Phi Beta Kappa

Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) is the oldest academic honors society in the United States. Founded at the College of William and Mary in 1776, ΦΒΚ encourages intellectual distinction among undergraduates by recognizing outstanding academic accomplishment in the course of a broad liberal education.

Rhode Island Alpha

The Rhode Island Alpha Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was founded at Brown University in 1830. Membership in the Rhode Island Alpha chapter includes elected Brown students as well as faculty and administrators who were elected at their respective undergraduate institutions.

Brown’s initial application for a ΦΒΚ charter, initiated in 1789, was blocked by the Alpha of Massachusetts in Cambridge. The Alpha of Rhode Island, the seventh nationally, was granted a charter in 1830, thanks to the excellence of the college and the artfulness of President Wayland’s approach to the Alpha chapters of Massachusetts and Connecticut. A chapter for the Women’s College (later Pembroke College) admitted its first members in 1900. The two chapters merged in 1969.

The unique key design of the Rhode Island Alpha reflects the chapter’s pride in its history as well as the independent character of Rhode Island in general. The key retains two idiosyncrasies: on the front it carries the word BROWN below ΦΒΚ; the back includes the date of the founding of the Brown chapter, 1830.


The Alpha of Rhode Island generally holds elections three times durign the spring semester: in February (to elect juniors), in April (to elect seniors), and in late May (to elect seniors who transferred to Brown University as juniors).

As an independent organization, the Rhode Island Alpha of Phi Beta Kappa maintains its own eligibility criteria and election processes. For more information, please see the links below.