An invitation to join The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi is likely not a surprise for some students. After years of hard work and determination, the honor is exciting but not entirely unexpected. For Carl Langley (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), the real Phi Kappa Phi surprise was one a bit more personal – the realization that the Society’s founding father, Marcus Urann, was his great-great-great-uncle.
In 1897, the Society began under the leadership of Urann, a University of Maine student. Twelve decades later, Langley joined the Society at UNLV after ten years in the Air Force.
As a non-traditional student, Langley found the return to school to be a meaningful one. “UNLV gave me something great to do when I transitioned out of the military. Research, great conversations, and invaluable mentorship made my undergraduate career more meaningful than it ever could have been before now,” he shared.
A recent interest in genealogy prompted him to begin research about a family member from the 1800s he’d heard had “something to do with the history of Ocean Spray.” While Urann was indeed the founder of Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc., the more profound discovery for Langley was the part Urann played in the founding of Phi Kappa Phi.
“Phi Kappa Phi membership is very highly regarded throughout academia. To know that my great-great-great-uncle's legacy continues to inspire generation after generation of learners to strive for academic excellence is probably the coolest thing ever. I want my kids, and my sister's and cousins' kids, to be as proud of their heritage as I am, and be inspired by (his) ideals.” He adds that his “goal is to pay tribute to him by showing the rest of (the) family just how impactful his contributions were.”
Langley also hopes to inspire other Society members to use their skills to help those around them. “No matter your involvement with Phi Kappa Phi, your selection should hopefully ignite some sense of internal civic duty. You likely know how to look at something and figure out how to make it better. You have a responsibility to do some good in the world.”
In keeping with the Society’s goal of fostering lifelong learning, Langley will be graduating from UNLV in May and starting his graduate studies at McKendree University a few weeks later.
On the importance of being a lifelong learner, Langley shares his uncle’s beliefs. “To love learning is to love life. Life will always surprise you with teachable moments. … Lifelong learning is about more than books and screens. Your experiences create a framework for more learning. If you get tired of what you’re doing, get outside and share some experiences. You’ll be better for it.”