Founders Day: Celebrating Phi Theta Kappa

Phi Theta Kappa observes its birthday on Founders Day, November 19th. Phi Theta Kappa was founded in 1918 by presidents of two-year colleges in Missouri. The founders were seeking to recognize scholastic achievement by their students, and to establish a common purpose and standard for honors organizations on their different campuses. The founders chose to model their new Society after the prestigious senior honor society, Phi Beta Kappa.

Phi Theta Kappa traces its beginnings to a Society that originated with six charter members under the name of Kappa Phi Omicron at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri, in 1910. The Society continued to grow and in the spring of 1918 was one of many honorary groups in Missouri. At a meeting of the presidents of the Missouri junior colleges for women in 1918, it was decided to organize a new honorary society, chapters of which would have a common character, stand, and similarity of organization.

The name Phi Theta Kappa was chosen, and the Society was incorporated in Missouri as a national organization. The name Phi Theta Kappa was taken from the initial letters of the three Greek words meaning wisdom, aspiration and purity.

For the first six years, Phi Theta Kappa confined its activity to women's junior colleges, but in 1924 through constitutional amendment, the field of activity was enlarged to cover all junior colleges. In 1926, Phi Theta Kappa expanded beyond the borders of Missouri and into coeducational institutions.

Then in 1929, eleven years after its founding, Phi Theta Kappa was officially recognized by the American Association of Community Colleges as the official honor society for two-year colleges on November 19th. This date is now traditionally observed as the Society's Founders Day.

In the early years, Phi Theta Kappa membership was conferred to students at their time of graduation and few programs and services were offered. The explosive growth of community colleges in the 1960s led Phi Theta Kappa to expand its mission to reflect the nurturing philosophy of the institutions it served. Many more study programs became available after that time, and most students were inducted as freshmen.

Phi Theta Kappa Today

Phi Theta Kappa is the largest honor society in American higher education with more than two million members and 1,300 chapters located in all 50 of the United States, U.S. territories, British Virgin Islands, Canada, Germany, Marshall Islands, Micronesia, United Arab Emirates and Palau.

The innovative programs and services and array of membership benefits offered by Phi Theta Kappa are unequaled among honor societies. Co-curricular programs focus on the Society's Hallmarks of Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Fellowship. It is estimated that 200,000 students participate in these Phi Theta Kappa programs each year.

Annually, approximately 100,000 students are inducted into Phi Theta Kappa. To be eligible for membership a student must complete a minimum of twelve credit hours of associate degree course work and generally earn a grade point average of 3.5 or higher. Students must maintain this high academic standing throughout their enrollment in the two-year college.  
The average age of a new member is 29, ranging from 18 to 80. Part-time and full-time students are eligible for membership. The average Phi Theta Kappan is enrolled full-time with a GPA of 3.8. The most popular major of Phi Theta Kappans is Nursing, followed closely by Education, and then Business.

National Conventions and Service Programs

The Phi Theta Kappa International Convention is the largest convention of college students in the nation. Phi Theta Kappans gather at this convention every year to listen to exciting speakers, participate in workshops, honor each other's hard work and celebrate membership.

The Society encourages members to explore the Hallmark of Service through the Phi Theta Kappa International Service Program. Every two years, Phi Theta Kappa asks for input from regional coordinators, advisors and members concerning topics to be considered for the Society's International Service Program. Information from a variety of sources is taken into consideration before a Program is selected. Then the program is announced and launched at the International Convention.

Purpose and Mission

"The purpose of Phi Theta Kappa is to recognize and encourage scholarship among two-year college students. To achieve this purpose, Phi Theta Kappa shall provide opportunity for the development of leadership and service, for an intellectual climate for exchange of ideas and ideals, for lively fellowship for scholars, and for stimulation of interest in continuing academic excellence."

Phi Theta Kappa's mission is two-fold: 1) recognize and encourage the academic achievement of two-year college students and (2) provide opportunities for individual growth and development through participation in honors, leadership, service and fellowship programming.

Thank you.