Phi Beta Kappa inductees told to open doors with new membership

Media Credit: Donna Armstrong | Contributing Photo Editor

Terry Murphy, the deputy provost for academic affairs, delivers a speech to the new members of the Phi Beta Kappa society Friday.

About 80 graduates were inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society in Lisner Auditorium Friday afternoon.

The Phi Beta Kappa society, which was founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776, celebrates students who demonstrate academic excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Speakers at the ceremony encouraged inductees to be open to new ideas and continue to use their critical thinking skills.

As part of their induction, new members were gifted a key and taught the society’s secret handshake by Jeffrey Brand, the president of the Alpha chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.

Here are some highlights from the ceremony:

1. Bragging rights

Brand, who is also the associate dean for graduate studies in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and an associate professor of philosophy, thanked the families present at the ceremony for supporting new members.

“This ceremony honors you as much as it does the new members themselves,” he said. “Behind every member of Phi Beta Kappa stand people who have helped them achieve the impossible.”

Brand also joked that the parents have bragging rights now that their children are members of Phi Beta Kappa.

“You could introduce your son or daughter to attract potential partners by saying, ‘Have you met my son, the Phi Beta Kappa?’ or ‘Look at my daughter, doesn’t her Phi Beta Kappa pin look nice today?’” Brand said.

2. Pushing ‘beyond the superficial’

Terry Murphy, the deputy provost for academic affairs, said because technology is rapidly advancing, it is easier to obtain information. Despite information being more widely available, she said the way information is used is what really matters.

“I encourage you to push beyond the superficial and to use your critical thinking skills to question the information that you find,” Murphy said. “This is a habit you’ve grown accustomed to in your studies, and I urge you to carry this with you through your lives.”

She added that members of Phi Beta Kappa have a “special responsibility” to use their intelligence and skills to contribute to the world, whether that is by inventing the iPhone or simply sharing “intellectual passions” with family and friends.

“I ask you to continue the habit of critical thinking and to be generous in sharing what you know and what you learn,” Murphy said.

3. Opening doors

Murphy also encouraged inductees to be open to new ideas, even when they seem strange or challenge their belief systems. She said developing this habit will make life more rewarding.

She added that because the Phi Beta Kappa emblem is a key, it is up to new members to decide what they will do with that key and what metaphoric doors they will open with it.

“I ask you to consider what doors you will open when you leave here,” Murphy said. “I hope that there will be many and that much excitement lies ahead of you.”

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