The Founding of Phi Beta Kappa

John Heath, fifteen years old, led five friends to the Raleigh, to foment revolution not against the crown but against the state of the college’s student societies,” writes Michael J. Lombardi. “Phi Beta Kappa became the nation’s most important honor society, its key a coveted symbol of academic achievement, but it started with more modest aspirations.” 

Phi Beta Kappa was founded in the Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg, Virginia, on December 5, 1776. For over two and a quarter centuries, the Society has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression.

Learn about the founders’ original aspirations, and how Phi Beta Kappa set itself apart, by reading Lombardi’s article “ΦBK: Phi Beta Kappa” in the Winter 2012 issue of Colonial Williamsburg, the journal of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.

Planning your summer vacation? Members who would like to visit the birthplace of Phi Beta Kappa can receive a discount on admission to Colonial Williamsburg. Let love of learning be your guide. Find out more about our member discounts.

Top left: John Heath, founder of Phi Beta Kappa. Above: The Apollo Room of the Raleigh Tavern, courtesy of the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation.