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Feeding a New Network

Sep 27, 2017

Celebrations and food just go together. What Phi Kappa Phi chapter marks initiation without at least some finger food, cookies, or cake, if not a dinner or banquet?

So when the United States Presidential Scholars Foundation planned its first honors dinner in June, and invited Phi Kappa Phi to sponsor a table, we said yes. We saw the opportunity to support an organization of the best high school students in the nation as a made-to-order mission fit. We sponsored a table and then some.

The event was held at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. And we were thrilled to host a table that included our board chair, a recent ΦΚΦ Fellow studying at Georgetown, and several other members, including one of the evening’s honorees, Pulitzer Prizewinning poet Rita Dove.

The Presidential Scholars program was founded in 1964 by President Lyndon B. Johnson “to recognize and raise the value of intellectual accomplishment by young people.” Each year, two high school seniors — one female, one male — are selected to represent their state at a ceremony at the White House. From its beginning, the program was tasked with assuring the scholars would be representative of the nation’s racial and socioeconomic diversity.

The origin of the Presidential Scholars program bears a striking similarity to the founding of Phi Kappa Phi sixty-seven years earlier. The founders of each — concerned that wealth, social standing, and athletic stardom were of greater interest to the American people than intellectual achievement — sought to create a program that recognized academic achievement. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter enlarged the Scholars program to include twenty scholars in the visual and performing arts.

In 2015, President Barack Obama expanded it again to include twenty outstanding scholars in career and technical education. This year’s dinner was followed by a remarkable performance by the 2017 Scholars in the Arts.

The Presidential Scholars program of the federal Department of Education annually selects 161 of the nation’s most outstanding high school graduates through an application-by-invitation process. An active alumni association supports the work of the Presidential Scholars Foundation. The chair of the alumni association, John Knox, associate professor at the University of Georgia, is an officer of the Phi Kappa Phi chapter there.

This sponsorship opportunity realized a strategic aspiration outlined by Society President Gypsy Denzine in her candidate speech to the 2014 convention. In her own words: “I encouraged members of the Society to consider ways we could partner with the K-12 educational system to recognize young scholars and increase the visibility of the Society. We want all college-bound high school students to know about the Society and set the goal of becoming a Phi Kappa Phi member prior to graduation from college. Therefore, I was thrilled by the opportunity for the Society to be a major sponsor of the Presidential Scholars program. What began as a sponsorship opportunity has the potential to become more of a partnership in the future. A partnership with the Presidential Scholars program serves the Society well and is at the core of the Society’s mission to recognize academic excellence.”

What started out as an invitation to a dinner party has led to much more. The networking so clearly evident when people gather over a meal can produce far more than good conversation.

We’re excited to see how our food network grows.


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The Honor Society of Phi Kappa Phi

7576 Goodwood Boulevard
Baton Rouge, LA 70806