Symbols and Traditions

Since its founding at Stephens College in Columbia, Missouri in 1918, the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society has developed a rich assortment of symbols and traditions. Some of the most important to know are:

Hallmarks: The four Hallmarks of Phi Theta Kappa are Scholarship, Leadership, Service, and Fellowship. Members strive to reflect these characteristics in all that they do, and chapters focus their programs and events around the same ideals.

The Golden Key:
The Phi Theta Kappa Golden Key, based on the Phi Beta Kappa Society's key, was adopted in 1930. At the center of the Golden Key are the Greek letters phi, theta, and kappa, which standard for “phronimon” (wisdom), “thumos” (aspiration), and “katharotes” (purity). There is a wreath of oak leaves, symbolizing stability and strength of character, and laurel, representing achievement and success. Athena, the Greek goddess of Learning, is above the band. The Golden Key is always worn on the left lapel, to signify its closeness to the wearer’s heart.

The Seal: Like the key, the seal of the Society features the head of Athena, the Greek goddess of Learning. It was adopted in 1924.

Colors: The Society’s colors are blue and gold, which represent the scholarship and purity of its members.

Flower: The flower of Phi Theta Kappa is the white rose, which symbolizes purity and the beauty of life, and through its buds signifies the intellectual associations new members will build through the Society.

Song: The Phi Theta Kappa Song, written and arranged by the Epsilon chapter at Cottey College in Nevada, Missouri, was adopted in 1923 and is performed at the International Convention, the International Honors Institute, and some induction ceremonies. Click here to see a performance of the song by Brady Redfearn, 2006-2007 Nevada/California regional officer, from the 2006 International Leadership Conference for Divisions I and IV.

Regalia: The Society’s honors stole is gold satin and features the Greek letters (ΦΘΚ) on the left side, signifying closeness to the wearer’s heart. The gold tassel features the Greek letters at the top in a separate gold emblem. The double honor cord is made of one blue cord and one gold cord.

Inductions: Active Phi Theta Kappa chapters hold at least one induction ceremony each academic year to welcome and install those students who have accepted membership into the Society. New members are typically given a white rose and asked to sign their name in their chapter’s record book. Blue candles are often held by the inductees, while gold candles are displayed on the table upon which the record book rests.