Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honorary society in America. Membership in it provides wide recognition of academic achievement.

The Hamilton College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1869, making it the fifth oldest chapter in the state and giving it the name of the Epsilon Chapter of New York. The Hamilton Chapter was the 20th founded overall. Chapters at Union College and three institutions in New York City - NYU, CCNY and Columbia - are the only ones in the state that are older; after Hamilton came Hobart, Colgate, Cornell, Rochester, Syracuse and others.

Hamilton undergraduates who were elected to Phi Beta Kappa include several trustees of the College, as well as the Dean of the Faculty, and the notables listed below:

  • Elihu Root 1864, U.S. Secretary of State, New York senator, and recipient of the 1912 Nobel Prize for Peace (valedictorian; awarded Phi Beta Kappa after the Hamilton chapter was founded);
  • Alexander Woollcott ’09, critic and commentator; member of the Algonquin Round Table;
  • B.F. Skinner ’26, psychologist; proponent of behaviorism;
  • Sol M. Linowitz ’35, U.S. Ambassador and Presidential representative; Chairman of the Board, Xerox Corp.;
  • Richard W. Couper ’44, trustee; acting President, Hamilton College; President, New York Public Library; President, Woodrow Wilson Foundation;
  • Paul Greengard ’48, Professor, Rockefeller University; recipient of the 2000 Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine.

Additional information is available at the Phi Beta Kappa Society website.

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