Alumni News

    We are taught by great actions that the universe is the property of every individual in it. —Ralph Waldo Emerson (ΦBK, Harvard University, 1828)

    Phi Beta Kappa members are selected from among the brightest students in the liberal arts and sciences.

    Each year, about one college senior in a hundred, nationwide, is invited to join.

    The hard work, ambition, and dedication to excellence that helped our members earn their gold keys continue to fuel their success in life.

    We are delighted to note our members' accomplishments when reported in the media and even more pleased when you write to us.

    Share your news with us and with your fellow members! Write to

  • Laure Astourian

    (ΦBK, University of California, Berkeley, 2007)

    Laure Astourian is a French film scholar and previous winner of Phi Beta Kappa's Walter J. Jensen Fellowship and the Mary Isabel Sibley Fellowship in French Studies. Having recently completed her PhD at Columbia University, Astourian is currently preparing a book based on her dissertation, “Outside the Metropolitan Frame: The Nouvelle Vague and the Foreign, 1954-1968.” In November 2017, Studies in French Cinema published Astourian's "Jen Rouch's Moi, un Noir in the French New Wave,the first article based on research funded in part by her ΦBK fellowships.

    Posted On: 2/5/2018

  • In Memoriam

    Muriel Anna Cullis Back

    (ΦBK, Denison University, 1944)

     Muriel Cullis Back died on November 4th at Havenwood in Concord, New Hampshire. Muriel Anna Cullis was born on July 26, 1922 in Sault Sainte Marie, Michigan. She was valedictorian of the Park School Class of 1940. In 1944, Muriel graduated from Denison University in Granville, Ohio, with a B.A. in English literature. While at Denison University, Muriel married Robert Nelson Back. Muriel and Robert Back lived and worked and raised four children in communities in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and New Hampshire. Muriel earned a Master’s Degree in Library Science at the Southern Connecticut State College in 1976 and worked for nine years at the Ferguson Library in Stamford, Connecticut. Muriel is survived by her four children, Martha Aguiar of Campton, NH, Ann Back Price of Barrington, RI, Robert Back of Elmwood Park, Michigan, and Timothy Back of Thurmont, MD, and her nine grandchildren, Gretchen, Jessica, Laura, Max, Katie, Karen, James, Tony, Shawn and her seven great grandchildren, Seamus, Hattie, Henry, Beatrice, Hazel, Neema Anna, and Bodhi. Muriel will be buried with her husband Robert in the memorial garden of the church they built in 1952, St. Peter’s Episcopal Church, in Glenside, PA on February 17, 2018. In lieu of flowers, please send donations to the Ferguson Library Fund.

    Posted On: 12/21/2017

  • Daniel Powell

    (ΦBK, University of Maryland, 2000)

    Daniel Powell was recently elected a 2018 Hawthornden Fellow and will spend a month writing new fiction in Scotland's Hawthornden Castle, an international retreat for writers. Daniel describes himself as a "proud member of Phi Beta Kappa,” noting that he graduated from UMD, College Park, with a degree in English. He went on to graduate school to study film after working in publishing, and is now a fiction writer and screenwriter.

    "When I earned membership in ΦBK, it was the first real embrace I received—beyond my parents, professors, and peers—for being an English major and studying the humanities," Daniel recalled. "I knew that literature was my home, but ΦBK's acknowledgement and support meant that being a student of books, language, and our human experience had significant value and implications far outside myself." For Daniel, "ΦBK was and continues to be that light in the darkness that seeks to destroy the value of a liberal arts education and college in general; make society question truths; and undermine the beauty of diversity of thought, knowledge, and people."

    Posted On: 12/21/2017

  • Jeong yun (J.Y.) Chun

    (ΦBK, Columbia University, 2014)

    After graduation from Columbia University, ΦBK member Jeong yun (J.Y.) Chun, wrote, directed, produced, edited, and starred in Cover, a short film about identity and perception. The story follows an idiosyncratic character who wears different wigs, assuming various personas. The film was inspired by a conversation J.Y. had with her mother about hair loss and alopecia. Recently, J.Y. launched a 30-day Kickstarter campaign in order to raise funds to complete the film. The campaign ends November 23rd, and if the goal is not met, no funds are raised. You can find the official trailer for Cover here. For more information, please feel free to visit the film's website. J.Y. Chun is a Brooklyn-based actor-filmmaker who won the 2014 Andrew Sarris Memorial Award for Film Criticism, the German Consular Book Award, and the Lamont Younger Poets' Award

    Posted On: 11/8/2017

  • In Memoriam

    Pamela Ann (Maky) Boyarsky

    (ΦBK, Denison University, 1963)

    On Sunday, May 14, Pamela Ann (Maky) Boyarsky left us. She graduated from Denison University at age 21 and was a member of Phi Beta Kappa and Pi Beta Phi. Pam married Ron Boyarsky in 1965, and they stayed married for the next 52 years; they were best friends. She spent 32 years as a teacher of high school Spanish in South Euclid and in Maple Heights, Ohio, and of preschoolers in Solon, Ohio. She spent 17 years as an insurance underwriter with First Catholic Slovak Ladies Association. She watched her three boys grow up to be teachers, in one form or another, then move away to Alaska. Pam visited them 20 summers and loved her Alaskan adventures with her “young men.” She reveled in her two grandchildren’s smiles. Son John Boyarsky remarked, "Mom was the smartest woman in any room she entered, and she will be missed by everyone who knew her." 

    Posted On: 5/30/2017

  • In Memoriam

    Thomas G. Samter, MD

    (ΦBK, University of Indiana, 1948)

    Husband, father, grandfather, and pathologist, Thomas G. Samter, MD was born in Cairo, Egypt, on January 1, 1929. A proud member of Phi Beta Kappa from 1948, he was a graduate of the University of Indiana Medical School Class of 1952 and a retired Air Force Captain. He practiced medicine in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and then spent a wonderful retirement in Hollywood, Florida. He passed away April 19 and is survived by his wife, daughter, son, and granddaughter. 

    Posted On: 5/24/2017

  • Alan Schwartz

    (ΦBK, University of California-Berkeley, 1991)

    The book Listening for What Matters: Avoiding Contextual Errors in Health Care (Oxford University Press, 2016) by Saul J. Weiner and Alan Schwartz received the 2017 PROSE Award for Excellence in the Biological & Life Sciences, recognizing the best book published in the area in 2016. It also received the PROSE subject category award in Nursing & Allied Health. The PROSE Awards are given annually by the Professional and Scholarly Publishing Division of the American Association of Publishers.

    Posted On: 2/15/2017

  • In Memoriam

    Haig Khatchadourian

    (ΦBK, Duke University, 1956)

     Haig Khatchadourian, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, died on February 16, 2016 in Milwaukee. He was preceded in death by Arpiné Khatchadourian (Nee Yaghlian), his wife of 61 years. He is survived by children Apraham (Susan), Vicken, Sonia, grandchildren Eric and Marc, relatives and friends throughout the US and abroad. He was born in the Old City of Jerusalem, Palestine and was educated at the American University of Beirut (BA with Honors, 1948; MA, 1950) and Duke University (PhD, 1956). He taught at the American University of Beirut (1948-49, 1956-68); Melkonian Educational Institute, Nicosia, Cyprus (1950-51); Haigazian University, Beirut (1951-52); University of Southern California (1968-69); and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (1967-68,1969-94). He was a Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii-Manoa (1976-77) and a Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of New Mexico-Albuquerque (1978-79). His areas of specialization included: aesthetics and philosophy of the arts, ethics, philosophy of language, political philosophy, and social philosophy, among others. He received numerous honors and awards, including Outstanding Educators of America Award, 2000; Outstanding Intellectuals of the 20th Century; and 2000 Outstanding Academics of the 21st Century. He was a member of learned societies, presented papers at international conferences (1958-2007), and published 19 books, including three books of poetry and one play, as well as 130 articles (1961-2015). His most recent book, How To Do Things With Silence, was published by DeGruyter in the fall of 2015. At the time of his death, he was working on several other books, including his autobiography, Leaves From A Life, and World Tragedies: Visions of the Protagonist. Khatchadourian was inducted into Phi Beta Kappa at Duke University in 1956 and was a charter member of the Eta of Wisconsin chapter of Phi Beta Kappa. 

    Posted On: 2/13/2017

  • In Memoriam

    Margaret Alice Fortmann

    (ΦBK, Syracuse University, 1944)

     Margaret Alice Fortmann (Head, Davis) passed away peacefully on December 18th at the Atrium in Park Ridge at the age of 93. Margaret was born August 14, 1923 in Frankfort, New York. She was predeceased by her parents, James and Abigail Davis also of Frankfort, husband Richard Head and husband Bernhard Fortmann. She is survived by her sons Peter (Donna) Head of Brockport, New York and Jeremy (Patricia) Head of Wantage, New Jersey. She is also survived by four grandchildren, Melissa Head (Joe Welch) of Fairbanks, Alaska; Kevin Head of Brockport, New York; Jeremy Head (fiancé Ashley Jackson) of Wantage, New Jersey; and Kyle Head of Hollywood, California. Margaret was a retired teacher in the Park Ridge, New Jersey school district and was a devoted parishioner of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Montvale, New Jersey. She was also a proud member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society from the time of her graduation from Syracuse University. 

    Posted On: 1/9/2017

  • Virginia Howard

    (ΦBK, University of Alabama, 1964)

    Virginia Howard is the editor of THEMA, a theme-related journal with three goals. One is to provide a stimulating forum for established and emerging literary and visual artists. The second is to serve as source material and inspiration for teachers of creative writing. The third is to provide readers with a unique and entertaining collection of stories, poems, art and photography. Learn more about THEMA and how to submit your work on the journal's website at

    Posted On: 10/21/2016

  • Robert B. Davis II

    (ΦBK, University of Redlands, 2016)

    Philosopher and author Robert B. Davis II has launched a new website,, to share his views through posted essays and to provide links to buy or download his books. The site also features videos, cartoons and doodles, rhymes, and the author’s recommended reading. 

    Posted On: 8/17/2016

  • Abby Vegas

    (ΦBK, Carnegie Mellon University, 1995)

    Abby Vegas (ΦBK, Carnegie Mellon University, 1995) has published her debut novel, a women's fiction/romantic-suspense crossover entitled Clean Break. The "Feeding My Addiction Book Reviews" blog praised Clean Break as "a heartwarming, at times funny journey," adding: "If there was an award for breakthrough author, I would nominate Abby Vegas. I truly believe she is one to watch in the future!" 

    Posted On: 5/3/2016

  • William E. Winter

    (ΦBK, University of Illinois, 1942)

    William C. Winter shared with us two wonderful memories of his father, William E. Winter (left) — both father and son, it seems, cherished their memory of Phi Beta Kappa.

    "He was inducted into Gamma of Illinois at the University of Illinois on December 8, 1941," William writes. "And for as long as my brother and I can remember, his ΦBK certificate was displayed on a wall of his home."

    "My earliest 'recognition' of my father's honor came when I was in the second grade," he recalls. "I was having trouble with penmanship, and I was getting low marks for my cramped style. My mother, also a teacher, was not an argumentative type, but something about the 'problem' bothered her. She told me that my handwriting was much like my father's...and he was a Phi Beta Kappa. I wasn't sure what that meant, so I asked her to write it on a card so that I could remember."

    ΦBK member William E. Winter was the former chief executive officer and chairman of the board of the Seven-Up Company. He led the development of the famous “Uncola” advertising campaign and pioneered corporate sponsorship of humanitarian causes. 

    Posted On: 3/24/2016

  • Anna Olswanger

    (ΦBK, Rhodes College, 1975)

    After graduation from Rhodes College, Anna Olswanger wrote Greenhorn, a children's novel about a young Holocaust survivor who arrived at a Brooklyn yeshiva in the 1940s with only a small box that he wouldn't let out of his sight. The book was based on a true story she heard from the rabbi of her synagogue. Greenhorn was published in 2012. Last year Anna co-produced an indie film adaptation of the book. Greenhorn premiered at the Landmark NuArt Theatre in L.A. and at The Museum of Tolerance in New York. It was named the 2015 Audience Award Winner for Best Short Film Drama at the Morris and Mollye Fogelman International Jewish Film Festival in Memphis, and aired on Memphis public television station WKNO last April and this past October. It screened again at The Museum of Tolerance in New York as part of the museum's Holocaust Remembrance Day observance, and on Kentucky Public Television. It was also part of last month's Festival Internacional De Cine Judio en Mexico. The film is distributed by TMW Media.

    Posted On: 2/1/2016

  • Daniel Scott

    (ΦBK, CUNY City College, 1994)

    Daniel Scott’s newly released novel, Valedictory, is set at a university in New York in the 1980s during a student takeover that shuts down the campus, and it focuses on the struggles of Earl Castle, the university’s would-be valedictorian. The book is partly based on Scott’s experiences as a student at the City College of New York, where he was valedictorian of the class of 1994. Scott is the author of two previous books of fiction, Some of Us Have to Get Up in the Morning (2001) and Pay This Amount (2008). He is also the recipient of various grants and fellowships from sources such as the Christopher Isherwood Foundation, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the MacDowell Colony.

    Posted On: 1/28/2016

  • Linda S. Campanella

    (ΦBK, Amherst College, 1980)

    Linda Campanella, who was a German major at Amherst College, describes herself as “a walking advertisement for the value of a liberal arts degree.” She is an award-winning author and a Connecticut-based management consultant serving nonprofit organizations of all sizes and missions. Previously she has worked as a corporate executive, a college administrator, and a trade negotiator. Her 2011 book When All That’s Left of Me Is Love was a 2013 Indie Excellence Book Awards finalist, 2012 Nautilus Book Award silver medalist, 2012 Living Now Book Awards gold medalist, 2012 Readers Favorite silver medalist, and 2011 ReaderViews Literary Awards first-place winner in two categories: memoir/autobiography/biography and parenting/families/relationships. The book is a memoir of her last year with her terminally ill mother.

    Posted On: 1/28/2016

  • Gregg Hurwitz

    (ΦBK, Harvard University, 1995)

    Gregg Hurwitz is the New York Times bestselling author of 15 thrillers, including They’re Watching, Trust No One, The Crime Writer and Troubleshooter. His latest book, the start of a new thriller series, is ORPHAN X. It has already been sold in 18 languages and optioned by Warner Brothers for Bradley Cooper. Hurwitz tells us that he is currently touring and writing the screenplay adaptation.

    Posted On: 1/13/2016

  • James Earl Cox III

    (ΦBK, Miami University, 2014)

    Temporality, a video game developed by ΦBK member James Cox, is one of the jury selections in the entertainment division at the Japan Media Arts Festival this year. The Japan Media Arts Festival is a comprehensive festival of Media Arts (=Media Geijutsu) that honors outstanding works from a diverse range of media—from animation and comics to media art and games. The festival gives awards in each of its four divisions: art, entertainment, animation, and manga. 

    Posted On: 12/14/2015

  • Nyri Achadjian

    (ΦBK, University of Southern California, 2014)

    Nyri Achadjian began her career working for Oracle, but was soon hired to lead the business development team for a San Francisco start-up called Discotech–a reservation system for nightlife. However, while working on the campaign staff for California Assemblyman Katcho Achadjian (her father) in his current bid for U.S. Congress, Nyri has started to see her career path as more of an open field and less of a linear plan. “I find myself charged with adrenaline as I am tasked with work I have never touched, never studied in school, like speech writing and voter relations” she says. “The adrenaline might be coming from my father being the candidate, but it’s a very good feeling to actually learn through your work.” Nyri adds: “It’s this on-going intellectual growth, the fearlessness of new perspectives, that I think is critical. Eager fearlessness to learn—I think that’s the key right there.”

    Posted On: 12/14/2015

  • Katherine L. Morse

    (ΦBK, University of Arizona, 1983)

    When she's not developing open, international standards for simulation interoperability, Katherine L. Morse writes steampunk adventure fiction with her husband, David L. Drake. The Adventures of Drake & McTrowell currently comprises four full adventures with a fifth in the works. An illustrated, hardcover edition of their first adventure, London, Where It All Began is available. 

    Posted On: 12/1/2015

  • Kate Deimling

    (ΦBK, University of Chicago, 1993)

    Kate Deimling's translation of Vino Business: The Cloudy World of French Wine, an exposé of the French wine industry by journalist Isabelle Saporta, was recently published by Grove Atlantic. In its review, Publishers Weekly says "Saporta's precision in identifying her targets and laying out supporting evidence adds drama to an already-melodramatic saga, and teetotalers and oenophiles alike will find it hard to resist." In addition to translating, Deimling is also the New York correspondent for the French art newspaper Le Journal des Arts

    Posted On: 12/1/2015

  • Pearl R. Schwartzberg Hochstadt

    (ΦBK, Cornell University, 1952)

    After her retirement, Pearl R. Schwartzberg Hochstadt spent more than a dozen years composing rhymed translations of all twelve books of the Fables of Jean de La Fontaine. She received very positive responses to her work, including a description of it as "witty, modern, and faithful" by Thalia Pandiri, the Editor of Metamorphoses, the journal of the five college faculty seminar on literary translation, and eventually decided to have it published. This fall, The Fables of La Fontaine:  Books I-VI, newly translated by Pearl Hochstadt, became available for purchase at or

    Posted On: 12/1/2015

  • Geri (Geraldine) Giebel Chavis

    (ΦBK, City College of New York, 1967)

    Geri Chavis is an active as a faculty member on the Phi Beta Kappa committee of St. Catherine University where she has been teaching English literature and Biblio/Poetry Therapy for the last thirty-seven years. She also has been a leader of the poetry therapy movement for the past thirty years.

    Her latest book is entitled Poetry and Story Therapy: The Healing Power of Creative Expression, published by Jessica Kingsley of London and Philadelphia. Last month, Jessica Kingsley Publishers released Creative Arts Therapies and Clients with Eating Disorders, in which Chavis has written the chapter on the use of poetry therapy.

    In September 2011, Chavis won her university's most prestigious award, the Bonnie Jean Kelly and Joan Kelly Faculty Excellence Award. Chavis will be the next President of the National Association for Poetry Therapy after the organization’s Board of Directors meeting in April of 2016.

    Posted On: 11/24/2015

  • Amy Kohn

    (ΦBK, Stanford University, 1995)

    Emmy Award winning television producer Amy Kohn is proud to announce the launch of her film A Courtship, a documentary about Christian arranged marriage. Premiering at the Tribeca Film festival and winning best documentary at the Buffalo International Film Festival, the film is now being distributed by Gravitas Ventures on VOD nationwide and by Passion River Films for educational and home video. The film can be found most easily on iTunes but is available on many Internet and television platforms. For more information, please visit the film's website

    Posted On: 11/24/2015

  • Cody Lawrence

    (ΦBK, University of Southern California, 2015)

    Recent USC film school grad Cody Lawrence is making his directoral debut with a sci-fi short film Spectrographs and Soliloquies. The film centers on an astronomer whose life comes crashing down when he detects an anomaly in the sky. Coproduced by Madeline Kushner and Marlene Rios, the film’s growing crew currently incudes local L.A. composer Aaron Provisor and two-time Emmy award-winning costume designer Mary Iannelli. Fans and backers can visit Spectrographs on Kickstarter to fund the project or on Twitter, Instagram (both @spectromovie), and Facebook ( to keep up with the latest production updates and information about how they can help Spectrographs make the jump from page to screen.

    Posted On: 9/17/2015