CORVALLIS, Ore. - Oregon State University has been awarded a Phi Beta Kappa chapter after a rigorous three-year application process.

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest honor society for liberal arts and sciences. A total of 26 universities applied for the honor three years ago, and five were chosen for a site visit last year, including Oregon State.

This week, the Phi Beta Kappa Triennial Council voted to award a chapter to Oregon State and two other schools.

Phi Beta Kappa chapters exist at only about ten percent of colleges and universities, and only about ten percent of each institution's arts and sciences graduates are invited to join Phi Beta Kappa each year.  Invitees must demonstrate not only outstanding academic performance but also a record of coursework in the liberal arts and sciences that shows depth as well as breadth.  Phi Beta Kappa members have included 17 U.S. Presidents, 39 U.S. Supreme Court Justices, and more than 130 Nobel Laureates. 

Oregon State President Edward J. Ray has been a member of Phi Beta Kappa since he was a senior at Queens College in the City University of New York, and there are more than 100 other Phi Beta Kappa members already among OSU faculty. Ray said he was excited about the prospect of offering membership to some of Oregon State's many high-achieving students.

"Becoming a member of Phi Beta Kappa had a profound impact on my life and on my career as a leader of higher education," Ray said. "When I was in college I couldn't afford the $25 membership fee, but a family friend was generous enough to pay it for me. That's why my late wife Beth and I set up a fund to make sure OSU students with similar financial limitations aren't prevented from becoming members."

The Kay Bowers Fund for Phi Beta Kappa Students, established by the Rays, will support eligible Phi Beta Kappa students who don't have the resources to cover the expenses to join. Upon learning of the decision to award a chapter to Oregon State, Ray has just doubled the endowment.

Phi Beta Kappa schools generally invite only a small percentage of high-achieving, top students to join, which gives them a notable addition to their resumes as well as access to networking opportunities. A chapter at Oregon State has been a long time coming, supporters say, and the high prestige that goes along with a chapter cements Oregon State's legitimacy as a major national research and liberal arts university. 

Among the reasons the Phi Beta Kappa committee cited for approving Oregon State membership was the university's 'overwhelming commitment to student learning," and "across-the-board respect for the values of liberal learning."

Dean of the College of Liberal Arts Larry Rodgers noted Oregon State's commitment to providing a foundational baccalaureate core for all Oregon State undergraduates.

"Becoming a Phi Beta Kappa chapter has been at the top of our wish list as we continue to enhance our arts and science curriculum at Oregon State," Rodgers said. "We are thrilled that our students will have the chance to experience the benefits of being members of such a prestigious and respected honor society."

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Tara Williams, 541-737-6412;