New ΦBK President Catherine White Berheide

By Rebecca McCarron

Catherine White Berheide, a ΦBK member (Beloit College, 1972) and current professor of sociology at Skidmore College, is now president of Phi Beta Kappa. The election took place earlier this fall at the Society’s 44th Triennial Council in Denver. Berheide served as the organization’s vice president from 2012 to 2015.

Her long list of accomplishments within Phi Beta Kappa includes her service as an officer with the ΦBK Chapter at Skidmore College from 1982 to 1985, as a member of the ΦBK Senate for twelve years, and as a co-chair to the ΦBK Task Force on Stipulations from 2008 to 2011. She also has acted as a member of the ΦBK Senate’s Awards Committee and a member (and later chair) of the Committee on Qualifications, which vets the colleges and universities whose faculty are seeking to establish new Phi Beta Kappa chapters. 

After graduating from Beloit College Magna Cum Laude in 1972, Berheide then earned her MA and PhD from Northwestern University. She began her academic career as an assistant professor of sociology at Indiana University Southeast before moving to Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs, New York, where she has taught since 1979. At Skidmore, Berheide served twice as chair of the Sociology Department and three times as director of Women’s Studies. 

Berheide has been a Carnegie Scholar twice, has won the Hans O. Mauksh Award, and has served as secretary of the American Sociological Association. She also is the author and/or editor of five books and more than 50 scholarly articles with subjects ranging from work to gender to undergraduate education. In particular, Berheide is known for her research of female employment in all sectors of the job market. One of her best known works is “The Sticky Floor,” a chapter in The Sociology of Work (2013) in which she coins the term “sticky floor” to describe women whose jobs in a lower ranking position leave them without potential for advancement. This condition leads to obvious consequences for these women as they struggle to earn enough to provide for their children. 

Despite her many accomplishments and important academic work, Berheide seems to believe there is so much more she has yet to do. “I have had an ongoing commitment to the improvement of undergraduate education throughout my professional career,” she said. “As president, I will continue to strengthen the Society’s role, nationally and locally, as an advocate for the liberal arts and sciences.”

Berheide has spent her professional life in service not just to Phi Beta Kappa Society, but to the greater ideal of liberal arts education. Phi Beta Kappa is fortunate to be a part of Berheide’s professional career, and its members can look forward to the many opportunities and positive growth her experience and dedication will surely bring. 

Rebecca McCarron is a junior at The Catholic University of America majoring in history and minoring in Spanish. The Catholic University of America is home to the Beta of D.C. Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa.