Oregon State University

Local History

The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi came to Oregon State College in 1924. Ten years before, in 1914, a local honor society called Forum had been established. It was a small but spirited and active society which developed traditions well suited to the Oregon State of those days. Forum provided the nucleus for the Oregon State Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi.

The thirty charter members of Phi Kappa Phi included faculty, former members of Forum and student members of Forum. The faculty charter members were:

M. Elwood Smith (Basic Arts & Sci.)
Arthur L. Peck (Landscape Arch.)
E. W. Warrington (Religion)
Kate W. Jameson (Dean of Women)
U. G. Dubach (Government & Bus. Law)
Nathan Fasten (Zoology)
N. H. Comish (Econ. & Sociology)
John R. DuPriest (Mech. Engineering)
E. B. Lemon (Administration)
C. B. Mitchell (Speech)
E.T. Reed (Publications)

Former members of Forum, some of whom were also on the faculty, were:

L. J. Allen (Extension)
Elmer E. Anderson (Alumni-Agricult.)
Lula May Brandt (Household Art)
Ralph O. Coleman (Physical Education)
Zelta Feike (Rodenwald) (Alumni-Publ.)
Ruth Kennedy (Household Science)
William Kessi (Alumni-Agricult.)
F. Earl Price (Ag. Engineering)
Elynore D. Sweeney (Sec. Training)
F.A. Gilfillan (Pharmacy)

Active Forum members who became charter members included:

Harry J. Card (Student-Agriculture)
Pitts Elmore (Student-Elect. Eng.)
Florence Gradon (Student-Home Econ.)
Raymond F. Hixon (Student-Agricult.)
Elvin A. Hoy (Student-Mech. Eng)
Percy Locey (Student-Commerce)
Dwight McCaw (Student-Agriculture)
Marjory Niles (Student-Voc. Ed.)
Lilly M. Nordgren (Student-Commerce)

Installation of the new chapter and initiation of members took place on June 6, 1924, in Library 100, a small auditorium on the east side of the main-floor corridor of Kidder Hall (now offices for the Dean of the College of Science). At the installation banquet which followed, Dr. M. Elwood Smith, Dean of the School of Basic Arts and Sciences, served as toastmaster. Speakers included Harry Card, a student majoring in agriculture and the Chancellor of Forum, and Dr. U.G. Dubach, a member of the government and business law faculty. Dean Smith was elected first president and Professors Peck (Landscape Architecture) and Warrington (Religion) were elected to other offices.

The Forum society left a strong impression on the new Phi Kappa Phi chapter. Exceptionally high standards were maintained for membership. Early pledging ceremonies took place at a gathering around the “old Forum tree” and candidates for membership were pledged “according to the old Forum custom.” While the location of the “old Forum tree” could not be determined, there is some information available regarding the various ceremonies as they occurred in the 1930′s. Freshman who earned 3.5 or higher were recognized in their sophomore year when they were tapped and given a flower and piece of ribbon at Convocation, which was held every Wednesday at 1:00 P.M.. In the spring of the junior or senior year, the “neophytes” were instructed by letter to appear at the bandstand in front of the old library (Kidder) at about 3:00 P.M. on a weekday afternoon. This apparently was “Sneak Day.” The initiates received a map to follow to several check points where they received other instructions. These led them over the Marys River, using the railroad tracks, and along the Mill Race to the Tunison property. (See below regarding the disposition of this land.) The pledges then were instructed to start a bonfire, clear the area for a picnic, and prepare a program for the evening. Members arrived later with hot dogs, buns, hamburgers, salads, desserts, or what ever was on the menu. It primarily was a congenial get-acquainted event. Formal initiation occurred later in a room in the Memorial Union without a meal. A combination of increased demands on times, the availability of the automobile, a road to the Tunison property, lack of interest on the part of new members, and the influx of veterans following World War II caused the traditional “sneak day” to fade away soon after World War II.

A number of alumni were initiated at Homecoming on November 7, 1924, and in following years a reunion of Forum and Phi Kappa Phi members was a regular part of Homecoming activities. On April 29, 1927, thirty-six alumni who had been outstanding students, some even before the Forum days, were initiated as members of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi.

There is a local Phi Kappa Phi song, which is attached to this history. It was written by E. T. Reed and Neil Reed. E. T. Reed was a charter member of the OSU chapter and first college editor at the Oregon Agricultural College (OAC). He was an accomplished poet with several published collections of his works and the compiler of the OSU Creed. It has not been possible to identify Neil Reed.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the founding of Forum and the 40th anniversary (1964) of the installation of the Phi Kappa Phi chapter, twenty of the original thirty charter members were represented at the spring banquet, either in person, by letter, or by descendants. Professor Warrington was represented by his son, who had been a member for twenty years, and granddaughter who was being initiated that evening.

The commemoration of the 50th anniversary (1974) of this Chapter centered around functions attended by National President Dr. Albertine Krohn of the University of Toledo. On Saturday, June 1, 1974, at an afternoon reception in the Memorial Union, she met many members of the Chapter, including two Charter Members, Deans Emeriti E.B. Lemon and F.A. Gilfillan. On Sunday morning, June 2, Dr. Krohn spoke at the spring initiation and installed new officers. That afternoon at Commencement she received, on behalf of the Society, the OSU Distinguished Service Award presented by President Robert MacVicar. This was only the second time that an organization rather than an individual had received this coveted award.

The Oregon State University Chapter of The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi has not been content merely to recognize scholarship. It has actively developed and supported enterprises that promote scholarship, study, and intellectual growth among students and faculty. In 1939, with the leadership of Delmer M. Goode, Chapter President, the Chapter sponsored the first Biology Colloquium. As this yearly meeting of scientists to discuss a particular topic in biology grew, the chapter helped make publication of the proceedings possible and a distinguished set of books has resulted. Sigma Xi has collaborated and various departments have provided financial support for what is now an annual Biology Colloquium. The Chapter continues to support the Colloquium with financial support.

The Chapter supported the establishment of resident student counselors in campus living groups. It joined for some years in supporting an Institute of World Affairs. It has sponsored other campus-wide forum discussions. It has participated in scholarships for foreign students and has provided funds for student loans.

The placard designed for use in initiation ceremonies at OSU to describe the symbolism of the Society was approved for wider use by the national headquarters of Phi Kappa Phi. In 1966 copies of this placard were reproduced in Corvallis and distributed to all chapters. A revision produced in 1971 is presented to new chapters at the time they are installed. Members of the Oregon State Chapter have been frequent contributors to the National Forum, Phi Kappa Phi’s national journal. The first issues of the Phi Kappa Phi Newsletter were published at Oregon State University in May 1969.

Through the years, the Oregon State University Chapter has grown modestly in financial and real assets. A fund of invested money has been set aside and increased from time to time to help support special activities. This fund is now managed by the OSU Foundation. Between 1949 – 95, the Chapter owned seven and one-half acres of timbered land near Avery Park on the Marys River behind the Marysville Golf Course and the property used by the First Baptist Church for its Boy Scout activities. This is the tract of land that had long been used as a favorite picnicking area for students and for the annual Forum and Phi Kappa Phi sneak day. It also was the site of the chapter initiations until parking became too serious a problem. Indeed, an incident related to the parking problem led to all initiation activity being moved to the campus. At the last initiation held on the Tunison property, so many participants ignored the “No Parking” signs on Allen Street that parking tickets were issued. Apparently they were “forgiven,” but that was the end of that tradition. In 1949 the land was bequeathed to the chapter by Mrs. Nellie Tunison. Plans were developed to lease the property to the city as Tunison Park but, because of the lack of public roads accessing the property and a financial commitment by the City, this did not occur. The original gift by Mrs. Tunison was held by the OSU Foundation on behalf of the Oregon State University Chapter until it was sold in 1995. With sale of the timber and land, the chapter received approximately $93,000 which was added to the scholarship fund held by the OSU Foundation. In October 1995, the chapter board agreed that scholarships awarded from the earnings of the Tunison endowment should be known as the Tunison Scholarships.

To encourage a high level of academic achievement among undergraduates, the Oregon State Chapter instituted an annual program of Freshman Honors and continued with it until national honor societies for freshman men and women were installed on the campus. Students who have made an outstanding record in their first two years in college are now recognized with an annual Junior Honors Accolade.

Each year the Chapter selects an outstanding senior, who plans to begin graduate work at once, to compete for one of the $7,000 fellowships provided by the national Board of Directors of Phi Kappa Phi. In 1969 the Chapter began awarding a series of annual scholarships of $500 each, one for an outstanding high school student entering Oregon State as a freshman and one for an outstanding junior to assist in completing the senior year at Oregon State. Over the years these increased to three junior scholarship awards. In 1988 the chapter officers voted to eliminate the scholarship for the incoming freshman and add a fourth junior scholarship. Because of constantly increasing tuition, the 1988 Scholarship Committee recommended increasing the amount of the awards even if it meant decreasing the number of recipients. Thus, in 1989 the amount was increased to $1,000, and the number of scholarships reduced to two. In 1996 the scholarship amount was again increased, this time to $1,500, and the scholarships were renamed the Tunison Scholarships. These scholarships are supported by the interest from the Phi Kappa Phi–Tunison Endowment.

Beginning in 1987, the Oregon State University Chapter initiated the Emerging Scholar Award for new, non-tenured faculty who are on tenure track appointment. The purpose is to recognize faculty in the early stages of their professional careers who show evidence of accomplishing outstanding research and creative work in the arts, sciences and professional fields. The recipients receive a $1,000 honorarium, plaque, and membership in Phi Kappa Phi (if not already a member).

A new award program was undertaken in 1990, The Phi Kappa Phi Freshman English Contest. This is an essay contest for all freshman and is based in the Freshman writing courses. Its purpose is to encourage early awareness of honor societies on campus. A total of $2,000 in prizes was budgeted initially.

These constructive activities have attracted the interest of other chapters and have received national attention. One indication of this recognition was the selection of the Oregon State campus as the meeting place for the twenty-fifth National Convention of the Society in September 1965. This was the first time that the triennial convention had ever been held in the Far West. An OSU Faculty member, former president of the OSU Chapter, J. Kenneth Munford, served as national president of Phi Kappa Phi 1968- 71 and on the Board of Directors from 1965 to 1977.

As the Oregon State University Chapter increased its promotion of scholarship within the University community, it became obvious that the chapter needed a specific location on campus. This decision was prompted by the need to establish a permanent home for chapter records and to provide a consistent source of information about chapter activities to the campus. In addition it was becoming more difficult to recruit new faculty officers who could carry out the chapter’s many activities without clerical help.

In 1998 a group of past chapter presidents addressed a letter to the Provost and President describing how the local Phi Kappa Phi chapter contributes to Oregon State University’s mission and the concern that the chapter could become inactive unless clerical help was provided. The letter proposed that a “physical home” be found for the chapter with Phi Kappa Phi contributing a portion of the funds needed for clerical support. A memorandum of understanding was signed by the University Scholars Program and the Oregon State University Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi in the Spring of 1999. Under the terms of the agreement, the chapter will provide financial support for clerical help that will be provided by the University Scholars Program.

Since being chartered in 1924, the Oregon State University Chapter of Phi Kappa Phi has honored thousands of men and women undergraduates, graduate students, faculty, and alumni by inviting them into membership. This fellowship includes many of the outstanding students and faculty of the University. Election into membership has been for many an important and cherished milestone in their educational development. Phi Kappa Phi will continue to recognize and demonstrate our desire to keep “the love of learning” uppermost in our minds as a guiding light throughout the world.