The Phi Beta Kappa Society, the nation’s oldest academic honor society, invited 77 graduating seniors from the Class of 2018 into the MIT chapter, Xi of Massachusetts.
Phi Beta Kappa (PBK), founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary, honors the nation’s most outstanding undergraduate students for excellence in the liberal arts, which include the humanities, the arts, sciences, and social sciences. Only 10 percent of higher education institutions have PBK chapters, and fewer than 10 percent of students at those institutions are selected for membership.
“This year’s inductees have been chosen on the basis of their exceptional academic performance, which has included not just technical subjects but also substantial commitment to the humanities, arts, and social and natural sciences in their purest forms — learning for learning’s sake,” said Arthur Bahr, an associate professor of literature at MIT and the president of Xi of Massachusetts. “Such an education prepares them to thrive not just in particular careers but also in the broader and more important practice of pursuing reflective, meaningful, and well-lived lives."
At the induction ceremony, which took place on June 7, Allan Adams, principal investigator of the Future Oceans Lab at MIT, presented an address entitled, “On the Value of Invisible Things.” Allen discussed his professional transition from a theoretical string physicist to a passionate oceanographic researcher intent on exploring and conserving the world’s oceans. In describing what he’s learned from “lifting the veil” and discovering the vast invisible life hidden within ocean depths, he advised the new inductees to “keep an eye out for invisible things to guide you and drive you.” As Allen observed, “Exploring involves risk — whether in space, your career, or your heart.”
Bahr, who specializes in medieval literature, provided the inductees and their families with a lively overview of the “ancient … well, relatively ancient" PBK society. With assistance from chapter historian Anne McCants, professor of history, and chapter guardian Elizabeth Vogel Taylor of the Concourse Program and the Department of Chemistry, Bahr introduced the 2018 inductees to the rights and responsibilities of PBK members. The 77 inductees were then recognized individually, shown the society’s secret handshake, and signed the register of the Xi of Massachusetts chapter.