WOOSTER, Ohio - Niall W. Slater, a 1976 graduate of The College of Wooster, has been elected president of the Phi Beta Kappa Society. Slater, formerly Phi Beta Kappa's vice president, will serve a three-year term beginning this year.
A professor of classics at Emory University, Slater earned his doctorate at Princeton after graduating from Wooster with a degree in Latin. He taught at Concordia College and the University of Southern California (USC) before joining the faculty at Emory in 1990. He was an officer of the Phi Beta Kappa chapters at both USC and Emory.
"It is indeed an honor to serve as president," said Slater. "Phi Beta Kappa is the strongest voice nationally for the liberal arts, providing a vision of education founded on a pursuit of knowledge for its own sake."
Slater has been a visiting fellow at the Center for Hellenic Studies and the universities of Cambridge, Oxford, St. Andrews, and Konstanz. He is also the immediate past president of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South and serves on that organization's executive committee. Previously, he served on Phi Beta Kappa's Executive Committee, the committee on associations, the policy committee, and the investment committee.
"My goals as president are two-fold: enhancing cooperation among our constituencies and strengthening our financial security," said Slater. "As a member of the committee on associations, I have resolutely worked for cooperation and understanding between associations and chapters, and for greater national outreach to associations, chapters, and the Fellows.
"As Phi Beta Kappa Foundation chair, I see firsthand the recent markets' effects on our endowment and our ability to sustain such landmark efforts as the Visiting Scholar Program and The American Scholar," he added. "I am eager to continue working with (secretary) John Churchill on our new development campaign to reverse that trend."
As for the role of his Wooster experience in preparing him to provide leadership for Phi Beta Kappa, Slater said, "Wooster is a superb liberal arts college where the Independent Study experience challenges one to put the pieces of an education together for oneself. That is Phi Beta Kappa's vision too: the liberal arts as a foundation for lifelong learning and discovery."
Scott Wilson , a friend of Slater as well as a 1978 graduate of Wooster, said, "Niall's intellectual curiosity stood out very early. Before Wooster, we happened to be in the same Boy Scout troop in Massillon (Ohio). It was great camping with him because he always brought his telescope. I was, therefore, not surprised when I arrived at Wooster and saw that he stood out as such an academic success. He has always done everything with an amazing enthusiasm."
Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest and largest academic honor society. It was founded on Dec. 5, 1776, by five students at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Va. It was the first society to have a Greek letter name, and in its early years it introduced the essential characteristics of such societies: an oath of secrecy (discarded in 1831), a badge, mottoes in Latin and Greek, a code of laws, and an elaborate initiation ritual. Since 1883, when the chapters first united to create a national organization and leadership, the number of chapters has increased from 25 to 270, and membership has grown accordingly. In 1900, when the first general catalogue was published, the living membership was about 10,500. Today it is more than 500,000.
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