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Who we are and What We Do...

Who We Are...

Phi Beta Kappa is the nation's oldest academic honor society. The Northern Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association (PBK NCA) is one of the largest and most active Associations in the country. We have earned high praise from both the National Society and from other Associations!

Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association is a non-profit organization of nearly 1000 Phi Beta Kappa members like yourself, chartered by the National Phi Beta Kappa Society in Washington, D.C. In May 2014, we were pleased to award 12 scholarships in the amount of $5000 each to graduate students attending Northern California universities, and four Teaching Excellence Awards. These are exciting times, indeed! If you are a Phi Beta Kappa member from anywhere, why don't you join us right now?

What We Do...

We sponsor monthly events (listed in our newsletters) which help fund the scholarships and awards, and provide an opportunity to meet other members. Recent events have included excursions to such interesting places as the Museum of Modern Art, the California State Capitol, the John Muir House, a Discovery Voyage on San Francisco Bay, a cruise on the paddle-wheeler, the Petaluma River Queen, and a duo of Napa wineries, among others. 

Also, each year we host a three-day retreat at the beautiful Julia Morgan-designed Asilomar Conference Center in Pacific Grove, CA, where we heard a variety of interesting speakers.

At the Annual Meeting in May we present the scholarships and Teaching Excellence awards, and meet the recipients.

All activities are announced in our newsletters that are published four times a year. There are coupons in the newsletter which you can use to join us on the events. Only current Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association members receive all the newsletters, so you will miss out on the events and the opportunity to support scholastic excellence if you don't join. When you join, you will be recognized in a newsletter. In addition to the newsletters, every three years we publish a directory of all current members.

Notes About Membership - Our goals; where your money goes...

You might be surprised to discover there is life in Phi Beta Kappa after initiation. I urge you to join the Northern California Association of Phi Beta Kappa (PBKNCA).

Perhaps you have already sent dues to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Washington and believe you are already a member of PBKNCA. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The Society sends out yearly solicitations to all initiated members in order to maintain its services at the national level, but we do not receive any of this money.

We are one of 50 active PBK alumni associations across the nation. Our Association, PBKNCA, ranks among the top, not only in the size of our membership, but in the amount of scholarship money that we distribute each year and also in the number of social activities we sponsor.

Our primary goals:

  • Recognizing Teaching Excellence by honoring professors nominated by former students who are members of PBK.  This year five professors each received a $1000 honorarium.
  • Helping outstanding graduate students by granting scholarships.  In 2017 we awarded graduate scholarships of $7,500 each to 12 deserving students, for a total of $90,000.
  • Providing opportunities for our members to get together, often for private tours of educational or cultural institutions. All of our events serve as social opportunities, as well as fundraisers for our scholarships.
  • Publishing the Directory of Members every three years, which is sent to all members on our list as of the date of the Directory. The next Directory will be in 2014, so be sure to join now!
  • Informing our members. We publish a newsletter four times a year available either as hardcopy of online, and maintain a website.

Our Association is run by a Board of hard-working, dedicated, talented, and unpaid volunteers. Our only expenses are printing and mailing and a per-member fee assessed by the national Society. That means we are able to put most of our members' dues and donations directly into our Scholarship and Teaching Excellence funds.

We also offer our members opportunities to get together socially, often for private tours of educational or cultural institutions. We have about 10 local Current Mobile newsletter and current pdf newsletter each year, and we hold a Annual conference over Presidents' Day weekend, traditionally at Asilomar Conference Center, near Monterey, CA. All of our events serve both as social opportunities and as fundraisers for our scholarship program.

Any Phi Beta Kappa member - whether initiated at Mills College in Oakland, CA, Bates College in Maine, or Florida International University - is welcome to join the Northern California Association. In fact, many of our most active members were initiated into Phi Beta Kappa at a college outside of California, so we would be delighted to get to know you!

Please Click here to Join Now and make the most of your induction into Phi Beta Kappa.

But Why Should I Join? I don't need another club. I'm already a member. I didn't graduate in Northern California. What's in it for me?

Have you joined the Northern California Association of Phi Beta Kappa? Here are the most common responses we receive when we ask that question:

I don't need another club.

Don't worry - if you are too busy to take part in the social activities the association sponsors, that's fine. However, simply by joining Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association, you turn your achievement - induction into Phi Beta Kappa - into more than a pin you wear on occasion or a line you highlight on your resume. You turn that honor into a deeply appreciated gift to students, many of whom are supporting families. These students are struggling to complete master's or doctoral degrees while living in an area with, arguably, the highest cost of living in the nation.

There is plenty of help available to undergraduate students - there are loans, grants, and scholarships galore, from both public and private sources. However, students opting to continue their education often find that financial support dries up. That's a shame, because graduate students are unsung heroes in our society. Without their research, we would know far less than we do about historical and literary figures, and we would make far slower progress in discovering why earthquakes happen or how the human genome is constructed or what we can do to better treat cancer or prevent Alzheimer's disease. That's where Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association steps in. Thanks to the contributions of our members, we awarded $60,000 in scholarships at our May 2014 Awards Dinner.

I'm already a member!

You can be proud that you have earned lifelong membership in the national Phi Beta Kappa Society. However, membership in the Association nearest you is not automatic, so chances are, you are not a member of the Northern California Association! Those who are have the satisfaction of knowing that they are helping highly deserving students each year who deeply appreciate the scholarships we provide them. We are proud that the Northern California Association is one of the most active in the nation.

I didn't graduate in Northern California, so I can't join Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association, can I?

Yes you can! Whether you graduated from Stanford or Dartmouth, Princeton or UCLA, Phi Beta Kappa Northern California Association exists to bring together Phi Betes who are living in Northern California or who want to help graduate-level students at Northern California institutions.

What do I get out of membership?

Sure, it's great to know you're helping students carry on the Phi Beta Kappa tradition of academic excellence. But many of our members are just as passionate about their own lifelong learning - indeed, our excursions to such diverse and stimulating destinations as the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, the Phoebe Apperson Hearst Museum of Anthropology, and our annual Asilomar Conference serve these members' needs, and meeting those needs is an extremely important part of the Phi Beta Kappa, Northern California Association mission.

I don't want to be on another mailing list.

Don't worry - we do not share our membership list with anyone, and if you decide leave the Association, we take your name off the list. (Well, we will send you a reminder for a while, just in case, but after that - nothing - promise.) And you will not be inundated with mailings, we send only the four newsletters, and perhaps one letter if you haven't sent your dues by April. We also send email notices when necessary.

Click here to Join Now!
Please join us and make the most of the honor you received when you were inducted into Phi Beta Kappa.

Membership in the Northern California Association is open to any person who has been initiated into Phi Beta Kappa - anywhere.

(The Phi Beta Kappa Society maintains a Membership Info Page which may be consulted for further information about election to Phi Beta Kappa.)

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Association? Chapter? What's the difference?

Phi Beta Kappa operates on three levels

The National Society in Washington DC, which is the umbrella organization; this is what you join when you are elected in college.

The Chapters - such as at your college, which determined your worthiness to be initiated to Phi Beta Kappa.

The Associations, such as the Northern California Association (that's us), which are "local" organizations of Phi Betes who join together for various purposes, such as awarding scholarships, honoring excellence in teaching, and providing educational and social activities for its members.

We send emails or letters asking you to join our Association to help support our awards - this is the only way we can make contact with Phi Betes in California.

We would like to have you join us. We have many activities in the Bay area (See for a list). Activities are described on our website, and in the newsletter we send four times a year to members. We have an annual event at Asilomar on Presidents' weekend We also make awards to outstanding graduate students ( and to excellent teachers nominated by their students (