Phi Beta Kappa

Original members of the Phi Beta Kappa

Dr. Joseph Moore McConnell
Dr. Joseph Moore McConnell

The Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was established at Davidson College in 1923. The chapter was an outgrowth of the Mimir Society, a local society for the recognition of attainment in scholarship which had been organized May 24, 1915, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Moore McConnell, Professor of History. Soon after the founding of the Mimir Society the members, under the leadership of Dr. William Joseph Martin, the President of the College, and Dr. McConnell, began seeking the establishment of a Phi Beta Kappa chapter at Davidson.

Application for a chapter was first made in January, 1916, but it was
not until October, 1921, that Dr. McConnell reported to the Mimir Society
that Dr. Oscar M. Voorhees, Secretary of the United Chapters, had requested
that the faculty members of Phi Beta Kappa formally petition the Senate
for the establishment of a chapter. These petitioners, who became the charter
members of the Davidson chapter included:

  • William Joseph Martin (Phi Beta Kappa of the University of Virginia
    and President of Davidson College)
  • Ray Waldrom Pettingill (Phi Beta Kappa of Bowdoin College and
    Professor of English and German)
  • William Lorimer Porter (Phi Beta Kappa of Yale University and
    Professor of Biology and Geology)
  • Edwin Francis Shewmake (Phi Beta Kappa of the College of William
    & Mary and Professor of English)
  • William Woodhull Wood (Phi Beta Kappa of the University of Virginia
    and Professor of Applied Mathematics)
After endorsement by the chapters at the College of William and Mary, The Johns Hopkins University, the University of North Carolina, and the University of Virginia, the Senate of the United Chapters in December, 1921, recommended to the National Council that a chapter be established at Davidson. When the national Council met at Cleveland, Ohio, in September, 1922, this recommendation was accepted.

During the fall and winter of 1922-23 plans were made for organizing the chapter. The charter members first met on October 12 at Dr. McConnell’s home, and at their meeting on December 21 in President Martin’s office they proceeded to elect foundation and alumni members and the first members in course. On March 1, 1923, at 4 p.m. in the office of the president in the Carnegie Library Building, the charter of the Gamma Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was formally presented at a meeting of the charter members. The charter was received on behalf of the chapter and the college by President Martin. The first officers of the chapter were then elected: Dr. Joseph Moore McConnell, President; Dr. Edwin Francis Shewmake, Vice-President; and Professor William Woodhull Wood, Secretary-Treasurer. After the initiation of foundation, alumni and honorary members and the members in course, the constitution and by-laws of the chapter were officially adopted.

  • For information on the first members in course of Davidson’s Phi Beta
    Kappa chapter:
Phi Beta Kappa members
Founding members

The Founding Members of Phi Beta Kappa, March 1, 1923Front row, left to right: Dr. W. L. Lingle;
Pres. W. J. Martin; Pres. Harry Chase, University of North Carolina; Pres. Henry Louis Smith, Washington & Lee University; unidentified; F. Brevard McDowell.

Second row: Prof. C. R. Harding; Prof. Reed Smith, University
of South Carolina; unidentified; Prof. A. C. McIntosh, University of North Carolina.

Third row: Prof. W. R. Grey; Prof. John L. Douglas; Dean Mark Edgar Sentelle; P. F. Henderson; Prof. C. M. Richards; Prof. T. W. Lingle; unidentified.

Fourth row: Hugh H. Smith; unidentified, Prof. E. J. Erwin; J. B. Whitener; Prof. W. L. Porter; Prof. Howard B. Arbuckle; William A. Gamble.

Fifth row: W. Gettys Guille; Prof. J. M. McConnell;
Prof. W. W. Wood; Prof. E. F. Shewmake; Prof. Oscar Thies; Dunbar H. Ogden.

See Archival Record…

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Author: Gillespie, Molly P.
Date: March 14, 1998

Cite as: Gillespie, Molly P. “Phi Beta Kappa” Davidson Encyclopedia March 1998 <>

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