Honor Societies for the Oblivious

Members of the Omicron Delta Kappa Chapter at Rhodes College.

By Emily Clark ‘15

After the hustle and bustle of rush, initiation, formals, and opening events, it seemed like Greek letters— in captions of photos, titles of posts, and explanations of albums— would never fade from your social media newsfeed. Yet, as students settled back into the college, and midterms grew near, Greek letters were replaced with autumn selfies, and statuses about all-nighters. #PumpkinSpiceLatte was trending instead of  #RushInsertSororityHere, and Greek letters seemed to fade from the campus conversation.

Then—after fall break—flyers appeared. Leaflets were stuffed in campus mailboxes. And professors started speaking a foreign language. It’s the start of Honor Society season, everyone, and here’s the breakdown before the applications and inductions begin.

On the Rhodes campus, there are honor societies for nearly every major. These societies provide members with opportunities for networking and publication and show future employers and grad schools their members’ dedication and hard work in their respective fields. A faculty member in each department normally advises them, and their events and charities are specific to that department—for example, Sigma Tau Delta, the English Honor Society, tutors local school children in reading.

However, there are three honor societies that accept all majors and minors at Rhodes. Any student, regardless of field of study, is eligible for induction. Yet, deciphering the difference between these three can be a herculean task in itself.  Their descriptions, mottos, and qualifications appear similar at first but, upon further investigation, reveal the intricacies of each group.

Mortar Board 

Rhodes Charter: the Torch Chapter
Qualifications: Rising seniors who have demonstrated achievement in leadership, scholarship, and service.  
Advisor:  Ms. Darlene Brooks

The Torch Chapter of Mortar board started at Rhodes in 1964. Group advisor Ms. Darlene Brooks explains that Mortar Board is special because it is the only seniors-only honor society on campus. Says Brooks, “These seniors are chosen by fellow Mortar Board students because of their exemplary scholarship, leadership, and service. So a student only serves with the Mortar Board for one year, but is a lifelong member.”

Omicron Delta Kappa

Rhodes Charter: the Phi Circle
Qualifications: Members are selected by showing achievement in scholarship, athletics, campus or community service, journalism, or the creative and performing arts. 
Advisor: Mr. John Rone

ODK is the oldest Honor Society on Rhodes’ campus; the Phi Circle began in 1927. ODK inducts not only students, but also faculty, alumni, and community members. Mr. Rone explains that initiates do not apply to membership into ODK, but rather “are tapped for membership based on their noticeable record of service to the Rhodes community.”

Phi Beta Kappa 

Rhodes Charter: the Gamma Chapter
Qualification: Members are recognized for the highest liberal arts academic achievement. 
President: Professor Teresa Gramm

Phi Beta Kappa is America’s oldest college honor society. The Gamma Chapter was established at Rhodes in 1949, and is the most distinguished honor society on campus. Secretary Professor Susan Satterfield explains, “It is highly selective, not only with regard to student inductees, but also campus chapters. Only 283 colleges and universities across the country have been awarded Phi Beta Kappa chapters, and only ten percent of the students at each of those campuses are honored with induction.”

Considerations for these honor societies begin in January, and inductions are in March or April, depending on the society. For more information and specific grade requirements, contact the president or faculty advisor of each society.