Founded in 1776 during the American Revolution, Phi Beta Kappa celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. Its campus chapters induct the most outstanding students at America’s leading colleges and universities, and only about 10 percent of the nation’s institutions of higher education have Phi Beta Kappa chapters.
The Gamma Chapter of South Carolina was established at Furman University in 1973, but its quest to host a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa began forty-six years earlier. After the founding of two local honor societies (Zetosophia by the faculty of the Greenville Woman’s College in 1917 and Hand and Torch by the faculty of Furman University in 1927), Furman began triennial applications to host a chapter of the Society in 1927. Its applications were not successful until 1973, when the Gamma Chapter of South Carolina was installed on December 5. The Chapter initiated its first members in course and its first alumnus member, Charles Hard Townes ’35, Nobel laureate in physics, on April 23, 1974.
Students are considered for election to Phi Beta Kappa on the basis of scholarly achievements in the liberal arts and sciences, broad cultural interests and good character.
The chapter includes more than 60 faculty and staff members.