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Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland records

 Record Group
Identifier: RG-15-080

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  • No requestable containers

Scope and Contents

The records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland, range in date from 1894 to 2001, with the preponderance of them dating from 1955 to 1981. Most of the records are those kept by the chapter's secretaries: Thomas R. Hart, Jr. (1957 1958), Acheson J. Duncan (1958 1959), Joseph S. Ullian (1959 1960), John C. Goodlett (1960 1963), John Walton (1963 1964), Richard A. Macksey (1964 1966), Stephen S. Wolff (1966 1969), Julian C. Stanley (1969 1972), Roger A. Horn (1972 1973), Matthew A. Crenson (1973 1974), Stanley Blumberg (1974 1976), and Lynn H. Fox (1976 1977). In a few cases, other officers turned their files over to the secretary, so some records of presidents Maurice Mandelbaum and Sonia Osler and treasurer Richard A. Macksey also are present in this record group.


  • Creation: 1894-2010
  • Creation: Majority of material found within 1955 - 1981


Conditions Governing Access

This collection is housed off-site and requires 48-hours' notice for retrieval. Please contact Special Collections for more information.

All collections are closed except to office of origin or original owner until processed. University records are closed for 25 years from the point of creation.

These files contain student records in Series 1 and 3, which are further subject to FERPA restrictions.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

According to an early historical sketch, written in 1909 by Bernard C. Steiner, James W. Bright and Kirby F. Smith, the first suggestion of the establishment of a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa at Johns Hopkins arose in conversation between President Daniel C. Gilman and Steiner. "As a result of this conversation, interviews were held with such members of the fraternity as were known to be in the University, and the advisability of petitioning for the grant of a charter was discussed with them."(1) These members held a meeting in McCoy Hall on December 5, 1894, the one hundred eighteenth anniversary of the founding of the society; they elected Gilman president and Steiner secretary and appointed a committee on organization consisting of Gilman, Steiner, Bright, Smith and Melvin Brandow. This committee reported back at the next meeting on December 14, advising the formation of an alumni association and the preparation of a petition to the National Council to establish a chapter of the society at Johns Hopkins University. The petition, signed by nine members of the faculty and eleven students, all members of the fraternity, was prepared and sent to the Senate, which approved it in March 1895. On September 11, 1895, the National Council concurred, and Alpha Chapter of Maryland, the thirty sixth chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, held its first meeting on October 10, 1895.

The Committees on Membership and on Constitution and By Laws, elected at the first meeting, made their reports at the second, on December 19, 1895. The Constitution and By Laws were adopted, and eighty seven bachelors of arts, from the classes of 1879 through 1895, were recommended for membership. Those assembled also elected twenty associate founders of the Chapter as well as the first permanent officers: Daniel C. Gilman, president; James W. Bright, vice president; Bernard C. Steiner, secretary; and Charles L. Poor, treasurer. On January 20, 1896, one hundred doctors of philosophy (1878-1895) were retroactively elected to membership, and on Wednesday, April 29, 1896, the first initiation ceremony and "annual collation" took place, with an address on "The History and Influence of Phi Beta Kappa" by Lyon G. Tyler of the College of William and Mary.

By the following year, a standard nomination and election procedure was operating smoothly. This procedure has changed little through the years. The executive committee considers and then nominates undergraduates based largely on their class rank and graduate students based on recommendations by the faculty in their respective departments. At the annual business meeting, the whole Chapter then decides whether to elect the nominees. Some changes in the nominations and elections procedure have occurred since 1897, however. On January 5, 1906, the Chapter amended the Constitution to permit the election of medical students. By 1913, there was concern that too many doctoral candidates were being elected, so the Constitution was again amended, on February 12, 1915, to limit the number of graduate students to one sixth and medical students to one seventh of the total number of candidates. The amendment also stated that no more than two honorary members may be elected each year.

An early attempt to broaden membership to include candidates for the Doctor of Science in Hygiene and Doctor of Public Health failed. On April 11, 1921, the Chapter referred the matter to the executive committee, which met March 3, 1922, and agreed that a favorable report should be made on the motion to admit the School of Hygiene and Public Health doctoral candidates. At its annual business meeting, the Chapter again postponed a decision, referring the motion back to the executive committee, where it died. Not until the early 1960s were nominations requested from the Dean of the School of Hygiene and Public Health (as well as the School of Advanced International Studies and the School of Engineering Science). Although there appears not to have been a constitutional amendment, the decision to elect from these other schools seems to have been formalized on March 25, 1965, when doctoral candidates in the engineering and biomedical sciences were held eligible for election. The question arose again on April 20, 1966, when the Chapter discussed the criteria for the election of Ph.D. candidates from the School of Engineering Science. At that time, it was agreed that each department should determine its own criteria; representatives from the School of Engineering felt, in their case, that they expected their candidates to show unusual breadth and some evidence of humane interests. On April 8, 1970, the Constitution was amended so that Bachelors of Engineering Science could be elected.

Another early unsuccessful attempt to broaden membership came from Edward F. Buchner, Director of the College Courses for Teachers (which has since expanded into the School of Continuing Studies). In 1915, a Constitutional change in wording had shifted eligibility for election from all bachelors to only bachelors of art; the College Courses for Teachers granted the bachelor of science degree. Buchner wrote to the Chapter in 1921, recommending that candidates for the bachelor of science degree be considered eligible, but the executive committee disagreed with the recommendation at its March 3, 1922, meeting. Similarly, the School of Higher Studies in Education offered only the Doctor of Education rather than the Doctor of Philosophy. In 1938, Florence Bamberger raised the question of eligibility for election of candidates for the D.Ed. The executive committee in this case also refused to amend the Constitution. In 1972, the Dean of the Evening College and Summer Session (another earlier name for the School of Continuing Studies) again sought inclusion for that division's students, so the Chapter's Secretary wrote to United Chapters about the issue. While not disallowing the possibility of including the Evening College, Carl Billman, Secretary of the United Chapters, discouraged such a request from Hopkins, stating that, as a rule, part time students who take their bachelor's degree in an evening college are ineligible for Phi Beta Kappa, especially when the programs are not conducted by the Faculty of Arts and Sciences.

The most recent change in nominations and elections came in 1966 when the Chapter elected ten seniors in the fall rather than the spring, after they had completed only six semesters of college work. The intention was to lend a continuity to the Chapter's existence, hitherto lacking, by having student members present on campus. In 1970, this practice was taken even further when juniors were elected on the basis of extremely distinguished five semester records.

While the primary activity of Alpha of Maryland was always to honor scholarship by electing degree candidates to membership, it was also involved in national fraternity activities in its early days. Almost from the beginning, the Chapter sent representatives to the National Council conventions and held special meetings to determine how the Chapter should vote concerning the establishment of new chapters in other institutions. At its April 2, 1926, meeting, it went so far as to pass a resolution refusing to recommend to National Council the granting of a chapter (or recommending the withdrawal of an established chapter) if an institution violated the principle of academic freedom. Later in that decade, a disillusionment with the national organization surfaced, mostly in connection with an endowment fund that the United Chapters proposed to raise as well as the "growing centralizing tendency" which the Hopkins chapter opposed. Relations throughout the 1930s were marked by disagreement and Hopkins's refusal to cooperate with national policies and activities. In 1933, the executive committee disapproved of the United Chapters' proposal for the encouragement of scholarship by rewards in the form of money or honors; it also refused to supply detailed membership data "the supplying of which would require an amount of time on the part of the Hopkins Chapter's secretary out of all proportion to their merit."(2) In 1935, the Chapter did not advocate the new ritual sent out from the General Office. In 1936, the sentiment of the Chapter was unfavorable to several of the proposed changes in the Constitution and By Laws of the United Chapters. In 1939, the Chapter again declined to participate in a United Chapters fundraising campaign, and in 1940 the executive committee refused to pay an institutional membership fee to meet the deficit of the United Chapters. This discord seemed to abate only with the discontinuance of Hopkins's active involvement in national fraternity affairs, shortly after the Second World War, when the Chapter ceased sending representatives to conventions. After this, relations with the United Chapters were rare and cordial, usually consisting of inquiries about technicalities of membership.

The degree of the Chapter's local activities waxed and waned with the interest of individual officers. In the beginning, meetings had been frequent and had dealt with national business and matters of local policy (such as the 1906 resolution not to invite women members of other chapters to the annual dinner) as well as the mechanics of electing members and officers and making arrangements for the banquet. The Chapter even appointed a committee to write its history, in December 1908, for inclusion in the United Chapters' "Handbook of Phi Beta Kappa History." The banquets themselves were sumptuous affairs, as the financial records indicate, complete with fine wines, cigars, cigarettes and fresh flowers. Within twenty five years, however, the Chapter usually met only annually, with the executive committee meeting just beforehand to work through most of the serious business. The fiftieth anniversary sparked a renewed interest in the Chapter. On December 19, 1945, a dinner was held in celebration, and Judge W. Calvin Chesnut delivered an informal address on the early days of the Johns Hopkins University. Less than a year later, president W. M. Clark asked the members of the executive committee to consider ways to make the Chapter a more active organization. The Chapter decided to cooperate with Sigma Xi in sponsoring an address by University President Isaiah Bowman. At the same meeting, the secretary was authorized to tackle the perennial problem of sorting out the records to determine who was, indeed, a member, a task which had been undertaken since 1910 and would not be again until 1970.

Interest faded again until the mid 1960s, when the Chapter became involved in a number of lecture series. The Freshman Seminars, which began in 1964, provided an opportunity for students entering Hopkins to hear eminent faculty members address themselves to urgent questions. The intent of the Seminars was twofold: to introduce freshman to the work of senior faculty "who might otherwise remain as ornaments in the catalogue"(3) and to make the local Chapter's contribution to scholarship "more than the simple tabulation of cumulative grade point averages."(4) Jerome Frank, Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., George Boas, and Michael Beer spoke the first year. In 1965, William D. McElroy, Andre E. Hellegers, Charles H. Southwick, and Rene N. Girard addressed the topic "The Population Crisis." Due to the "difficulties of fielding a respectable number of freshmen to attend such a four week series"(5) the program was discontinued after its second year.

At this time, the Chapter was in one of its most active periods. In addition to the Freshmen Seminars, it was making other efforts actively to encourage scholarship among students. In 1965, it formed an ad hoc committee to make awards to honor scholarly or creative achievement apart from grade point averages. In 1966, the Chapter participated for the first time in the Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholars program. Professor W. T. H. Jackson, of Columbia University, visited the campus in March, lecturing on "The Medieval Sense of Humor" and "O Roma Nobilis the Medieval Idea of Rome." Activities again picked up in the early 1970s. The records show that some members of the executive committee took an active interest in the nominations and elections procedure, attempting to base decisions on such factors as the strength and breadth of a student's program and temperate use of the pass/fail option in addition to the grade point average criterion. In 1970, Chapter members also devoted considerable energy to a program called "Dialogues" which was to treat "The Role of the University," a topic of particular concern during that period of student unrest. Since then, the Chapter has continued, as always, nominating, electing, and initiating members and hosting an annual speaker at the initiation ceremony.

Chronology of Annual Intiation Meeting Speakers

Annual Initiation Meeting Speakers

April 29, 1896
Lyon G. Tyler, President, The College of William and Mary; "The History and Influence of Phi Beta Kappa"
May 4, 1897
Richard Watson Gilder, The Century Magazine; "Public Opinion in America" (called the "first Phi Beta Kappa Oration")
April 29, 1898
speaker and topic unknown
April 29, 1899
George A. Smith, Professor, Free Church College, Glasgow; "Joseph Mazzini"
no banquet due to the death of Henry A. Rowland
May 2, 1902
James McKeen Cattell, Professor of Psychology, Columbia University; topic unknown
May 1, 1903
Bernadotte Perrin, Professor, Yale University; topic unknown
no banquet due to the great fire of Baltimore
April 28, 1906
Stannis Taylor, Judge Henry Stockbridge, and Dr. Francis L. Patton
Albion W. Small, Dean, Graduate School of Arts and Literature, University of Chicago; topic unknown
April 24, 1909
Barrett Wendell, Harvard University; "The Mystery of Education"
May 6, 1911
Paul Shorey, University of Chicago; "The Divine Fire in Literature and College Education"
May 4, 1912
Frank Thilly, The Sage School of Philosophy, Cornell University; "Some American University Problems"
May 3, 1913
Talcott Williams, Director of the Pulitzer School of Journalism, Columbia University; "English and the Classics"
May 2, 1914
Henry Holt; "On the Cosmic Relations"
May 8, 1915
Frederick J. E. Woodbridge, Professor, Columbia University; topic unknown
April 26, 1919
Joseph Sweetman Ames, Professor of Physics, JHU; "Striking Contributions to Physics During the War"
May 2, 1925
Lane Cooper, Cornell University; topic unknown
May 1, 1926
Frank Johnson Goodnow, President, JHU; topic unknown
April 30, 1927
Albert Shaw, Editor, American Review of Reviews; topic unknown
May 5, 1928
Harry L. Koopman, Librarian, Brown University; topic unknown
May 4, 1929
E. P. Dargan, Professor, University of Chicago; "Balzac"
April 12, 1930
Gilbert Chinard, Professor, French Literature, JHU; "Thomas Jefferson as a Classical Scholar"
April 18, 1931
David A. Robertson, Goucher College, "The Measure of a Man in Phi Beta Kappa"
April 16, 1932
Robert Williams Wood, Professor, Experimental Physics, JHU; "Demonstration: Experiments on a Flame"
April 24, 1933
John H. Finley, Editor, The New York Times; "Historians of the Present Tense"
May 2, 1934
John C. Merriam, President, The Carnegie Institution; topic unknown
May 6, 1935
Karl Darrow, Bell Telephone Laboratory; "Cosmic Rays"
April 17, 1936
Isaiah Bowman, President, JHU; "Scientific Aspects of Recent Polar Exploration"
April 30, 1937
Leo Wolman, Columbia University; "Recent Federal Labor Legislation"
May 6, 1938
Herbert Spencer Jennings, Professor of Zoology, JHU; "Some Aspects of the Nature of Man"
April 28, 1939
Edward T. Cheney, University of Pennsylvania; "Some Aspects of Freedom of Speech"
April 12, 1940
Douglas Johnson, Columbia University; "Geology and Strategy in the Ancient War"
May 2, 1941
Owen Lattimore, Director, The Walter Hines Page School of International Relations, JHU; "Hinterland of China"
May 1, 1942
Edward Kenneth Rand, Harvard University; "A Phi Beta Kappa Poem and its Consequences"
May 21, 1943
Frank Aydelotte, Director, The Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton University; "Liberal Education and National Security"
June 16, 1944
Don Cameron Allen, Professor of English, JHU; topic unknown
May 25, 1945
Henry Carrington Lancaster, Professor of French Literature, JHU; topic unknown
May 10, 1946
David R. Inglis; topic unknown
Lyman Butterfield, Princeton University; topic unknown
May 12, 1954
Paul Alfred Weiss, Zoology, University of Chicago; "Beauty, Life and Order"
May 11, 1955
The Honorable Emory H. Niles; "Tides and Eddies in the Law"
May 15, 1956
Erwin Panofsky, Art History, JHU; "The Ivory Tower"
May 16, 1957
Milton S. Eisenhower, President, JHU; "Lightening the Burden of the Presidency of the United States of America"
May 7, 1958
Russell Morgan, School of Medicine, JHU; topic unknown
May 11, 1959
Malcolm Moos, Professor, Political Science, JHU; topic unknown
May 16, 1960
Adolf Katzenellenbogen, History of Art, JHU; "The Representation of the Seven Liberal Arts in the Twelfth Century"
May 12, 1961
David M. A. Linebarger, School of Advanced International Studies, JHU; "Problems in Southeast Asia"
May 7, 1962
Gilbert H. Mudge, Professor of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, Associate Dean, School of Medicine, JHU; "Science and Medicine"
May 9, 1963
William L. Strauss, Jr., Professor of Anatomy and Physical Anthropology; "Science and the Humanities"
May 13, 1964
William McElroy, Biology, JHU; topic unknown
May 12, 1965
Loren Eisley, University of Pennsylvania; topic unknown
May 17, 1966
Kenneth B. Clark, Director, Social Dynamics Research Institute, City University of New York; topic unknown
October 27, 1966
George Boas, Professor of Philosophy, JHU; "The History of Ideas Reconsidered"
April 24, 1967
Franco Rasetti, Professor of Physics, JHU; "Reminiscences of a Physicist"
May 9, 1968
John R. Platt, Acting Director, Mental Health Research Institute, University of Michigan; "Perception and Human Communication"
May 29, 1969
Peter Salk, student, School of Medicine, JHU; "Perspective and Personal Responsibility in the Movement toward Social Change"
April 8, 1970
Robert T. Hogan, Professor of Psychology, JHU[?]; "Roots of the Counter culture: the Rise of Sociological Man"
May 2, 1971
Michael Beer, Professor of Biophysics JHU[?]; topic unknown
May 20, 1972
Julian C. Stanley, Professor of Psychology, JHU; informal discussion of Mathematically and Scientifically Precocious Youth
May 5, 1973
Steven Muller, President, JHU; topic unknown
May 4, 1974
Steven Muller, President, JHU; topic unknown
May 11, 1975
Steven Muller, President, JHU; topic unknown
May 9, 1976
Willie Lee Rose, Professor of History, JHU; topic unknown May 1, 1977: Julian C. Stanley, Professor of Psychology, JHU; "East is East and West is West"
May 7, 1978
Steven Muller, President, JHU; "The Pursuit of Happiness"
May 5, 1981
Phoebe Stanton, Professor, History of Art, JHU; topic unknown


1.52 Cubic Feet (4 letter size document boxes)

Language of Materials



The records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland, range in date from 1894 to 2001, with the preponderance of them dating from 1955 to 1981.


The records are divided into eight series.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Dr. Roger Horn, Chapter Secretary, gave the four bound volumes to the Archives on August 13, 1973. Most of the remaining files were found in a filing cabinet in the basement of Homewood House and were transferred to the Archives in the fall of 1982, when the deans moved out of Homewood House. Professor Richard A. Macksey, who served as the chapter's treasurer, transferred his files (one document case) to the Archives in February 1983; receipts and other ephemera were discarded therefrom.


Accession Numbers: 79.27, 82.34


The source of the information in this historical sketch was this record group, the records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland, chiefly the minutes.
  • Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland; "History of Phi Beta Kappa, 1895 1910" (written 1909-1910), Series 1.
  • Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland; Minutes, Volume III, page 80, February 14, 1933, Series 1.
  • Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland; "Freshmen Seminars" file, letter from Richard A. Macksey to Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., October 31, 1964, Series 6.
  • Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland; "Freshmen Seminars" file, letter from Richard A. Macksey to Alfred D. Chandler, Jr., June 12, 1965, Series 6.
  • Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland; Minutes, Volume IV, page 106, June 1, 1966, Series 1.

Processing Information

Processed by Julia B. Morgan and James Stimpert.

Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha of Maryland
Language of description
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Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA