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Special Collections and University Archives

Finding Aid

Records of Phi Beta Kappa, Alpha Chapter of Iowa
RG 02.03.24
Collection Dates: 1896-
9.0 linear ft.

Access and Restrictions: This collection is open for research.

Digital Surrogates: Except where indicated, this document describes but does not reproduce the actual text, images and objects which make up this collection. Materials are available only in the Special Collections Department.

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Acquisition and Processing Information: Records of the UI chapter of Phi Beta Kappa have been transferred to the University Archives from the chapter at various times. Guide posted to the Internet April 2008 and updated October 2009. Collection processed by Wayne Rawley in 2009.

Photographs: None

Phi Beta Kappa program, 1896
Phi Beta Kappa program

Scope and Content Note

Records of the Alpha Chapter of Iowa, Phi Beta Kappa have been received by The University of Iowa Archives primarily through deposits from Chapter officers over the years. They are organized into seven series: History and Constitution, Administrative Materials, Financial Records, General Correspondence, Membership, High School Scholarship Awards, and Publications and Other Printed Materials.   In addition to the General Correspondence series, correspondence specifically related to other series will be found in: Finance, Membership, and High School Scholarship Awards.   

Historical Note

The Phi Beta Kappa Society, using the Greek initials of the motto "Love of Learning is the Guide of Life," was founded on December 5, 1776, at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia.  Originally it was similar to what are now social fraternities and was as well similar to a debating or literary society with the purpose of encouraging patriotism, scholarship and literature. 

As time passed it became increasingly a scholastic honor society with chapters as of 2009 located on more than 275 college and university campuses throughout the country.  Typically no more than ten percent of the arts and sciences graduates on these campuses are selected for membership in the Society; selection is based principally on academic achievement.

The University of Iowa chapter is the State of Iowa’s Alpha (first) chapter, founded in 1895.  The first officers of the Alpha Chapter of Iowa were Amos N. Currier, president; James A. Rohbach, vice president; and Charles Bundy Wilson, secretary-treasurer.

Box Contents List

Box 1:

Series I: History and Constitution

History of the UI Alpha Chapter and United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa (national).  1921-1980; n.d.

Constitution of UI Alpha Chapter and United Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (national).  Includes correspondence regarding amendments / changes to the constitutions. 1901-1959; n.d.

----. 1960-1988.

Box 2:

Series II: Administrative Materials

UI Alpha Chapter minutes.  March 20, 1972 - November 11, 1980; 7 November 1984; n.d.  (See also oversize box 1 folder 1:  Meeting minutes and various printed programs. 1894-1949.)

United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa (National) minutes.  April 3, 1940 - September 9, 1946 (incompl.).

Manuals for Chapter officers. 1923-1984; n.d.

Initiation ritual: Includes proposed/adopted changes, procedures, history, and related correspondence. 1928-1976; n.d.

Box 3:

Series III: Financial Records

Treasurer’s book: 1906-1931; Savings account book: 1924-1931; General account book: 1915-1927.

Bank statements. Includes cancelled checks and related invoices and correspondence. 1924-1928.

Loan fund.  Includes loan applications and approvals. 1935-1946.

Box 4:

Treasurer’s records. Includes account statements, requisitions, invoices, and related correspondence. 1931/32-1937/38.

----. 1938/39-1945/46.

----. 1946/47-1952/53.

----. 1953/54-1956/57.

Box 5:

Departmental (Iowa Alpha Chapter) receipts. November 24, 1937 - November 26, 1941; January 4, 1954 - December 13, 1955; December 5, 1957 - May 20, 1959, April 13, 1954 - May 20, 1957.

Box 6:

Series IV: General Correspondence

1909; 1921-1938.

Box 7:


Box 8:


Box 9:


Box 10:

1980-1981, 1983-1993, 1996.

Series V: Membership

Initiation programs with initiates listed. 1896-1951. (see  also oversize box 1 folder 2: Initiation and lecture programs. 1896-1912).

----. 1952-2000.

Box 11:

Membership lists. 1895-1964. (see also oversize box 1 folder 3: Membership lists 1895-1964, and handwritten membership lists, 1895-1973).

----. 1974-2009.

Annual UI Alpha Chapter reports to United Chapters (National). 1938-1966.

Membership criteria and statistics. 1933- ; n.d.

Box 12:

Series VI: High School Scholarship Awards

Award records and related correspondence. 1948-1961.

----. 1973-1980.

Box 13:

Series VII: Publications and Other Printed Materials

Phi Beta Kappa Chapter Bulletin (national bulletin).  February 23, 1933 (No. IV) - May 7, 1937 (No. 20).  Missing numbers IX (1934) and XIII (1935).

----.   October 1943 vol. 7 no. 1 - April 1965 vol. 26; September 1974 vol. 28; Vol. 29 November 1977, the Bicentennial Bulletin.

Phi Beta Kappa Chapter Key Reporter (national bulletin). Vol. 1, no. 1 (Winter 1936); Vol. 50 no. 2 (Winter 1984-85); and Phi Beta Kappa Key Index of Leading Articles, 1922-1925.

Index/Handbook for New Members of Phi Beta Kappa. 1934, 1938, 1940, 1950, 1955.

Box 14:

Geographical Directory of the Phi Beta Kappa General Catalog. 1922.

Delegate’s Manual to the Triennial Council of the United Chapters of Phi Beta Kappa.  1934, 1937, 1958, 1961, 1976, 1983, 1985.

Phi Beta Kappa Annual. 1934.

Box 15:

Insignia of Phi Beta Kappa. 1964.

Miscellaneous publications of national (United) and local chapters. 1920-1964 (incompl.).

Addresses to UI Alpha Chapter and other chapters. 1902-1965 (incompl.).

Press releases and press clippings regarding membership and initiation programs. 1934-1988 (incompl.).

Oversized Box 1:

Handwritten meeting minutes and various printed programs. 1894-1949.

Initiation and lecture programs. 1896-1912.

Membership lists. 1895-1964.

Handwritten membership lists. 1895-1973.