From the Secretary: Climb High and Far

Frederick M. Lawrence photo

Every day, as an undergraduate at Williams College, I would walk up the Hopkins Memorial Steps, inscribed with the inspirational words “Climb high, climb far, your goal the sky, your aim the star.” On many occasions, I stopped on the steps just for a moment to read these words and was re-energized. I like to think that Phi Beta Kappa offers this same kind of inspiration, spurring students to achieve their highest academic aspirations.

Each of the approximately 20,000 students who will become new members this year has a unique story, and each has achieved a level of excellence in the liberal arts and sciences that will stand them in good stead throughout their lives and careers in an ever-changing world. This spring, after two challenging years, our induction ceremonies offer the chance to celebrate these students—their persistence, their excellence, and their potential.

From my perch as Secretary of Phi Beta Kappa, I have the great privilege of looking at the constellation represented by our 293 chapters —including those to be installed this spring at Providence College, Rollins College, and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte—as communities that have nurtured the class of 2022. Our hosting institutions are large and small, public and private, nonsectarian and faith-based, and from every corner of the nation. Yet there are significant attributes that are shared across all our chapters. The care and dedication of faculty are evident in the quality of the liberal arts and sciences programs on our campuses. Importantly, our campuses excel both in research and in undergraduate education. These two goals, sometimes seen in tension, are inextricably intertwined, supporting our most significant institutions of higher learning.

Recent news at one of our chapter institutions is a reminder of how great teaching and the creation and discovery of new knowledge work hand in hand. As our member Freeman Hrabowski (ΦΒΚ, UMBC) completes his remarkable three-decade tenure as the visionary president of University of Maryland Baltimore County, we congratulate him on a culminating achievement: UMBC has been named one of America’s premier research universities, popularly known as Research 1, or R1, universities, as evaluated by the Carnegie Classification of Institutions of Higher Education. Significantly, part of the research that helped the university attain this prestigious designation involves work in the humanities, including a celebrated program to facilitate a pipeline to higher education leadership for arts and humanities scholars. Reaching this status recognizes UMBC’s growing stature not only as a research university but also as an important institution of undergraduate education. For example, UMBC produces the greatest number of African American graduates who go on to earn Ph.D.s in the natural sciences and M.D.-Ph.D. degrees of any school in the nation. 

UMBC, led by a distinguished Phi Beta Kappa member, is an emblem of what it means to seek inclusive excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and to understand what it means for the love of learning to be the pilot of our lives. This spring, we will once again honor young scholars at all of our chapters, future leaders among them, who truly climb high and far, their goal the sky, their aim the star.

Frederick M. Lawrence
Secretary and CEO