Today marks the 231st anniversary of the birth of America’s first scholastic fraternity, Phi Beta Kappa.
Known today as the Phi Beta Kappa Society, the organization coined many of the traditions and characteristics synonymous with Greek life today. Using Greek letters, having an oath of secrecy, and practicing a grand form of initiation- it was all them. It wasn’t until the early 1800s that the plethora of Greek organizations popular today started to pop up. Besides donning the reputation of the nation’s most prestigious academic honor society, the group’s lack of requirement for a secretary in each chapter distinguishes it from other Greek organizations today.
Since the society’s 1776 formation at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia it has grown into over 276 chapters that span the entire United States. MU’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter was founded in 1901.
Also on this day in history: in 1933 national Prohibition ended with the ratification of the 21st Amendment and in 1901 Walt Disney was born.
Visit the New York Times’ “On this Day” web page for more history lessons.