History of the Society
Phi Theta Kappa crest



Phi Theta Kappa was founded in 1918 by the presidents of the Missouri junior colleges at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri.


Modeled after Phi Beta Kappa, the society has the following purposes:

  • to recognize academic excellence among two-year colleges,
  • to provide opportunities for leadership training,
  • to provide an intellectual climate for the interchange of ideas and ideals, and
  • to imbue scholars with the desire for continued education.
The fraternity developed impressive symbols such as the key, the hug and the song.


In 1929, the fraternity gained official recognition as the nation's honor society for two-year colleges by the American Association of Junior Colleges (later the American Association of Junior and Community Colleges). The date of this official recognition, November 19, is celebrated as Founders Day by chapters across the country. Most chapters have a special program on November 19 to acquaint the college and community with Phi Theta Kappa's National Service Project and to gain support for it.


Margaret Mosal, a student at Whitworth College, Brookhaven Mississippi, became the society's first National President to be elected by convention delegates. She later became Executive Secretary, Executive Director, and Executive Director Emeritus. Dr. Mosal died in 1987.


During Dr. Mosal's time of leadership, which spanned for more than 50 years, the society grew from 23 chapters in 7 states to almost 800 chapters in the U.S., Canada, and Germany. Throughout this time, the society's ideal of serving to nurture the social and intellectual development of the student became and increasingly satisfactory realization.


Over the ears, Phi Theta Kappa's convention programs have included many nationally known speakers and a variety of workshops in addition to campaigns for the election of the society's national student officers.


In 1967 the first national Honors Study Topic was developed. This began a rich tradition that

has seen chapters develop varied forums for introducing to their college and community an interdisciplinary study of current national issues.


In 1968 the first Phi Theta Kappa Honors Institute was held at Endicott College, Beverly, Massachusetts. Now an annual event, the week-long Institute is a concentrated study of the Honors Study Topic through speakers, workshops, seminars, and cultural tours. Many members praise the Honors Institute as one of their most valuable experiences in college.


In 1985, Rod Risley became Phi Theta Kappa's second Executive Director. At that time, he was Associate Director of the society, and had also served as director of the alumni program. He is a former National President of Phi Theta Kappa. Mr. Risley has directed the energies of the National Headquarters Staff toward developing chapter programming and identifying ways to the strengths and reputation of the society may be utilized for the benefit of the individual chapters.