- Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest honorary society, founded in 1776 at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia. Probably the most prestigious honorary for the liberal arts in the United States, it now has chapters at approximately 280 of our foremost institutions of higher learning.
Phi Beta Kappa was the earliest society to adopt a Greek letter name, taken from the first letters of the Greek phrase Philosophia Biou Kubernetes, translated as The Love of Wisdom, the Helmsman of Life. The living membership of Phi Beta Kappa is about a half million.
The goal of Phi Beta Kappa is to encourage humane learning, a goal which includes not merely superior achievement but also a broad range of interests in the liberal arts, depth of understanding, and a high regard for intellectual honesty and tolerance.
The Washington University Chapter was established in 1914 as the Beta Chapter in the state of Missouri.