Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honorary society in America, founded at William and Mary in 1776 to foster the love of learning. It recognizes exceptional academic performance across the disciplines. 

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; in fact, 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 and William Smith, 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 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.

The Hamilton College chapter is maintained by faculty members of Phi Beta Kappa.

Additional information about the national organization and its history and mission can be found at the Phi Beta Kappa Society website.

Back to Top