The Ideal Behind Phi Kappa Phi
By Marcus L. Urann, Founder
Marcus Libby Urann (1873-1963) spearheaded the establishment of the honor society as an undergraduate at University of Maine.
Trained as a lawyer, he gained further renown as a cranberry farmer, innovator and magnate who organized cranberry cooperatives that
became Ocean Spray. His aims crystalize tenets of Phi Kappa Phi, a name adopted on June 12, 1900.
In 1897 I was a student in the University of Maine and certain phases of univer- sity life and the after usefulness of the
students interested me. With rare exceptions I did not, nor do I now, believe in the
natural fitness of anybody for anything but
I do believe that anyone can do anything
that he really desires to accomplish.
An analysis, however, of the men in my
class convinced me that some of our bright-est men were in danger of contributing less
to society, to the university and to the state,
than their ability justified us in expecting.
I remember of one afternoon when I sitting in my room, which overlooked the
campus and the path over which the men
were walking to and from their recitations
and, as I recall, here are some of the
thoughts that came to me.
The state of Maine has given and should
continue to give able men and women to
The university must do more for the
young men and women of the state if it is to
do its duty and if they are to be fitted to step
into the positions of responsibility and usefulness demanded by the increasing education and the multiplied complexities of life.
Neither the state in general nor the student body respects rank and scholarship as
it should. Even the class leaders do not respect themselves as they should. The baseball man, the football hero, the loud talking
man, the rich man, and even the peculiar
man are given attention and respect for
something, while the man who concentrates on books too often is looked upon as
having single ideas, and as being impracticable and unable to apply his knowledge.
It seemed to me desirable:
That the bookworm should respect himself
and win the respect and confidence of other
students and of the taxpayers of the state.
That the state should look to the universi-
ty for more than muscle farmers, and to ap-
preciate the fact that the farmer, to success-
fully farm needs education of the first order
and, also, that many a farm boy is worth
more on some other job or can contribute
more to the farm from the laboratory with a
test tube than on the land with a plow.
That the high-rank man should advertise
his wares—make known the
fact that he has a valuable
stock of goods in his head
and intends to expose them
for sale on Main Street instead of in Back Alley.
Rank simply means a little
more midnight oil in the student lamp and it is well
Frequently these high-rank
men, for various reasons, do
not mix as much as others
and a lone man attracts less
attention than several lone
men united; hence, it occurred to me that if we could
get them together their numbers would command the respect of others and increase
their own confidence in their ability to
apply their learning.
The organization of such a group would
add another goal for which to work, one
which would be within the reach of some
who are not interested in becoming heroes
in athletics or other college activities.
It would furnish an opportunity for the
association of kindred minds, which would
render their habits of thinking more malleable and the application after graduation
more practicable and certain.
To sum up all of this: I wanted the ability of the high-rank man to be made most
useful to society; also, I was looking for
something which would be an inspiration
to all students to work for high rank and I
believed that uniting those men who were
interested would be helpful.
I did not expect to become a member of
such an organization myself, for I had been
out of college to earn money. However, I
prepared and submitted a constitution to
Professors Rogers and Estabrook, and I
think Dr. Stevens especially approved my
plan of making eligible to membership
each year, not more than ten members of
the senior class whose rank for the four
years was above 90 percent.
I do not now recall consulting any students except
Leroy Folsom and William
Holyoke, my roommate at
I think someone suggested
electing the members but I still
believe my plan of appointment, simple notification by
the faculty, is better. These
were the requirements—if a
man had the rank he was in—
if not, he was out.
It did not occur to me that
this might spread to other col-
leges. My definite object was
that Maine should be enabled
to use the ability then present,
The faculty records should show the first
appointments and the archives must con-
tain the original constitution and by-laws in
my handwriting. I did not know who
would be members until the list was shown
me by Professor Rogers.
From the day I was graduated I have
known little of the society—have never
even owned one of its pins. I think when I
was in the university it had no society pin
I knew the organization prospered but
had no idea that it was the original chapter
of Phi Kappa Phi until so informed by Dr.
E. E. Sparks, who asked me for the reason
of its organization.
I have often wondered if the society had
helped along the lines originally intended
but was always so afraid that the painter
might in some way detract from the picture
that I have been satisfied to keep quiet.
Even now, I hesitated a long time before answering the request for information about
the formation of this original chapter.
As a student at the University
of Maine, Marcus L. Urann
believed that an honor
society recognizing academic
achievement would elevate
scholastic leaders in the eyes of
their classmates and the state.