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Oregon State University is home to the 286th chapter of Phi Beta Kappa following a formal installation on the Corvallis campus Thursday night.

After completing a years-long evaluation process, the nation’s oldest and most prestigious academic honor society welcomed OSU into its ranks with an elaborate ceremony that included the conferring of a charter, the adoption of bylaws and the election of officers.

Several hundred people, including OSU faculty and high-level Phi Beta Kappa officers in full academic regalia, were on hand for the 75-minute event, held in the theater-in-the-round-style auditorium of the Learning Innovation Center.

Some 104 Phi Beta Kappa members were inducted as charter members of the OSU chapter, officially known as the Epsilon Chapter of Oregon.

Catherine White Berheide, the society’s national president, offered her congratulations and spoke about the value of a liberal education.

“An arts and sciences education is critical for individual success, but also for the common good,” she said. “Training is preparation for the predictable. A liberal arts education is preparation for the unpredictable.”

The chapter’s first class, just over 200 students, was also initiated into the society.

OSU President Ed Ray congratulated the new members and told the story of how he came to join the honor society as a young undergraduate at City University of New York nearly 50 years ago.

He almost turned down the invitation because his family couldn’t afford the $25 cost of a Phi Beta Kappa key, the society’s emblem. But a family friend provided the money, and Ray became a member.

Ray and his late wife, Beth, established an endowment in the woman’s honor to help cover membership costs for low-income OSU students, and he urged the new inductees to find ways to “pay it forward” in their own lives.

“Having a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa here at Oregon State University has been a long time coming and something I have hoped for since arriving here in 2003,” Ray told the group.

“We’re very proud of you, and we’re looking for great things from you.”

Founded in 1776 at William and Mary College in Virginia, Phi Beta Kappa is an academic society that promotes excellence in the liberal arts and sciences and advocates for liberal education.

Only about 10 percent of U.S. colleges and universities have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter. OSU is the fifth institution in Oregon to establish a chapter, following the University of Oregon, Reed College, Lewis & Clark College and Willamette University.

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Reporter Bennett Hall can be reached at 541-758-9529 or bennett.hall@lee.net. Follow him on Twitter at @bennetthallgt.

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Special Projects Editor

Special Projects Editor, Corvallis Gazette-Times and Albany Democrat-Herald