On May 19, 1997, Chapter 143 celebrated its 25th anniversary and planted a commemorative tree to mark the occasion. The tree, located on the YSU campus by the sidewalk southeast of DeBartolo Hall, is a living tribute to those founding members who brought Phi Kappa Phi to our campus. ~Adapted from a Newsletter Article by Dr. Rick Shale