Catherine White Berheide

Catherine White Berheide

Catherine White Berheide (ΦBK, Beloit College) is the current President of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. A distinguished professor of sociology at Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, NY, and a member of the ΦBK Senate since 2000, she has worked to advance the ideals of the Society on her campus and guided some of ΦBK's most vital national committees.


In addition to her work for ΦBK, Berheide has served as Chair of the Department of Sociology and as Director of Women’s Studies at Skidmore. The author of four books and over 50 scholarly articles on work, gender, and undergraduate education, Berheide has been twice named a Carnegie Scholar and she served as the secretary of the American Sociological Association from 2010-2013. In 2003 she received the Hans O. Mauksch Award of the American Sociological Association Section on Teaching and Learning for distinguished contributions to undergraduate education.

Why do you think Phi Beta Kappa and an arts & sciences education are important in today’s society?

My mother and my grandmother were both inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at Beloit College in 1948 and 1917 respectively.  I know how much membership meant to them both.  My mother was an avid reader of The American Scholar.  She taught me the value of a liberal arts education, which is as valuable today as it was when my grandmother graduated 100 years ago and my mother 50.

The arts and sciences have been critical for my success and for that of my students.  The ability to engage in critical inquiry, to consider problems from multiple perspectives is vital to our future as a country.  A liberal education is essential for meeting the challenges the future will bring.

As a child, what did you want to be when you grew up?  

A diplomat.  

What was the most transformative course from your undergraduate education?  

Introduction to Sociology.

What was the best advice you were ever given and who gave it to you?  

When I told my political science professor that I wanted to major in political science, she told me to major in sociology.  She was absolutely right—she knew me better than I knew myself.   She certainly knew the disciplines better than I did as a sophomore.  

What is your favorite part about your job?    

Working with students.  

What is your favorite cultural excursion or experience in your town?  

I spend each summer enjoying performances of the New York City Ballet and the Philadelphia Orchestra as well as Opera Saratoga and the many contemporary artists who come to the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.  

What book are you reading right now? Anything you’d recommend?  

The Monastery and the Microscope: Conversations with the Dalai Lama on Mind, Mindfulness, and the Nature of Reality.