David M. Granger


AUBURN -- Auburn University's Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa will be officially installed Thursday (March 22) at a 5:30 p.m. ceremony in the atrium of the Auburn Alumni Center.

Niall Slater, vice president of the national association of Phi Beta Kappa, will preside over the ceremony. Once the chapter is installed, its charter membership -- which will consist of 71 current and retired AU faculty who have been inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at other universities -- is expected to elect David Laband, a professor in the School of Forestry and Wildlife Sciences, as its first president.

The chapter is also expected elect four honorary members, based on their past service to Auburn -- former AU presidents William V. Muse and Harry M. Philpott; Taylor Littleton, former dean of undergraduate studies and vice president for academic affairs, and Edward Hobbs, former dean of the College of Liberal Arts.

"These four men were instrumental in academic changes and accomplishments at Auburn that have culminated in our being approved for a Phi Beta Kappa chapter," says Laband. "It's only fitting that they be honored as honorary members."

As president of AU in the 1990s, Muse acted swiftly to get Auburn removed from censure by the American Association of University Professors. Among Muse's achievements that helped Auburn in achieving its long-sought goal of receiving a Phi Beta Kappa chapter were an increase in the number of academic scholarships awarded, increased emphasis on the Honors Program and its transformation to the Honors College and support of AU's core curriculum in times of crisis.

Philpott, who was Auburn's president from 1965 through 1980, oversaw expansion of the arts and humanities at Auburn while, at the same time, the university's sciences were being strengthened. Under his guidance, AU began to emerge as major comprehensive research university.

As dean of undergraduates studies and vice president for academic affairs, Littleton led efforts in the late 1960s to establish Auburn's first core curriculum. Throughout his career, he was a staunch supporter of strengthening Auburn's academics in the arts, humanities and sciences. Currently, a lecture series at AU bears his name.

Hobbs' career at Auburn saw the School of Arts and Sciences become the College of Liberal Arts. He was a leader in AU's efforts to achieve Phi Beta Kappa membership and instrumental in the creation of what is now Auburn's Honors College.

Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest honorary in the United States and is widely recognized as the most prestigious. With its new chapter, AU joins the University of Alabama and Birmingham-Southern College as the only institutions in Alabama with Phi Beta Kappa chapters. Other Southeastern Conference-member universities with chapters include the University of Florida, University of Georgia, Louisiana State University and the University of Tennessee.

Outstanding students majoring in traditional arts and sciences are elected to Phi Beta Kappa in their senior or, in a few rare cases, junior year. The well-known symbol is the gold Phi Beta Kappa key worn my members which bears the three Greek letters of the society's name.

Installation of AU's Phi Beta Kappa chapter will represent the culmination of 30 years of effort on the part of Auburn University faculty and administrators. To obtain the chapter, AU submitted two lengthy formal reports and hosted a visit by a Phi Beta Kappa examining committee, which was particularly impressed with AU's Honors College, the Ralph Brown Draughon Library, the university's core curriculum and the Franklin-Littleton Lecture Series that brings renowned scientists and scholars to campus.

"Being granted a Phi Beta Kappa chapter recognizes our institution's commitment to educational excellence and student achievement in the traditional arts and sciences curricula," said Linda Glaze, AU's assistant provost for academic affairs and a Phi Beta Kappa member. "But it also recognizes the overall quality of the institution."

Phi Beta Kappa was founded on Dec. 5, 1776, at the College of William and Mary. Yale and Harvard began chapters in 1780 and 1781, respectively. The number of chapters grew slowly through the 19th century with most at traditional, largely private liberal arts colleges in the Northeast.

In the 20th century, Phi Beta Kappa expanded to all regions of the country and began to recognize the academic quality of undergraduate education at certain outstanding public universities. Only recently has Phi Beta Kappa begun to include schools that are land-grant universities, such as Auburn.

With the seven schools, including Auburn, that are being granted chapters this year, there are now Phi Beta Kappa chapters at 225 institutions across the country. There are about 500,000 living members of the honorary.

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CONTACT: Laband, 334/844-1074; or Glaze, 334/844-5771.