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By Ella Mitchell, Contributing News Editor • June 14, 2024

Phi Beta Kappa inductees told to engage in civil discourse

Ethan Stoler
Ethan Stoler | Contributing Photo Editor

About 90 graduates were honored for academic excellence and inducted into the Phi Beta Kappa national honor society in Lisner Auditorium Friday afternoon.

The Phi Beta Kappa society, which was founded in 1776, honors students in the arts and sciences who have achieved academic excellence and demonstrated outstanding moral character. At the ceremony, inductees were challenged to think critically, question everything and positively contribute to the world.

Here’s what the speakers had to say:

1. Helping hands and secret handshakes

Jeffrey Brand, the president of the Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, recognized parents and family members in the audience for helping the graduates through the difficulties of academic life, including exam preparation, late-night papers and even unreasonable professors.

Brand, who is also the associate dean for graduate studies in the Columbian College of Arts and Sciences and an associate professor of philosophy, congratulated the graduates for their achievement and recommended that parents refrain from ironically invoking the title.

“It seems Mr. Phi Beta Kappa has gotten himself into a fender bender,” Brand said while demonstrating what parents should not do.

He also taught members the secret handshake at the ceremony.

2. Citizen scholars

Provost Forrest Maltzman encouraged the graduates to use their work ethic to sift through the superficial information present in the Information Age.

“I encourage you to use your critical thinking skills to question the information you find,” Maltzman said. “I urge you to go beyond the iPhone and to read the book.”

Maltzman added that induction into Phi Beta Kappa is “a call to action” and charged students to positively contribute to the world.

“Be generous in sharing what you know and learn. The Phi Beta Kappa emblem is a key,” Maltzman said. “It’s up to you what you do with that key.”

3. Engage in civil discourse

Frederick Lawrence, the secretary and chief executive officer of Phi Beta Kappa and emeritus dean of the GW Law School, recounted the history of Phi Beta Kappa being founded in a Virginia tavern. Lawrence reminded graduates to emulate those first founding members by engaging in serious civil discourse with one another.

Lawrence said that the Phi Beta Kappa loosely translates to mean that inductees treat knowledge as the “helmsman” of their lives.

“The helmsman steers you into the sea, where there is no clear path,” Lawrence said. “When we find ourselves in choppy waters it is the love of learning that will be the helmsman of life.”

Like these photos? You can purchase your personal photo from this graduation ceremony online at:

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