WASHINGTON, DC — The Phi Beta Kappa Society installed a new chapter at the University of Houston (UH) today at a ceremony at the historic Moores Opera House. Following the installation, the new Mu of Texas chapter inducted 81 UH students, selected for their excellence in the arts and sciences.
Catherine White Berheide, Phi Beta Kappa Society president, and William Monroe, dean of the UH Honors College and president of the new chapter, presided over the installation and induction ceremonies. The events followed several days of celebration among UH administration, faculty, inductees, Board of Regents members, and members of the Phi Beta Kappa Association of Greater Houston, all of whom worked for years to be granted a chapter at the university.
“Phi Beta Kappa is the gold standard for undergraduate education in the United States,” said Monroe. “Sheltering a Phi Beta Kappa chapter means that we’ve joined the ranks of the very best colleges and universities, and that many of our best students will be commended by membership in the most prestigious honor society in the country.”
Phi Beta Kappa Society Secretary John Churchill acknowledged the significance of the university’s achievement, saying: “The University of Houston has a tremendous track record of educating a diverse student body to have real impact in the world. To have grown a core of excellence in the arts and sciences is no small achievement. I can’t emphasize enough how important it is to create these pathways for broad, disciplined learning at our public institutions.”
Prospective Phi Beta Kappa inductees are usually seniors among the top 10 percent of their graduating class who have completed a broad range of liberal arts and sciences coursework, including foreign language study and mathematics.
Hayder Ali, 22, a history major/biology minor, was among the new Phi Beta Kappa inductees who strode across the stage to receive an engraved, gold pin—the symbol of the Society’s emphasis on lifelong learning.
Ali’s family, originally from Syria, eventually sought asylum in the U.S. Ali recalled how in earlier years his family sometimes “had to choose between using [our] money to buy bread to eat for the day or to pay bus fare so I could go to school.”
Ali said the range of studies at the UH Honors College inspired in him a love for both the humanities and sciences, adding: “I am fortunate enough to be in a deep, internal debate over my future career—whether in international law, medicine or academia. What I do know is that I want to devote my life to public service and develop my passion for writing.”
“We hope Phi Beta Kappa can be an accelerant to the student who is honored,” noted Churchill. “It means you have been consistently excellent in your work and have succeeded over time. It’s an indicator of the kind of person you are, a badge whose meaning is recognized in the larger world for the rest of your life.”
In addition to the students, the chapter also inducted 10 Foundation members, including University of Houston System Chancellor and University of Houston President Renu Khator and former first lady Barbara Bush.
UH becomes the 284th U.S. college or university to shelter a Phi Beta Kappa chapter, and is one of only a handful of large, metropolitan public universities to have achieved this distinction.
Installations of new Phi Beta Kappa chapters occur only every three years and follow an intensive, multi-year application and evaluation process that includes site visits from members of the Phi Beta Kappa Committee on Qualifications. Among the criteria reviewed are the university’s educational rigor in the arts and sciences, governance structure, faculty excellence, demonstrated commitment to academic freedom, and institutional dedication to liberal education.
In April, two additional Phi Beta Kappa chapters will be installed at Mercer University, Macon, Ga., and Oregon State University, Corvallis, Ore.