"The years of our life are threescore and ten, or even by reason of strength, fourscore." --Psalms 90:10
|Seventy Years Young|
|Harold Takooshian, PhD, Fordham University |
how did Psi Chi grow to become the one of the largest U.S. honor
societies--with 344,000 members in chapters at 930+ U.S. campuses? This
first message of the academic year is an apt time for the new national
president to share with you briefiy here his impressions of Psi Chi--its
proud past, dynamic present, and auspicious future.
How did Psi Chi originate? It was first conceived by two
students at the University of Kansas--Frederick Howell Lewis and Edwin
B. Newman--who "were wondering, in the spring of 1928, why there was no
national honorary society in their academic field" (Hunt, 1979, p.
1). Conception became birth on September 4, 1929, when Psi Chi was
founded at Yale University, during what some regard as the most
momentous gathering ever held in psychology--the Ninth International
Congress (Hogan, 1998). The fiedgling organization grew slowly through
the U.S. depression and other tribulations.
It was in 1958 that
graduate student Ruth Cousins became the head of Psi Chi's central
office and began her legendary 33-year stewardship of our honor society.
When Ruth began in 1958, Psi Chi's numbered some 25,000 life members
from 130 chapters (Hogan & Sexton, 1993). When Ruth retired in 1991,
Psi Chi had grown more than 500 percent--to 221,573 life members from
734 chapters. "Few businesses today can boast of such a growth
record" (Wilson, 1991, p. 4). Under Ruth's leadership, Psi Chi
became a key member of the Association of College Honor Societies, an
affiliate of the American Psychological Society (APS), and had even
spawned a second honor society for two-year colleges (Psi Beta).
Ruth Cousins oversaw Psi Chi's Golden Years, then her successor since
1991, Kay Wilson, is overseeing its Platinum Years. Kay has continued
Psi Chi's rapid growth, adding an additional 200 chapters and 120,000
members in just eight years. It is no accident that the annual survey of
the American Society of Association Executives rated Psi Chi as "number
one," the best-managed organization in the U.S. for a staff of four
people managing a national office. (Take a bow Kay, Dan, Paula, Scott!)
Of course the importance of Psi Chi's large numbers is the lives they
represent. Many students and faculty (including this writer) are
grateful for how the marvelous activities of Psi Chi have touched their
lives--their school, career, and personal success. Though a systematic
survey is yet to be done, we know that many key psychologists today,
including past presidents and CEOs of APA, were touched by Psi Chi early
in their careers (Interviews, 1992). As APA Executive Officer Raymond
Fowler noted, "More psychologists have been through the doors of Psi Chi
than any other psychology organization in the world" (in Wilson, 1991,
What does Psi Chi offer its members today? Since I began my
service on Psi Chi's 10-person Council in 1993 (as Eastern
Vice-President), I have seen Psi Chi activities double and perhaps
triple in just these past six years. Up to 1993, Psi Chi offered an
impressive number of conferences, grants, awards, and other free
opportunities for members, which fill other pages in this magazine, the
Denmark, Guilford, Cousins, Allyn & Bacon, and Newman Awards
(Newman, 1996). But consider all of Psi Chi's new offerings for
members since 1993. There are now annually the three Hunt Awards (for
policy research), the Lewis Distinguished Lecture, 12 Regional Advisor
Awards, 12 Regional Chapter Awards, student research grants, faculty
research grants, some 70+ regional and national convention awards, a
national service project, the first-rate quarterly magazine you are
holding, the Psi Chi Journal of Undergraduate Research, a national Web site linking members' campuses, and a national miniconvention each August.
points about Psi Chi today. (1) Happily, Psi Chiâ€™s wealth of
offerings are all the more impressive, when we consider that one's
lifetime membership costs only $25, with no annual dues or added
charges. At Psi Chi's nine regional or national conferences each year,
we enjoy seeing dozens of student and faculty award winners receiving
back hundreds or thousands of dollars' return on their initial $25
investment. Even after six years as an elected officer of Psi Chi, I am
still awed at how Psi Chi does it, in a society where we are accustomed
to see government and other groups deplete rather than augment their
assets. In fact, one conference presentation jokingly asked "Is Psi Chi a
Ponzi game?" (Takooshian, 1996), implying that something illegal must
be happening when a member puts in $25 and gets back $500.
The Future?Where is Psi Chi headed as it turns 70? Though life always has
surprises for individuals and for organizations, there is every reason
to see a prosperous future for Psi Chi and those involved in its work.
Under the energetic presidency of Slater Newman in 1997-98, Psi Chi has
even begun some international movement, expanding its mission globally
where the concept of student honor societies hardly exists.
many colleges large and small still lack a Psi Chi chapter. This means
even the most able students at these colleges are simply unable to
become members of Psi Chi because there is no school chapter to induct
them. The National Office continually receives inquiries from students
who must be told they cannot join if their school (for whatever reason)
fails to submit a charter petition. Fortunately, some 20 more schools
join the Psi Chi family each year, moving asymptomatically (if
gradually) towards 100 percent of U.S. schools. In my view, the benefits
of Psi Chi membership are so substantial at this point in 1998, that
nonmember students are truly "left out" if they do not join, and
nonmember schools are depriving their best students of the rich network
of possibilities that Psi Chi offers.
For both new and veteran members of Psi Chi--students, faculty and (yes) alumni--I offer two friendly suggestions.
do not be shy. Each year, our 10-person Council is surprised at how
many excellent individuals and schools fail to apply for the many
national awards Psi Chi offers. It seems that folks can be awed by
national awards, assuming they could not possibly succeed with so many
nominees out there. But no, there have been occasional (albeit rare)
instances when Psi Chi has had fewer nominees than awards. Since all Psi
Chi competitions are designed to be simple to enter, and the judges
strive for impartiality, students and faculty should not hesitate to
enter and obtain their fair share of the increasing wealth of awards Psi
Chi offers each year.
Second, get involved outside your campus,
in whatever way is convenient. Perhaps you are in one of those many
cities like New York, which has a cluster of chapters, in which members
have a chance to convene at local conferences each year. Perhaps you can
attend one of Psi Chi's seven regional or two national conventions
and experience the excitement that a large convention provides. Perhaps
you can join Psi Chi's national service project and note how things
are done outside your campus. Whatever the case, take to heart the
maxim, "The race belongs to the swift." With luck, may Psi Chi's
future be a bright one and, like me, may you be glad you have been a
part of it.
Cousins, R. H. (1991). Annual report of the Executive Director. Psi Chi Newsletter, 17(5), 41-57.
Hogan, J. D. (1998, Winter). The founding of Psi Chi: A brief quiz. Eye on Psi Chi, 2(2), 7, 9.
Hogan, J. D., & Sexton, V. S. (1993). Psi Chi, the national honor
society in psychology: The first affiliate of the American
Psychological Association. In J. L. Pate and M. Wertheimer (Eds.), No small part: A history of regional organizations in American psychology (pp. 189â€"205). Washington DC: American Psychological Association.
Hunt, T. (1979). Five decades of Psi Chi, 1929-1979. Washington DC: Psi Chi.
Interviews with four Psi Chi members. (1992, Fall). Psi Chi Newsletter, 18(4), 8-15.
Newman, S. E. (1996, Winter). How can Psi Chi advance its student members' careers? Psi Chi Newsletter, 22(1), 5.
Takooshian, H. (1996, March). Is Psi Chi a Ponzi game? Presentation to the annual meeting of the Eastern Psychological Association, Philadelphia.
Wilson, K. (1991). A tribute to Ruth Cousins from the incoming Executive Officer. Psi Chi Newsletter, 17(5), 4-5.
Copyright 1998 (Volume 3, Issue 1) by Psi Chi, the
International Honor Society in Psychology
Eye on Psi Chi is a magazine designed to keep members
and alumni up-to-date with all the latest information about Psi Chi’s programs,
awards, and chapter activities. It features informative articles about careers,
graduate school admission, chapter ideas, personal development, the various
fields of psychology, and important issues related to our discipline.
Eye on Psi Chi is published quarterly: