Phi Beta Kappa History

Phi Beta Kappa ( was founded on December 5, 1776, at the College of William and Mary. Since then, Phi Beta Kappa has evolved to become the nation's leading advocate for the liberal arts and sciences at the undergraduate level. The UK chapter is the first in Kentucky (Alpha). The only other Kentucky chapter is at Centre College. The Alpha Chapter was founded by President McVey.

The national office of the Society was originally located in Williamsburg, VA. In 1954 it moved to Washington, DC where it still resides. The national office is responsible for running the daily operations of the Society, including relations with the chapter and associations, maintaining membership data and the planning and administration or programs that promote the mission of Phi Beta Kappa.

Phi Beta Kappa elects over 15,000 new members a year from 270 chapters across the United States. Phi Beta Kappa associations exist in many areas of the United States and membership is open to anyone elected to Phi Beta Kappa. The associations exist to foster friendship and learning in their communities and they provide a means for members to continue their active affiliation with the Society after graduation.

Phi Beta Kappa has over 50 associations - groups made up of Phi Beta Kappa members - in cities across the United States. They support the ideals of the Society through academic, social, and community-based programs. Members initiated at UK may be interested in joining the Kentuckiana Association.

Members in a particular community usually initiate the formation of a Phi Beta Kappa association with the assistance of the Society's national office.

The Society's distinctive emblem, a golden key, is widely recognized as a symbol of academic achievement.