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Phi Kappa Phi Records

Identifier: SpC MS 0403

Scope and Content Note

The collection consists of reports of officers and executive directors, minutes of meetings, correspondence, financial information, reports of committee activities, convention planning documents and programs, and fellowship and membership information, as well as national office administrative files and records of the Phi Kappa Phi Foundation. It also includes extensive records relating to selection and installation of local chapters and interactions between the national office and the chapters. Records of two editors of the Phi Kappa Phi Journal are also found in the collection as is a group of materials from Edward Schriver, author of the society's history published in 1971.

Several past presidents of the society also provided papers documenting their service to the organization. Most of these officers spent the better part of their professional lives in various society offices culminating in the presidency so their records provide an overview of many aspects of the society's operations.

Records of several local chapters, especially the chapter at the University of Maine, are included in the collection and provide insight into the history and operation of the society at the local level.

The series outline and description which follows details the types of records found in each series and sub-series.


  • Creation: 1897-2005, 1950-1990 (bulk)


Language of Materials


Restrictions on Access

Kept at Fogler Library's offsite storage facility. One week's notice required for retrieval.

Use Restrictions

Rights assessment remains the responsibility of the researcher. No known restrictions.

Historical Note

The honor society of Phi Kappa Phi, established at the University of Maine in 1897, has as its primary objective the recognition and encouragement of superior scholarship in all fields of study. Admission to the society is by invitation only with high scholastic standing and good character required for membership. Members include students from all academic disciplines, with no more than 10% of the graduating class eligible for membership. Although initiates are primarily undergraduates, graduate students, faculty members and selected alumni may also become members. A chapter may occasionally elect honorary or distinguished members as well. In order to establish a chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, a college or university must petition to do so and must demonstrate that it provides the means and atmosphere to promote academic excellence, especially a strong faculty and an excellent library.

In 1897, Marcus L. Urann, a student at the University of Maine, first conceived of the society as a way to focus attention on students who had achieved high academic rank. Although he had been captain of the university football team in 1896, Urann saw the society as a way to de-emphasize athletic and social organizations on campus and to create respect for scholarship. As he put it in an article written for the Phi Kappa Phi Journal in 1924, "The baseball man, the football hero, the loud talking man, the rich man, and even the peculiar man are given attention and respect for something, while the man who concentrates on books too often is looked upon as having single ideas, and as being impracticable and unable to apply his knowledge." He also thought such a society would inspire all students to work for high rank. Born in 1873 in Sullivan, Maine, Urann graduated from the University of Maine in 1897 with a degree in civil engineering. He received a law degree from Boston University in 1898 and practiced law in Boston and North Easton, Massachusetts. He soon became involved in the cranberry growing business and was a leader in the development of growing, canning and marketing cranberries, later founding the Ocean Spray Canning Company. Marcus Urann died in 1963.

After conceiving of the society, first called Lambda Sigma Eta, Urann prepared a constitution and bylaws for it and submitted them to two professors on the campus. His plan called for electing ten seniors of the highest rank with no one to be admitted who had a rank lower than 90%. Along with ten students, university president Abram W. Harris and faculty members George H. Hamlin and James N. Hart were the first members. Although Urann had not thought of the society spreading to other colleges, President Harris soon began promoting the idea of the society as a national organization, and George W. Atherton, president of Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University), and Charles W. Dabney, president of the University of Tennessee, joined with him to promote this effort. The name of the society was changed briefly to the Morrill Society to honor Senator Justin S. Morrill, chief sponsor of the act which created the land grant colleges, but in 1900 the name Phi Kappa Phi became official. The chapter at the University of Maine became number 001, with chapters at Tennessee and Pennsylvania following soon after. Its motto, "The Love of Learning Rules All Mankind," was the work of Presidents Harris and Dabney. To distinguish itself from the already-existing honor society of Phi Beta Kappa, Phi Kappa Phi included members from all fields of learning, not just those of the liberal arts.

The society grew slowly at first. Its early organizational structure included a president-general, a secretary-general, a registrar-general and a treasurer-general. Abram Harris of the University of Maine was the president until 1903 when George E. Fellows of Maine became president. Other important names in the early history of the society included Edwin E. Sparks of Pennsylvania State College, who served as president from 1911 to 1924, Louis H. Pammel of Iowa State, who served as secretary-general, and Roswell C. Gibbs of Cornell, who served as president-general from 1927 to 1931 and supervised the society's fellowships for almost thirty years.

New chapters were established at a mix of public and private institutions with the society seeking to maintain a balance between technical and liberal arts schools. With the growth in numbers of chapters, the society divided the country into provinces or regions; there are presently five regions with a vice president for each area. In 1965 the office of president elect was established; the holder of this office serves three years, then becomes president. In 1969 the title of secretary-treasurer was changed to executive director. The position of regent, first held by Edwin Sparks in 1921, is responsible for working with institutions that want to establish Phi Kappa Phi chapters on their campuses.

From the start, administrative responsibility was shared among these volunteer officers, with the business of the society being conducted from various campuses across the country. It wasn't until 1951 that the office of long-time Secretary-General Lawrence R. Guild at the University of Southern California was found to be inadequate and a separate office space was obtained for the society. In 1971 Archie Solberg became the society's first full-time executive director and the administrative office moved in 1972 from California to Ann Arbor, Michigan. It later moved to the campus of Louisiana State University at Baton Rouge, where it remains today. The society was officially incorporated as a non-profit corporation in 1972. Its current board of directors consists of a president, president-elect, vice-president, past president, vice presidents of the south central region, southeast region, northeast region, north central region and western region, a regent, director of fellowships, and executive director. Volunteer committees such as the Investment, Extension, Communications, and Fellowship Committees also provide expertise and guidance to the society.

National conventions began to be held in 1900 and met biennially until changing to a triennial schedule in 1956. The conventions serve as business meetings for the society at which basic guidance for its activities is provided. In 1971 the convention was held at the University of Maine in Orono, allowing the society to celebrate its 75th year in the place where it was founded. Its 100th anniversary was celebrated at its 1997 conference in New Orleans. Mid-triennial conferences are also held to support the work of the society in its various regions.

The society began its publishing efforts in 1915 with the publication of the first volume of The Phi Kappa Phi Journal. Issues appeared on an irregular basis, with Roy M. Peterson of the University of Maine becoming editor in 1925 and serving for over twenty years. In 1927 the society published The Catalogue of the Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, edited by Charles H. Gordon. The purpose and content of the Journal were often subjects of debate within the society, with criticism that its content was too narrowly focused on Phi Kappa Phi events and its articles of interest only to those in the academic world. A study done in 1969 by the Committee on Publications and the formation of the Communications Committee in the early 1970s led to a concentration on the society's publications program and changes in the Journal's editorial composition and content. Its focus broadened to include articles by scholars on significant cultural, social and scientific issues. In 1978, its name was changed to the National Forum: The Phi Kappa Phi Journal and was changed again in 2002 to Phi Kappa Phi Forum. The society also began issuing a newsletter in 1969 as a supplement to the Journal and a way to disseminate information about the society's activities. In 2005, the society started an e-zine, Phi Kappa Phi Honor Cord, issued three times per year. As with other society offices, the editorial office has moved from campus to campus, now being located at Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. Two histories of the society have also been published: In Pursuit of Excellence: The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, 1897-1971 by Edward Schriver, written at the time of the society's 75th anniversary; and Making Heroes of Scholars: The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, 1971-1983 by Neal O'Steen, published by the society in 1985.

One of the society's most important activities is its fellowship program which began in 1929 when the Sparks Memorial Scholarship Endowment was proposed to honor long-time officer Edwin E. Sparks. Major portions of the society's assets were to be used to award one or more fellowships each year to support graduate study. When the first set of applications was reviewed in 1933, three awards of $500 were presented, a level that continued for the next 30 years. In 1963, the number of awards was increased to 10 with a stipend of $2,500 each. A $250 Honorable Mention Award was started in 1973; its name was changed to the Phi Kappa Phi Award of Excellence in 1997. In 1973 the society's board of directors established the Phi Kappa Phi Scholar Award with recipients chosen from chapter nominees who demonstrated excellence in teaching, research and public service. A similar award, the Phi Kappa Phi Artist Award, was first presented at the 1983 national convention.

The Phi Kappa Phi Foundation was incorporated in 1969 to handle gifts and donations and allow the society to receive tax-exempt gifts to support its fellowship program and other awards. It is governed by a board of trustees who are also members of the board of directors of the society. The society has awarded approximately $12 million since beginning its fellowship program, with more than $700,000 currently given each year to outstanding Phi Kappa Phi members and chapters through the society's various awards competitions: the Graduate Fellowship, Phi Kappa Phi Scholar and Artist Awards, Promotion of Excellence Grants, Study Abroad Grants and Literacy Grants.

Phi Kappa Phi has initiated more than one million members since its founding in 1897 and currently has approximately 105,000 active members. Each year it inducts approximately 30,000 students, faculty, professional staff, and alumni from nearly 300 college and university campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Nearly 3,000 faculty and staff volunteer to serve as officers of local chapters to ensure that the society's mission "To recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others" is fulfilled.


75 boxes (75 record boxes)

2 boxes (2 oversized boxes)


The records and papers of the National Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, a national honorary fraternity founded at the University of Maine. Papers include records from the national office, the board of directors, the "Journal", and records of all of the chapters. Future additions to the collection are anticipated.


The collection contains the records of the honor society of Phi Kappa Phi. It is arranged in five series: I. National office records; II. Papers of national officers; III. Research material for In Pursuit of Excellence; IV. Records of Phi Kappa Phi Journal; and V. Records of individual chapters. Series I, II, IV and V are further divided into several sub-series.


Series I: National office records

This series, the largest in the collection, primarily documents the activities of the executive director and staff of the national office. This office is responsible for running the daily operations of the society, and the executive director, who serves as secretary and treasurer of both the society and the Phi Kappa Phi Foundation, works closely with the officers and committees of the society, oversees financial activities, and provides services and information to local chapters. In addition to providing insight into the office's day-to-day operations, the series gives information on the society's governance and its conventions, fellowships, and financial arrangements.

This series is divided into 12 sub-series:

Sub-series 1: Governance and procedural records

This sub-series consists of the articles of incorporation, 1972, the constitution and bylaws, reports and triennial reviews of the officers and executive director, and handbooks for operation of the society.

Sub-series 2: Records of Board of Directors

This group contains material prepared and maintained by the national office for meetings of the board. It consists primarily of meeting minutes from the late 1960s through 1999, as well as correspondence and memos to the board from the executive director and reports of the regional vice presidents.

Sub-series 3: Correspondence

This sub-series begins with early correspondence of Abram W. Harris, president of the University of Maine and first president of the society. Correspondents include George W. Atherton and Charles W. Dabney, and letters concern setting up the society and establishing its constitution, rituals, etc. Most correspondence from the 1920s to the 1950s is that of Roswell C. Gibbs, who served as fellowship supervisor from 1933-1963. Frequent correspondents include Lawrence R. Guild and Roy S. Swinton. A small selection of Gibbs's professional correspondence is also included. Gibbs was a physicist at Cornell and the correspondence concerns his work on a directory of existing tables of constants and numerical data. It also documents his service in 1956 on a committee advisory to the Office of Ordnance Research for the Army while at the National Research Council. Correspondence from the 1950s and 1960s is largely that of Archie Solberg mainly to society presidents. Solberg, then at the University of Toledo, served as vice president of the east central region and director of fellowships before becoming executive director.

Correspondence beginning in the 1970s is largely that of Executive Directors Archie Solberg and George Robinson. Arranged alphabetically by correspondent, the letters are mainly to officers of the society and editors of the Journal. A group of letters from the national office, 1992-1995, ends this sub-series.

Sub-series 4: Financial

This section contains auditor's reports for both the society and the Phi Kappa Phi Foundation, 1969-1998, as well as memos from the executive director to the board concerning budget preparation, finances, etc. Removed from the collection were quarterly statements on the society's investment earnings.

Sub-series 5: Committees

This sub-series documents the work of the six standing committees of the society: Budget, Communications, Extension, Fellowship, Investment, and National Forum, as well as of several ad hoc or special committees formed to work on a particular event or activity. Records include meeting agendas and minutes, memos, correspondence, handbooks used by the committees, reports, etc. The Centennial Planning Committee and the Promotion of the Pursuit of Excellence Committee are the best represented from the ad hoc group.

Sub-series 6: Conventions

This large sub-series contains information on meetings held by the society from 1929 to 1998. Included is material on pre-convention planning and site selection, reports presented by the officers, lists of delegates, minutes of meetings, conference evaluations, etc. Of particular interest is coverage of the 1997 centennial celebration in New Orleans, which includes videotapes of many celebratory events. Information from mid-triennial regional conventions, 1975-1997, is also included.

Sub-series 7: Fellowships

This section includes correspondence, 1933-1996, of Roswell Gibbs and others concerning selection of fellowship winners, reports of the fellowship supervisor, and statistics and summaries of information about applicants and awards. Biographical information about awardees and nominations of Artist and Scholar Award applicants provide detail about these programs.

Sub-series 8: Membership

This small sub-series contains sample forms, policies for various types of membership, and microfiche copies of membership lists, 1975-1985.

Sub-series 9: Records of Phi Kappa Phi Foundation

This sub-series contains articles of incorporation and bylaws of the foundation, annual reports, minutes of meetings, information about fund-raising and a capital campaign feasibility report.

Sub-series 10: Office administrative files

Arranged alphabetically, these subject files document the activities of the national office in support of the objectives and activities of the society.

Sub-series 11: Chapter records, general

This sub-series contains correspondence and reports of the society's regent, the officer charged with coordinating the development of new chapters and monitoring the continued strength of existing ones. It also includes copies of local chapter annual reports to the national office, which list yearly activities, financial information, awards, and public relations efforts. Policy documents concerning petitioning for and establishing new chapters are also found here.

Sub-series 12: Chapter records, specific

This large sub-series is arranged alphabetically by college or university. It contains petitions prepared as part of the process of establishing a society chapter, the regent's report concerning a visit to the campus prior to deciding upon admission, and information about the installation ceremony after a chapter charter has been granted. Some files also contain items sent to the national office about local chapter activities through the years.

Prior to processing, these files also contained much routine correspondence from local chapters to the national office about purchasing emblems, certificates, placards and other supplies as well as outlining problems with or changes needed in individual memberships or collection of dues. This material was not added to the collection, but a sample of typical files was retained at the end of the sub-series.

Series II: Papers of national officers

This series includes material from presidents J. Kenneth Munford (1968-1971), Albertine Krohn (1972-1977), Walter V. Hohenstein (1983-1986), Ilona Herlinger (1989-1992), and Lawrence M. Sommers (1992-1995). Since each president also served a term as president-elect prior to assuming the presidency and as past president after leaving office, these papers often include information on those offices as well. Additional presidential material can be found throughout Series I, especially in the records of the board of directors and the correspondence, committee and convention records. This series is divided into five sub-series:

Sub-series 1: Papers of J. Kenneth Munford

In a letter of June 30, 1977, to "The Archivist, Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi," Munford described the arrangement of the papers he was giving to the society and noted that they detailed "my involvement with the society from my earliest recollections of it and receiving freshman honors, through initiation, participation as a chapter officer, and as a regional and national officer." He also prepared a narrative and included supporting materials for each section.

Munford was a faculty member at Oregon State University from 1939-1977. He was initiated into Phi Kappa Phi in 1934 and served in various capacities on the local and national level culminating in the presidency in 1968. He received the Society's Distinguished Member Award in 1986.

Sub-series 2: Papers of Albertine Krohn

Krohn, a professor of chemistry at the University of Toledo, was the first woman to become society president. She served as an officer in the University of Toledo chapter, was vice president of the east central region, 1968-1971, president-elect, 1971-1972, and assumed the presidency in 1972 at the resignation of President Theodore W. Zillman.

The Krohn papers appear to have been received at Fogler Library in 1986 from the archives of the William S. Carlson Library at the University of Toledo. They contain primarily correspondence from Krohn's tenure in various national offices of the society. They also include photographs and information about the University of Toledo chapter as well as an obituary of Dr. Krohn, who died in 1986.

Sub-series 3: Papers of Walter V. Hohenstein

The Hohenstein papers came to Fogler Library in 2002. They reflect Hohenstein's involvement in the Phi Kappa Phi chapter at the University of Maryland and his service as regent, president-elect, president, and past president of the national organization. Included is correspondence, committee records, photographs and memorabilia. A few materials also document his professional life at the University of Maryland where he joined the faculty in 1956, served in various teaching and administrative positions, and retired as Director of Articulation. Dr. Hohenstein died in 2000.

Sub-series 4: Papers of Ilona Herlinger

These papers were received from Ms. Herlinger in several donations, the most recent arriving in 2006. Herlinger, a professor of music at the University of Puget Sound, was the second woman to serve as president of the society. She held several positions in the society, including offices in the chapter at the University of Puget Sound, vice president of the western region, national vice president, president-elect, president, and past president. She was instrumental in starting the Phi Kappa Phi Artist Award in 1983. The Herlinger papers consist primarily of correspondence, reports on the state of the society, Herlinger's speeches and articles, and miscellaneous publications, newsletters, etc. from the society.

Sub-series 5: Papers of Lawrence M. Sommers

Sommers, a professor in the Department of Geology at Michigan State University, served as vice president of the north central region before becoming president. His papers, received from the national office in 1996, are primarily correspondence, 1992-1995, on such topics as participation in chapter ceremonies, regional conferences, committees, etc. They also include copies of his speeches and articles during the time of his presidency.

Series III: Research material for In Pursuit of Excellence

This series consists of research material used by Edward Schriver in writing In Pursuit of Excellence: The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi, 1897-1971, planned to coincide with the society's 75th anniversary celebration held in Orono in 1971. Schriver, an assistant professor of history at the University of Maine, used the records of the Maine chapter as well as materials from the national office, the Iowa State University and Pennsylvania State University archives, and articles from the Phi Kappa Phi Journal in compiling his book.

The materials include Schriver's correspondence, research notes, and various chapter histories sent in response to his requests for information. Also included are photocopies of Louis H. Pammel's correspondence from the 1920s about his service to Phi Kappa Phi. The series also contains index cards and photographs used in the book's preparation, drafts of the book, and the printer's proof.

Series IV: Records of Phi Kappa Phi Journal

This series primarily contains materials generated during the editorship of Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr. and his successor Stephen W. White. Lightfoot, from the Cullom-Davis Library at Bradley University, served as editor from 1969-1977, with White, from East Tennessee University, becoming editor after Lightfoot's retirement.

The series is divided into four sub-series:

Sub-series 1: Editor's correspondence

This sub-series contains primarily Robert Lightfoot's correspondence arranged alphabetically by subject and concerning appointments of manuscript readers for various subjects, letters to and from authors accepting or rejecting articles, etc. It also includes Lightfoot's correspondence with local chapters about articles on chapter installations and initiations as well as articles from faculty at various institutions submitted for possible publication in the Journal. A few of the letters date from Stephen White's editorship and are primarily to prominent scholars soliciting articles for the publication.

Sub-series 2: Lightfoot administrative files

This sub-series includes Journal office files from Robert Lightfoot's tenure as editor. Arranged alphabetically by subject, they cover interactions with the national office and various officers of the society as well as manuscript selection, financial matters, and Journal policies and procedures.

Sub-series 3: White administrative files

Containing the office files of editor Stephen White, these materials are arranged chronologically and then by subject within each time period. They include the same kinds of information as found in Sub-series 2.

Sub-series 4: Issue-related material

Dating from the 1970s and 1980s, these files reflect the change in the Journal's content to a focus in each issue on some subject of current interest to readers. Ranging from the aging society to women in the professions, files include memos to authors, editorial changes recommended, and pamphlets and other information on each subject.

Series V: Records of individual chapters

This series contains chapter records generated by several local chapters. Most prominent are those from Chapter 001 at the University of Maine. Also included are small groups of records from chapters at the University of Tennessee, Washington State University, the University of Michigan and the University of Toledo. Records from the Parsons College chapter, sent to the national office when the college closed in 1973, are also included.

The series is divided into six sub-series:

Sub-series 1: Chapter 001: University of Maine

This sub-series contains much historical material about the society's first chapter, including minutes of chapter meetings, treasurer's records, correspondence, and membership lists and roll books. Of particular interest is a report entitled, "Historical data on the establishment of Phi Kappa Phi at the University of Maine," probably written in 1934 and containing original letters from founding members as well as photographs of the chapter's early members and activities.

Sub-series 2: Chapter 002: University of Tennessee

Documents in this sub-series date from 1899-1977 and include chapter bylaws, committee minutes, membership rosters, and the chapter secretary's notebook.

Sub-series 3: Chapter 018: Washington State University

Included are chapter bylaws, a handbook, reports, correspondence, news releases, and information on nomination and selection of members. Most materials date from the 1950s through the 1970s.

Sub-series 4: Chapter 039: University of Michigan

Dating primarily from the 1960s, materials include chapter executive committee correspondence and meeting minutes, financial reports, and membership nominations.

Sub-series 5: Chapter 042: Parsons College

These records include minutes of meetings and chapter rolls from the first meeting held in 1928 through the last meeting in 1973 when the college closed. Also included is petition material from 1927 and correspondence from the 1970s.

Sub-series 6: Chapter 061: University of Toledo

This small group of material includes the petition for membership in 1951, chapter constitution and bylaws, minutes of meetings, correspondence, and a chapter history written in 1970.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of the National Honor Society Phi Kappa Phi, beginning about 1973 and continuing.

Conservation Note

The collection has been re-housed in acid-free folders and boxes. Documents have been surface cleaned as needed and metal fasteners removed. Photographs have been housed in polypropylene sleeves and remain with the relevant documents.

Guide to the Phi Kappa Phi Records
Box And Folder List Available
Brenda Howitson Steeves
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Code for uncoded script
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the Raymond H. Fogler Library Special Collections Repository

5729 Raymond H. Fogler Library
University of Maine
Orono ME 04469-5729 United States