As I reflect on the unique character of Phi Beta Kappa, it occurs to me that we are very much like a liberal arts college without bricks and mortar, with 286 “branch campuses,” nearly 50 alumni associations, and more than 500,000 alumni. On my first trip as Secretary in August of 2016, to the Metro Detroit ΦBK alumni association, I met a recently retired executive making her first visit. A graduate of one of our outstanding west coast universities, she had relocated to Ann Arbor. Because her alma mater did not have a strong presence in Michigan, she was looking to the Phi Beta Kappa association as a kind of “super alumni association.” Her description of the Society struck me as just right. Since coming to Phi Beta Kappa last year, one of my prime goals has been building stronger alumni connections among members. Let me share some recent examples.
In October, I addressed the Puget Sound alumni association on our advocacy for the liberal arts and sciences and our championing free inquiry and expression. The discussion that followed was wide-ranging and highly engaged. Even more gratifying to me was the generational range of the gathering. Many in attendance had attended the Key Connections event for our newest members in Seattle this past fall. When I spoke with the Twin Cities alumni association in November, on the campus of the University of Minnesota, a multi-generational group of Phi Betes gathered for a similar discussion. These dynamic conversations show that our 241-year-old mission has never been more relevant.
We are looking for new ways for our associations to work more closely with our chapters, as I have discussed with members in Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, and Washington, D.C., for example. I look forward to continuing these conversations and to meeting as many of you as possible as I continue to visit our chapters and associations and experience the power of our “super alumni network.”
Frederick M. Lawrence
Secretary and CEO