Since 2002 the Ohio Wesleyan Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa has commissioned a poem to include as part of its initiation ceremony, a way to celebrate the occasion and honor new members. Other chapters, such as the Harvard chapter, have long had a tradition of commissioning a poem for their initiation, and the Ohio Wesleyan chapter has followed suit. When commissioning the poem, the chapter explains the nature of the honor and of the occasion. Most of the poets already are familiar with PBK, of course, and in response they write a work that in some way challenges the initiates and the audience to ponder the nature of the liberal arts, liberal learning, and academic achievement—the values of Phi Beta Kappa. As the initiation ritual puts it, Phi Beta Kappa celebrates the “spirit of learning.” That spirit requires the virtue of patience, which manifests itself as a “spirit of reverence . . . for the integrity of the human mind and its infinite capacities.”

Poems