BU Phi Beta Kappa Celebrates 25th Anniversary April 27

April 23, 2002

One of Baylor University's most prestigious honor societies will celebrate its anniversary as a campus organization this month. Twenty-five years ago, the national governing board of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest honorary society in the United States, granted a chapter charter to the university, with formal installation of the chapter, Zeta of Texas, taking place in April 1977.

"A school that holds a chapter is recognized as one of the nation's outstanding liberal arts institutions. It is clearly a mark of distinction in the academic world," said Dr. Bruce Cresson, retired professor of religion and the founding president of the Baylor chapter.

The road to Baylor receiving a charter was a long one. Previous attempts had been made in 1952, 1961, 1964, 1967 and 1970. The final application, which ran 117 pages, was submitted in 1973. Dr. Cresson, who joined the Baylor faculty in 1966, said the national organization looked at several factors, including the number of Phi Beta Kappas on the faculty, the strength of the applicant's liberal arts curriculum, its library system and academic freedom and funding matters, before granting Baylor a charter.

"In 1966 there were only four or five Phi Beta Kappa members on the faculty, and that number had to increase before we would be considered for a chapter," he said. "When we received our charter, 12 faculty were members."

Cresson explained that technically the charter is granted to the faculty rather than the university, hence the need for Phi Beta Kappa faculty. But the university shelters the chapter and has to qualify to shelter it.

The university passed the careful scrutiny and became one of six Phi Beta Kappa chapters in Texas. That number has since grown to nine. From the 12 charter members in 1977, the chapter has grown to 55 faculty and staff members and more than 1,200 alumni who were initiated at Baylor.

The chapter will mark its anniversary during its annual initiation banquet at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, April 27, at Barfield Drawing Room in the Bill Daniel Student Center. The event will feature the induction of 51 new members. Baylor alumna Dorisanne Cooper, senior pastor at Lake Shore Baptist Church in Waco and a Phi Beta Kappa, will deliver the charge to the new initiates. Additionally, Baylor alumni who were initiated into the honor society will be recognized.

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