The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, held its MIT induction ceremony on Thursday, June 2, admitting 72 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,” said Jeffrey Ravel, 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.”
Diana Henderson, MIT professor of literature and MacVicar Faculty Fellow, presented a talk entitled “To Be and Not To Be: Working with Shakespeare at 400.” In it, Henderson discussed changes in the way performances of Shakespeare's play are explored and captured since the advent of YouTube, in the new world of global exchange. Examples were drawn from MIT's Global Shakespeares Curriculum Initiative as well as from a forthcoming production of “The Merchant in Venice,” to be presented in Venice itself. Henderson will be documenting the performance in Venice, which commemorates the 400th year since Shakespeare's death.
The 2016 inductees were provided with a brief introduction of the rights and responsibilities of PBK members by Ravel as well as the chapter historian, Anne McCants, MIT professor of history, and the chapter guardian, Charles Stewart III, the Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Political Science.
The 72 inductees were then recognized individually and asked to sign the register of the Xi of Massachusetts chapter before receiving their certificates of membership.