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September 25, 2015

Phi Beta Kappa Alpha of Ohio Chapter

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The Alpha of Ohio chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Western Reserve College 10/28/1847. It was the 10th chapter established and the first chapter west of the Allegheny mountains.

Phi Beta Kappa was founded at William and Mary College 12/5/1776. An honor society in the arts and sciences, it is the country’s oldest honor society. Before the William and Mary chapter was suspended during the Revolutionary War (when the college was temporarily closed), charters were granted to Yale (1780) and Harvard (1781). According to Western Reserve University historian Frederick C. Waite, it was the connection between Yale and Western Reserve College (WRC) that led to the Alpha of Ohio Chapter.

In 1841 six members of the WRC faculty petitioned the Alpha of Connecticut chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (at Yale) to establish a chapter. Five of the six faculty members were graduates of Yale and members of Phi Beta Kappa. (By the time the charter was granted the non-Yale alumnus had left WRC and been replaced with a Yale alumnus.) The Yale chapter approved the request pending approval by the other Alpha chapters. On 10/19/1847 the Connecticut Alpha of Phi Beta Kappa granted the charter.

The WRC charter members convened on 10/28/1847 to organize a branch of Phi Beta Kappa. Elijah Barrows was appointed chairman and Henry Noble Day was appointed secretary. At this meeting the six faculty invited two other faculty members (Dartmouth alumni and Alpha of New Hampshire Phi Beta Kappa members) to unite in the organization of the Alpha of Ohio chapter.

The Alpha of Ohio charter members were: George E. Pierce,WRC president, Elijah P. Barrows, Henry Noble Day, James Nooney, Jr., Samuel St. John, Nathan P. Seymour. Faculty members Samuel C. Bartlett, and Clement Long were the two additional organizing members.

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George E. Pierce and Elijah P. Barrows

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Samuel St. John and Nathan P. Seymour

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Clement Long

The chapter was commonly referred to as the Alpha of Ohio at Western Reserve College. In 1882 Western Reserve College moved from its Hudson campus to Cleveland and became Adelbert College of Western Reserve University. The Alpha of Ohio chapter was then referred to as the Alpha of Ohio at Adelbert College.

In 1901 the College for Women faculty voted to petition for a chapter. By 1903 the petition was endorsed by 5 chapters and presented to the Senate of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa. In 1904 an Alpha of Ohio chapter committee was appointed to outline a plan concerning the College for Women. However, at the 6/15/1905 chapter meeting it was reported that a separate chapter could not be granted by the Senate of the United Chaptesrs to the College for Women. The custom was that 2 charters should not be granted to closely affiliated institutions. The women’s college could gain membership through the Alpha of Ohio Chapter. On 6/9/1906 the College for Women section of Alpha of Ohio was established.

After July 1931 the business of the 2 sections as it pertained to matters of common interest was conducted by an Executive Council of 6 members (3 from Adelbert College and 3 from Mather College). The chair of this council rotated every year. In 1959 the by-laws were revised and women students of Cleveland College who were candidates for the B.A. were considered for membership in the Mather section and men students of Cleveland College pursuing the B.A. were considered for membership in the Adelbert section.

After the merger of the 3 undergraduate colleges (Adelbert, Cleveland, and Mather) in 1971, the 2 Alpha of Ohio sections merged in 1972.

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Phi Beta Kappa key of Charles W. Palmer, 1848 and Arthur H. Palmer, 1879, obverse and reverse


(The portraits of Barrows, Long, and Seymour hang in the University Archives. The portrait of St. John hangs in the School of Medicine. The portrait of President Pierce hangs in Adelbert Hall.)

Posted by hxy2 at September 25, 2015 01:31 PM

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