The first Greek letter fraternity in the nation, Phi Beta Kappa, was established by five College of William and Mary students at the Raleigh Tavern in Williamsburg in 1776. The nation's oldest academic honorary society, it was founded to be a serious minded group that was devoted to the pursuit of liberal education and intellectual fellowship. It was originally designed to be a secret organization, but following anti-masonic agitation at Harvard (based on public indignation at and suspicion of that secret fraternal order) where a chapter had been opened in 1781, Phi Beta Kappa became a public, an action that probably saved the society from further open criticism as well as from rivalry with the social fraternities that made their appearance around that time. Today there are 283 chapters across the U.S. with 60 active alumni associations. William & Mary's most respected and well known alumna, Thomas Jefferson, had long since graduated by the time this society was created, but we suspect he would have been one of their first recruits were he still in residence.

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