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The national organization of Phi Kappa Phi was founded in 1897 as Lambda Sigma Eta to honor the ten highest ranking seniors at the University of Maine. In 1900 other college and university campuses became part of the organization and the name Phi Kappa Phi was adopted. Since the founding of Phi Kappa Phi, more than one million members have been initiated on nearly 300 campuses in the United States, Puerto Rico, and the Philippines. Phi Kappa Phi stands today as the nation's oldest, largest, and most selective all-discipline academic honor society. The mission of Phi Kappa Phi is "To recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others." The Society invites to membership the top 7.5% of juniors and the top 10% of seniors. Graduate students who rank in the upper 10% of all graduate students at an institution are also eligible for membership. Phi Kappa Phi supports academic excellence by providing annual awards of more than $500,000 in fellowships to outstanding students and grants for chapter projects.



In the early 1990s, Elon College (now University) began its quest for a chapter of Phi Kappa Phi. On November 14, 1995 Elon's Chapter 275 was installed by Southeastern Regional Vice President, Dr. Wendell H. McKenzie, with Dr. Kathy Lyday-Lee as the chapter's first President. The first class of inductees included 79 students and 3 faculty. In the decade since its origin, Elon's Chapter 275 has distinguished itself by active participation in all aspects of Phi Kappa Phi. Highlights of Elon's Chapter activities include: annual attendance of Phi Kappa Phi conventions, participation in the Phi Kappa Phi organization beyond the chapter level, holding a formal annual membership induction ceremony, inducting faculty and members of the administration as well as undergraduate and graduate students, holding regular meetings of all members druing the academic year, inducting a Distinguished Member (Dr. William Rich), hosting the Carolinas/Southern Virginia Sub-Regional Conference (Odctober 27, 2000), achieving the Southeast Region Artist Award (Dr. Victoria Fischer Faw in 2004), having students receive graduate fellowship awards for five consecutive years (2000-2005), and receiving a Literacy Grant in conjunction with Andrew Elementary School in Burlington.