Phi Beta Kappa Recognizes 48 Seniors

The Harvard College chapter of Phi Beta Kappa notified 48 seniors of their induction into the academic honor society earlier this week.

After the registrar gives the chapter a list of students with the highest GPAs, the selection committee chooses new members based on faculty letters of recommendation, challenging courses, and “exceptional” academic breadth, according to History Professor Ann M. Blair, who is also president of Harvard’s Phi Beta Kappa chapter.

History and literature concentrator Charles R. Melvoin ’10—one of the 48 new inductees—said that he felt honored to be recognized for his academic pursuits.

“It especially means a lot to me because I engage in a lot of extracurriculars,” said Melvoin, who is also a Crimson magazine writer. “So it was nice to know that I could still participate in academics at a rigorous level, and not at the exclusion of other activities Harvard has to offer.”

He is currently writing his senior thesis on the first African-American to serve in the executive office of the White House—E. Frederic Morrow. Murrow was Dwight D. Eisenhower’s administrative officer for special projects.

East Asian studies concentrator Rachel A. Esplin ’09 said she was pleasantly surprised upon learning of her induction via e-mail on Monday.

“I was really excited. It was awesome,” Esplin said. “I think that the goals of PBK are to encourage not only good grades but academic rigor and variety, which are things I’ve tried to pursue.”

Esplin will graduate this winter after completing her thesis on the role of China in the World Trade Organization.

Twenty-four students are inducted into the society at the end of their junior year, 48 seniors are chosen at this time in November, and about 90 more are elected just before graduation.

According to Blair, there is no difference between the selection criteria used for the 24 juniors and 48 seniors. She added that the 24 juniors select four student representatives from their group to participate in electing the chapter’s senior members.

Harvard’s 48 new Phi Beta Kappa members will be officially inducted in a private ceremony on Tuesday, Dec. 1.

—Staff writer James K. McAuley can be reached at


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