Psi Chi's history has been a rich and colorful one. It began with a brief conversation between two students at the University of Kansas late one night in 1927. The charter that formally created the organization was signed at Yale University in 1929. At first, Psi Chi grew slowly, but it began flourishing after World War II. When Ruth Cousins took over the leadership in late 1958, the society experienced an immediate infusion of energy and purpose. Her spirit remains a dominant force today. The latest challenge facing Psi Chi will be to respond effectively to the enormous changes among psychology students in the new century.
—Hogan & Takooshian, 2004, Spring Eye on Psi Chi
1927 Edwin Newman and Fredrick H. Lewis,
students at the University of Kansas, came up with the idea to create a national
student organization for psychology.
1928 The National Council for a
Psychological Fraternity was convened. A steering committee began to lay the
foundation for the organization, including writing a constitution.
1929 During the Ninth International Congress
of Psychology, hosted by APA, representatives from 11 colleges and universities
signed the charter creating the new society.
1930 At the second annual meeting:
- The name "Psi Chi” was adopted for the honor society in psychology.
- For the first time, the association invited a distinguished speaker,
Professor Karl M. Dallenbach of Cornell University, to address the gathering.
- The first national officers were selected.
1931 The mimeographed newsletter was
1932 The first Psi Chi Handbook was issued to chapters.
1934 The society consisted of 27 chapters
and 612 active members with 1,920 members in all (including active, honorary,
associate, and alumni).
1936 President Martin
Fritz brought the issue of making membership more exclusive. A
discussion followed among the national officers and chapter members
and resulted in guidelines for membership. Those
guidelines, with some minor revisions, are still in use today.
1941 Psi Chi grew to 34 chapters. Except for
two new chapters installed in 1942, no additional chapters were added during
World War II. National meetings were canceled during these years, but chapters
continued to function. Not surprisingly, several national officers were called
1946 Psi Chi’s organization of research
papers for regions became a permanent part of the Psi Chi program at both the
national and regional meetings. The practice continues to this day, and is
considered by the Board of Directors to be one of the most important activities
of the association.
1949 Psi Chi grew to
73 chapters, and queries regarding new chapters continued at a substantial
1950 The first award of $150 for a Psi Chi member engaged in research and in need of financial assistance
was given to Walter Barbe of Baylor University.
1950–1954 Thirty-eight new chapters were
granted charters, increasing the number of chapters chartered up until then
1952 The APA committee on Student Activities
met with the Psi Chi Executive Committee agreeing that in the future, APA would
provide space in the American
Psychologist for news about Psi Chi. In addition, beginning with the next
annual meeting in Cleveland, some provision would be made for Psi Chi at the
1954 Psi Chi’s 25th anniversary.
Registration fees increased from $3 to $5.
- The APA Council of Representatives voted to admit Psi Chi as an
- Ruth H. Cousins took over the position of secretary-treasurer as a
strong innovator and advocate, entering into a relationship with Psi Chi that
would last 33 years.
1956 Psi Chi moved
into the attic of the 16th Street building of the APA in Washington, DC.
1959 Ruth Cousins proposed inviting
distinguished speakers to Psi Chi programs. Psi Chi has
continued to sponsor distinguished speakers at the annual APA convention ever
1964 Psi Chi moved into the new 17th Street
headquarters of the APA. For the first time, there was adequate space for the
executive director and her one-person, part-time staff.
1965 Psi Chi officially became an
"honor" society and an affiliate of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS), and it remains so today.
1970 Jerome S. Bruner was named the first
"Honorary Member” of Psi Chi, a designation to recognize psychologists who have
international reputations, or who have made contributions to the field of
psychology or to Psi Chi. The title was changed to Distinguished Member in
1971 George W. Albee, a pioneer of clinical
psychology, was recognized as a Psi Chi Distinguished Member.
1976 Certificates were awarded for the first
time to students who presented research at approved conventions and
1980 Psi Chi moved to another APA building
in Arlington, Virginia.
1981–1982 During this academic year, 7,322
new members were inducted into Psi Chi, the largest number in a single year up
to that time. During the same period, 27 new chapters were chartered.
1982 The one-time registration fee was
increased to $25.
1986 At the annual meeting with APA, Psi Chi
and Psi Beta cosponsored an open meeting, further developing what had already
become a valuable relationship. Since then, they have continued to cosponsor
other programs at the annual meeting.
1987 The society relocated to Chattanooga, Tennessee.
- At the Annual Convention, Raymond D. Fowler, the chief executive officer
of the APA, presented Ruth Cousins with an Honorary Life-Time Full Membership
in APA, the first time such an honor had ever been given.
- Psi Chi had the largest number of chapters of any of the 58 societies
holding membership in the ACHS.
- Ruth Cousins retired from Psi Chi.
She had helped Psi Chi grow into a substantial organization with a regular
office staff and a sizeable budget and had overseen the move of the national
headquarters to Chattanooga, Tennessee. More than 60 years after its founding,
largely through Cousins' efforts, the society had finally reached maturity.
- Kay Wilson was hired to succeed
- During the 1991–1992 fiscal year alone, 14,918 new members were added,
the largest number inducted in any year since the society was founded in 1929.
1992 Recognition awards for chapters and
faculty leaders were presented for the first time.
- Eye on Psi Chi, the successor to the Psi Chi
Newsletter, started publication. The magazine was designed to keep members and alumni up to date with all the latest
information about Psi Chi’s programs, awards, and chapter activities, as well
as to feature informative articles.
- Psi Chi Journal of
was introduced as an international, fully reviewed, quarterly journal
dedicated to the publication of undergraduate student research. Its purpose was
to foster and reward the scholarly efforts of undergraduate psychology students
as well as to provide them with a valuable learning experience.
- Florence L. Denmark, who served as president of Psi Chi and the APA
concurrently, became a Distinguished Member.
- Albert Bandura, one of the most-cited psychologists of all time, was
inducted as a Distinguished Member.
- Kay Wilson passed away. Soon after her death, the
Psi Chi National Council established a scholarship program to be named in her
- A long-standing "affiliate chapter” in Victoria, Canada was chartered,
becoming a full chapter with all of the rights and responsibilities of that
status. It was the first international chapter in the Society.
- Psi Chi, the National Honor Society in Psychology, celebrated 75 years
of scholarship and service in the psychology community.
- B.F. Skinner, one of the most well-known psychologists of all time,
became a Distinguished Member.
- Philip G. Zimbardo, Professor Emeritus of Psychology at Stanford
University, was inducted as a Distinguished Member.
- The position of Executive Director was officially added to the Board of
Directors with Dr. Virginia Andreoli Mathie (James Madison University) hired to the position.
- Psi Chi inducted over 22,000 new members for the third year in a row.
- Two new internships were announced: the FBI NCAVC Internship and the APA
Science Directorate Internship.
- Psi Chi chapters across the country held events, fund-raisers, and
drives to help the victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, demonstrating the
service component of the organization admirably.
- The first Psi Chi National Leadership Conference was introduced to help
chapter presidents and faculty advisors develop skills to be effective leaders.
It was held again in 2009, but was replaced by leadership programming at
Psi Chi collectively mourned the death of Ruth Cousins, who dedicated a large
part of her life to the Society.
- For the first time, votes in Psi Chi elections were by online ballot.
- Martha Zlokovich, PhD, began her tenure as the
Executive Director of Psi Chi.
- The Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research entered its 30th year of publication.
- Drew Appleby, PhD, and Virginia Andreoli Mathie, PhD, were named Distinguished Members.
- Psi Chi made the transition from a National Honor Society to an
International Honor Society.
- Psi Chi inducted its 600,000th member.
- The Board of Directors began sponsoring Travel Grants for the Regional Conventions.
- Psi Chi celebrated its 80th anniversary.
- Dr. Harold Takooshian, two-time recipient of the Florence L. Denmark Faculty Advisor Award, was recognized as a Distinguished Member.
- The Board of Directors allocated $15,000 to Undergraduate Psychology Research Grants.
- Psi Chi Central Office joined the social network.
- Annual Chapter and Financial Reports could be submitted online.
- Psi Chi chapters were installed in New Zealand and in Egypt.
- The Psi
Chi Journal began accepting research from
graduate students and Psi Chi faculty members as well as undergraduate students
and changed its name to Psi Chi Journal
of Psychological Research.
- Unrestricted Travel Grants were introduced, allowing recipients to attend specialized conferences to further their studies.
- A historic $307,000 was distributed in Psi Chi awards and grants, through 39 programs.
Representatives of 11 departments of psychology signed the charter establishing the society.
Edwin Newman and Fredrick H. Lewis, Psi Chi cofounders
Meeting of the Ninth International Congress of Psychology
The original Psi Chi logo
Psi Chi Constitution as it first appeared in 1930
Lillian Portenier, Psi Chi National President, 1949-52
Ruth H. Cousins
Executive Secretary, 1959-68
Executive Director, 1969-91
Spring 1959 Psi Chi Newsletter
Psi Chi became an affiliate of the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) in 1959.
Ruth Cousins with Psi Chi founders Frederick Howell Lewis (left) and Edwin B. Newman
Psi Chi's historian, 1973-79
Psi Chi National Council, 1983–84
B.F. Skinner, Psi Chi member and Distinguished Lecturer, with Ruth Cousins and members of the National Council at the 1984 Toronto National Convention.
In 1980, the Psi Chi Central Office was in the APA Headquarters building in Washington D.C.
The first issue of Eye on Psi Chi
The Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research
Florence Denmark, Psi Chi President, 1978-81, and Kay Wilson, Psi Chi Executive Director, 1991-2003
Albert Bandura, Psi Chi Distinguished Member,
and Kay Wilson