Phi Beta Kappa was founded December 5th, 1776 by five students at the College of William and Mary for the purposes of social interaction and intellectual stimulation. Phi Beta Kappa was the first society to have a Greek letter name, and it served as the model for later organizations, with an oath of secrecy, a badge, mottoes in Greek and Latin, a code of laws, an elaborate initiation ceremony, and a special handshake. Many of these features are preserved in the society today.

In the years since its founding, Phi Beta Kappa has established itself as the oldest and most prestigious honors society in America, and as a leading advocate for the liberal arts and sciences. More details about the society, its founding, activities, and ideals, can be found at the national Phi Beta Kappa Society web site.

The James Madison University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established in spring 2010 as the Xi of Virginia chapter. (Xi is the 14th letter of the Greek alphabet, and the JMU chapter is the 14th chapter of Phi Beta Kappa established in Virginia.) The JMU chapter works to promote scholarship at JMU by recognizing outstanding students with nomination to membership in the society and working in other ways to support and honor intellectual achievement.

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