19 seniors join Phi Beta Kappa early

by Alison Schmauch | 11/21/01 6:00am

The 19 highest-ranked members of the Class of 2002 were inducted early into academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa yesterday afternoon at a ceremony held at College President James Wright's house.

Seniors Jonathan Altman, Keely Beck, Mary Bennett, Michael Bergen, Jessa Block, Jennifer Bouton, Priam Dutta, Abigail Faulkner, Omer Ismail (who is also a member of The Dartmouth staff), Cullen Knights, Sebastien Lahaie, Joshua McMullen, Adam Mulliken, Swati Rana, Kathryn Ritcheske, Shane Smith, Christopher Wipf, Jennifer Youn and Sergei Zaslavsky joined the organization.

Kumar Garg '03 received the Phi Beta Kappa prize of $100 for having the highest grade point average of any student in the junior class.

Professors Nancy Frankenberry of the religion department and Richard Wright of the geography department were elected as honorary members. Robert Binswanger '52 was elected as an alumni member.

All of the inductees who spoke with The Dartmouth were excited to have received the honor.

"It's a great honor to be present among so many respected members of the intellectual community," Michael Bergen, an engineering modified with economics major, said.

Shane Smith, an engineering major, voiced similar sentiments. "It's quite an honor to be inducted," he said.

A love of learning and passion for meeting new challenges has driven many of the new Phi Beta Kappa inductees to succeed.

"Dartmouth is just such a wonderful opportunity," said Mary Bennett, a Spanish major. "It would be a shame not to take advantage of all the opportunities offered here."

Sebastien Lahaie said he is compelled to work hard because he enjoys the computer science courses he has taken for his major. He has found his courses to be "demanding, but highly rewarding," he said.

Traditionally, 20 students are inducted, but one of the students nominated is not on campus this term and never responded to BlitzMail messages about induction, according to Kate Soule, secretary and treasurer of Phi Beta Kappa.

As membership in the society is voluntary, a student cannot be inducted until he or she has consented to join.

Phi Beta Kappa has had a long and rich history at Dartmouth and other colleges across the nation, according to Wright, who spoke at the induction ceremony.

The society was founded in December 1776 at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Va.

Dartmouth's chapter, the fourth oldest in the nation, was founded 11 years later as an offshoot of Harvard's chapter. Phi Beta Kappa is thus the oldest undergraduate organization at Dartmouth, according to Wright.

The society did not get off to an auspicious start. When the founding members spoke at Commencement that year, the platform holding the student speakers and other dignitaries collapsed, Wright said.

Other milestones in Phi Beta Kappa's history include the decision to admit women as members in the 1880s and a revision to the constitution of Dartmouth's chapter in 1899, which stated that membership in Phi Beta Kappa would be determined strictly by academic credentials.

In the spring, another group of students, consisting of all members of the Class of 2002 with a grade point average of 3.75 or higher, will be inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.