New members of the Phi Beta Kappa National Honors Society were inducted Friday afternoon at Lisner Auditorium. Representing the top 10 percent of GW graduates, this year’s inductees comprised 161 graduating seniors. The induction ceremony also admitted 35 juniors into the esteemed association.
Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest honors society in the nation, inducts students who demonstrate a high level of academic achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. The society boasts members including former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and author Mark Twain.
Philosophy professor Jeffrey Brand-Ballard, treasurer of the GW Phi Beta Kappa chapter, and physics professor Gerald Feldman, chapter president, addressed the audience of students, family members and alumni, recognizing the support of family members as integral to the students’ achievements.
Provost Steven Lerman, a member of Phi Beta Kappa, delivered the charge to the 2012 inductees, which was laid out as a series of goals and responsibilities for members to adhere to as they progress beyond the classroom and into society. Lerman addressed the responsibilities of being a scholar and a citizen in the 21st century, imploring new members to always think critically and apply their intellectual gifts toward fostering a greater good.
“The challenge for us is what we do with the knowledge we can find so easily, and how much further we’re willing to go to try understand a concept, rather than superficially reading a piece of text online,” Lerman said.
Miro Nikolov, program chair of the D.C. Area Phi Beta Kappa Association, spoke at the ceremony and encouraged members to engage with the academic society even after their graduations from college.
“In our increasingly isolated and self-absorbed world, where people are spending more and more time in front of their smart phones and their computers, spending less and less time talking to and engaging with their fellow humans, joining the Phi Beta Kappa alumni association is the chance to have real live contact with like-minded, intellectually active, very bright people,” Nikolov said.
Graduating senior Lauren Walker said the induction came with a sense of relief after working to achieve high grades throughout her college career. “I love school, so I hope that whatever I do after [graduation] continues to spark my interest in that,” she said.
“You all have the good fortune of having tremendous innate intellectual talent and the great advantage of a world-class education,” Lerman said while addressing the new inductees. “But how you use these wonderful assets and innate abilities will depend not just on what you’ve learned, but on the personal values you apply to decide what you will do and what you won’t do for the rest of your lives.”