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Largest group ever joins Phi Beta Kappa

April 22, 1997

Wilson Aurbach

Lariat Reporter

Eighty-three University students have recently joined Presidents Bill Clinton and George Bush along with Buffalo Bills Head Coach Marv Levy as members of Phi Beta Kappa.

Phi Beta Kappa, the country's oldest honor society and the first organization to be known by Greek letters, was founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Members are chosen from the top five percent of students in each graduating class according to their grade point average in liberal arts classes.

'It's the biggest group we've ever had,' said Dr. Philip Johnson, president of the University chapter of the organization and Spanish professor.

The chapter also considers candidates that graduated before the society came to the University in 1977. Dr. Robert Sparkman graduated from the University in 1935 and went on to become a prominent figure in the Dallas medical community.

Johnson said that one of Sparkman's 'grand hopes' for life was to be a member of Phi Beta Kappa, but because the University's chapter was not founded until more than 50 years after his graduation, it was not an option.

This year, his candidacy was brought before the chapter, and by unanimous vote, Sparkman, at age 82, became an initiate of the society. His wife and a close friend were in attendance when the honor was presented to him at a private initiation ceremony. Unfortunately, Dr. Sparkman passed away five days later.

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