By Tim Hulsey
As you know, this year marks the 100th anniversary of the Phi Kappa Phi Forum. For a century, the
Forum has educated, entertained, and informed our broad membership. Surviving
for a century, let alone having done so in
such style, is a great accomplishment for
any print magazine. We should be proud of
what the Forum and the Society have accomplished in the past 100 years.
Since anniversaries present an opportunity for stocktaking, I would like to use this
column to consider where we are and where
we might go from here. I was reminded recently of an aphorism, variously attributed
to Socrates, Plutarch, and Yeats, that for me
captures the essence of our mission:
Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of
a vessel. Phi Kappa Phi has, for more than
115 years, promoted high standards in
scholarship and comportment. The Society is
committed to lifelong learning. Our goal
should be to kindle a flame in our members—a passion for knowledge that never dies.
The important question is, of course, how.
Before we can engage our members (and
potential members) in a quest for knowledge, we must be relevant to them. Indeed,
relevance remains one of our most pressing concerns. You need only type, “Are
college honor societies worth joining?”
into a search engine to realize that this is
no small concern. It is difficult to articulate the value of an honor society in an era
of participation trophies and grade inflation. After all, what is the value of yet another achievement award for students who
have collected so many of them?
I suggest we take a three-pronged ap-
proach to addressing this problem. First, as
our mission statement dictates, we contin-
ue, “to recognize and promote academic
excellence in all fields of higher educa-
tion.” This is the core of our identity. Sec-
ond, we work to elevate our national pro-
file. This will facilitate pride in member-
ship. Third, we create membership benefits
that create ongoing learning opportunities.
This will further our goal of creating and
sustaining lifelong learning.
In truth, we have already begun to do
these things. Under the direction of our
Executive Director, we are carefully and intentionally expanding our presence around
the country, adding several new chapters in
the past couple of years. We also launched
our Healthy Chapters initiative last year.
The intention is to ensure that existing
chapters are healthy while adding new
chapters at institutions that embrace our
mission and promise support for them.
The staff at Phi Kappa Phi headquarters
has also begun the work of elevating our
public profile. The national office has en-
gaged a highly respected firm to assist us in
our effort to raise awareness of the Society
and its mission. This will include a re-ex-
amination of the intended audience and
purposes of the Forum as well as careful
consideration of how and where we should
advertise our Society and its activities. And,
of course, the Innovation Award an-
nounced at this summer’s convention
should raise our visibility significantly.
Finally, to promote lifelong learning and
sustain our members’ interests in the life of
the mind, we have recently secured part-
nerships with JSTOR and The Teaching
Company, the entity that owns the The
Great Courses program. JSTOR, you may
know, is a digital library that allows access
to academic journals, books, and other pri-
mary source material. At last count,
JSTOR provided full-text searches for
roughly 2,000 journals. The Great Courses
website will grant active members access to
a wide variety of college-level courses tar-
geted to adult learners. Currently listing
more than 500 courses in subjects as di-
verse as business, fine arts, and history, The
Great Courses will afford members oppor-
tunities to continue their educations in al-
most any subject and at their leisure.
It is my hope that these efforts will help
us retain our relevance in the 21st century.
More importantly, I believe that they will
help us realize our founding goal: Letting
the love of learning rule humanity.
A Time for Taking Stock
THE MAGAZINE EDITORS THROUGHOUT THE YEARS
Louis Hermann Pammel, 1922-23
Roy M. Peterson, 1925-47
Rudolph D. Michael, 1948-69
Robert M. Lightfoot, 1970-77
Stephen W. White, 1978-93
James “Pat” Kaetz, 1993-2008
Peter Szatmary, 2008-14
When the journal came into being, there was no assigned
editor per se. And once there was, a few interim editors or
guest editors filled temporary openings. The main editors of
the magazine during its various incarnations have been: