The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, held its MIT induction ceremony on Thursday, June 5, admitting 89 graduating seniors into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts.
Founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, Phi Beta Kappa (PBK) honors the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate students for excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Only 10 percent of higher education institutions have PBK chapters, and fewer than 10 percent of students at these institutions are selected for membership.
“Our newest members have been selected due to their all-around excellence in these areas of academic endeavor,” says Jeffrey Ravel, a professor of history and president of Xi of Massachusetts. "This year's inductees represent the very best of MIT, in the sense that they have excelled not only at technical subjects, but also at the humanities, arts, and social and natural sciences in their purest forms. The education these students have received will prepare them for successful careers, and also for a rich life full of learning and contemplation."
The ceremony opened with a special acknowledgment of Ellen Harris, the Class of 1949 Professor Emerita of Music, who has lectured on numerous college campuses this year as part of the PBK’s visiting speakers series.
Anne McCants, professor of history and vice president of Xi of Massachusetts, then introduced this year’s distinguished faculty speaker, Emma Teng, the T.T. and Wei Fong Chao Associate Professor of Asian Civilizations and associate professor of Chinese studies, who presented a talk based on her recently published book, "Eurasian" (University of California Press, 2013). Teng's talk — titled “Crossing Boundaries: The Hidden Histories of Transnational and Mixed Families in the U.S., China, and Hong Kong, 1842-1943” — covered the rich 150-year history of crosscultural Asian-American families, and how complex identities play out in evolving legal, cultural, and political arenas.
Following Teng’s lecture, Diana Henderson, professor of literature and Xi of Massachusetts historian, and Graham Jones, an associate professor of anthropology and chapter guide of Xi of Massachusetts, provided the newest inductees with a brief introduction of the rights and responsibilities of PBK members. The 89 inductees of the Class of 2014 were then individually recognized and asked to sign the official register of the Xi of Massachusetts chapter before receiving their official certificate of membership.
McCants closed the ceremony, charging the chapter’s newest members to forever “hold aloft the banner of scholarship.”
Prepared by MIT SHASS Communications
Communication and Design Director: Emily Hiestand
Writer: Nora Delaney
Associate News Manager: Kathryn O'Neill
Communications Assistant: Kierstin Wesolowski