2020 Summer Key Reporter Cover

Summer 2020

From the Secretary: Love of Learning in a Time of Crisis

Phi Beta Kappa has served as a beacon throughout American history, confronting troubled times by championing truth, learning, and service. We have recognized the achievements of young scholars in the midst of the Revolution, Civil War, the 1918 flu pandemic, two world wars, the Great Depression, and more recently the Great Recession. Now, we are facing another great test: the unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic. This crisis has revealed the resilience, generosity, and courage of our ΦBK family. We are particularly grateful to the many Phi Beta Kappa members playing leadership roles at this critical moment: the doctors and healthcare professionals on the front lines, the policy-makers grappling with enormous social and economic issues, and the educators revamping in real time the education of literally millions of primary, secondary, and college-level students. Continue reading →

Member Spotlght

ΦBK Doctor and Medical Reporter Joins NYU Health

Dr. Jay Ben Adlersberg (ΦBK, University of Pittsburgh) has had a unique and successful career while being a familiar face on viewer’s television screens. Stemming from his liberal arts education, his dual interests in medicine and writing allowed him to become both a full-time medical practitioner and a health news expert for live television. After working at WABC-TV’s Eyewitness News for 30 years, he recently joined NY Health to continue using his medical skills to treat the community around him. “Looking back, all the various branches of my life tree blossomed at being inducted into ΦBK,” says Adlersberg. “I was able to grow my practice by becoming a journalist, and I never would have if I had toed the line and walked in the linear footsteps of medicine. I went outside the box and it proved to be a wonderful life, and it still is.” Continue reading →


Meet the Key into Public Service Scholars

Drawing inspiration from the many Phi Beta Kappa members who have shaped the course of our nation, the Society’s Key into Public Service program highlights specific pathways for liberal arts and sciences graduates seeking public service careers. The Society is pleased to announce the selection of 20 remarkable recipients of $5,000 undergraduate scholarships given to liberal arts and sciences majors with a demonstrated interest in public sector work. Selected from 636 applicants attending Phi Beta Kappa chapter institutions across the nation, the Key into Public Service Scholars hail from 14 states and three countries. The college sophomores and juniors display a wide variety of academic interests, from a math and history double major to a philosophy and legal studies student. Each scholar will take part in a virtual convening in late June, which will include training, mentoring, and reflection on pathways into active citizenship in the tradition of Phi Beta Kappa’s founders. Continue reading →

Love of Learning, Virtually

As the COVID-19 crisis continues to affect every facet of daily life, chapter and association volunteers are rising to new challenges and discovering possibilities for virtual connection. Chapters have acted quickly to rethink how best to invite and induct students while not on campus, and associations have begun to create opportunities for members to engage as a community, even when in-person events are not possible. Late spring and early summer represent a peak of activity and celebration for Phi Beta Kappa. It is the time when many of our chapters welcome their new inductees with meaningful, memorable ceremonies across the country. This year, storied rituals such as signing a chapter’s book and learning the Phi Beta Kappa handshake have gone virtual, with many chapters large and small, including the Alpha of Virginia chapter at William & Mary, inducting students on Zoom and other platforms.  Continue reading →

2020 Lebowitz Prize

Associate Professor Agnes Callard of the University of Chicago and Professor of Philosophy and Cognitive Science Laurie Paul of Yale University have won the 2020 Martin R. Lebowitz and Eve Lewellis Lebowitz Prize for Philosophical Achievement and Contribution. Awarded annually by ΦBK in conjunction with the American Philosophical Association (APA), the prize requires that the two recipients hold contrasting views on a topic of current interest in philosophy. They present their views and engage in a dialogue at an annual Lebowitz symposium, held during an APA divisional meeting, and ΦBK sponsors an event featuring both philosophers. Each winner is awarded an honorarium. Professors Callard and Paul’s topic for the 2020 Lebowitz Prize is “Personal Transformation and Practical Reason.” Nominations for the 2021 Lebowitz Prize are now open; the deadline is December 1, 2020. Continue reading →

2020 Jensen and Sibley Fellows

Doyle Calhoun, a doctoral candidate in French at Yale University, is the winner of the 2020 Walter J. Jensen Fellowship in recognition of his exceptional promise as a scholar and teacher of French language, literature, and culture. Established in 2001 by Professor Walter J. Jensen (ΦΒΚ, UCLA), the award provides this year’s winner with a stipend and round-trip travel to France for six months of continuous study. Madison Mainwaring, who is also a doctoral candidate at Yale University, is the winner of the 2020 Mary Isabel Sibley Fellowship in French Studies. Established in 1934 by Isabelle Stone (ΦΒΚ, Wellesley College) in honor of her mother, this fellowship recognizes exceptional young scholars in the field of French or Greek language, literature, and culture. Continue reading →

Join Us Online for Key Conversations

Phi Beta Kappa’s podcast Key Conversations introduces listeners to central figures in our national and international community of thinkers. For each 20- to 30-minute episode, ΦBK Secretary and CEO Frederick M. Lawrence has the opportunity to speak with the intellectuals, artists, and scientists who are charting paths forward for our world, many of whom have a direct connection to the Society, such as ΦBK’s Visiting Scholars, recipients of ΦBK’s celebrated book awards, and our Lebowitz Prize winners. The intimate context fostered by the studio setting allows these outstanding public intellectuals to open up about their work and history in a personal way and thereby extends ΦBK’s commitment to providing thought-provoking and enlightening content for our members and beyond. The first two seasons of Key Conversations have covered a wide range of topics, including award-winning author and MacArthur Fellow Edwidge Danticat (ΦBK, Barnard College). Continue reading →

Book Reviews

The Known Citizen: A History of Privacy in Modern America

Sarah E. Igo. Harvard University Press, 2018. 555 pages. $35.00.

The Known Citizen, winner of Phi Beta Kappa’s Ralph Waldo Emerson Award, is a long read (369 pages of text, 176 pages of footnotes) fully deserving of being absorbed slowly and attentively. As her subtitle states, Sarah E. Igo intends nothing less than a “History of Privacy in America,” not a history of the principle of “privacy” in constitutional law, nor in medical cases, but a cultural history of privacy as a concept that has greatly influenced daily behavior and our sense of who we are. Her book arrives at no conclusion, no easy or consoling takeaway. Instead, Igo uncovers a recurring pattern, sometimes stated but often implied, that has continued since the 1880s, when her narrative of America’s privacy issues begins. Baldly stated, she finds that the right to privacy has always been opposed by the right to know. Our felt “right to be let alone” is opposed by our felt “right to be known” both in jurisprudence and in our hearts and desires. Continue reading →

Midnight in Chernobyl: The Untold Story of the World’s Greatest Nuclear Disaster

Adam Higginbotham. Simon & Schuster, 2019. 538 pages. $29.95.

At 1:24 AM on April 26, 1986, reactor 4 of the Chernobyl nuclear generating facility experienced an uncontrollable accident. The reactor’s core reached a temperature of 10,000 degrees centigrade, almost twice that on the surface of the sun. The fallout from 21 different radionuclides reached north to Scandinavia and west to the United Kingdom but was concentrated in the Soviet Republic of Ukraine resulting in the evacuation of one-fifth of the Kievan population. Adam Higginbotham’s Midnight in Chernobyl is dramatic, enthralling, and sometimes chilling. It is based on newly declassified archives, unpublished memoirs, and 10 years’ of interviews with survivors. No one else is likely to see or to hear more. Because he is scrupulous and fair, he writes with authority. He has written contemporary history with masterful skill. Continue reading →

Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry

Imani Perry has written a remarkable book in Looking for Lorraine: The Radiant and Radical Life of Lorraine Hansberry. Like Alice Walker did in search of Zora Neale Hurston, and as Isaac Julien did in search of Langston Hughes, Imani Perry goes in quest of a life lived and sustained by a writer who had a profound influence on American literary arts, and about whom so little is known. Lorraine Hansberry is the author of A Raisin in the Sun, the most widely produced and read play written by a Black American woman. Heartbreakingly, she died of cancer in 1965, six years after the show premiered on Broadway, after successful runs in Chicago and Philadelphia. She was 34 years old. Perry writes that this book is “less a biography than a genre yet to be named—maybe third-person memoir.” In many ways, it is a contemporary approach to a person gone missing from our lives, a link in a history of not only American theater but social protest theater. It is about a young writer, Imani Perry, searching for herself among her writing predecessors. Continue reading →

ΦBK Authors