Along with 40 University of Mary Washington students, President Troy Paino was inducted last night into an exclusive 250-year-old worldwide club, which used to have a secret sign and handshake. Membership is lifelong, and it has been offered to 17 U.S. Presidents and 42 U.S. Supreme Court justices.
The key to membership in this invitation-only club, Phi Beta Kappa, is academic excellence and love of learning. The five College of William and Mary students who founded this august honor society in 1776 could hardly have imagined new inductees being presented virtually via a technology called Zoom.
But that is what happened last night as photos of new members were projected onto a screen and as Dr. Paino accepted his honorary induction into “the most prestigious academic honor society in the nation.”
The students were in “rarefied air,” the president said, as friends, family and faculty watched via their computer screens. “You are the top 10 percent of the top 10 percent.” With fewer than 300 chapters nationwide, only 10 percent of American colleges and universities have Phi Beta Kappa chapters. At each of those schools, less than 10 percent of students are selected as members.
In his remarks, Paino talked about two habits that have transformed his life.
- Be curious.
- Be kind.
Committing to those two traits, he said, has empowered him to forge his own path and find his own purpose. He focused on the value of a liberal arts education, which can allow students to thrive on challenges. “It liberates us from all that keeps us stuck in the mud and muck.”
During last night’s program – led by Alexandra Dunn, a business professor who currently serves as president of “Kappa,” UMW’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa – the annual Roy H. Smith student award winner was announced. It always goes to a rising senior member of PBK who displays “a broad range of academic interests.”
It was presented to Alexis Kochanski, who clearly exhibits the consummate liberal arts characteristics – an Honors student who is a business administration major interested in data analytics, volunteers to work with animals, and was selected for this year’s Summer Science Institute.
And, she projects “genuine curiosity.”
In addition to Kochanski, these students were inducted into the Kappa chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year:
Morgan L. Gilbert
Gabriel Jose Matteson
Natalie J. Mroz
Megan E. Riley
Megan E. Williams
Rebecca L. Young