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May / June 2003

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UMaine Today Magazine

Lasting Impression

Phi Kappa Phi
A photo of Phi Kappa Phi members from the 1900 University of Maine Prism yearbook. UMaine's Colburn Hall, the location of President Abram Harris' office, is considered the birthplace of Phi Kappa Phi.

Photos courtesy of
Fogler Library Special Collections

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University of Maine senior Marcus Urann was sitting in a dorm room one night with a small circle of friends when he floated his idea for promoting scholarship and its place in higher education. The time had come, he said, to organize an honor society for outstanding students of all academic disciplines.

Urann was a member of the UMaine Class of '97 1897. That year, with the encouragement of then university President Abram Harris, Urann and two classmates formed a local honor chapter, first called Lamda Sigma Eta, then, briefly, the Morrill Society.

In 1900, the chapter was renamed Phi Kappa Phi, with a motto "let the love of learning rule humanity." UMaine is Chapter 1.

That year, President Harris and the presidents of Pennsylvania State College (now Pennsylvania State University) and the University of Tennessee collaborated to expand the UMaine chapter into a national honor society.

What began with the initiation of 10 of UMaine's top students, the president and two faculty members more than a century ago has grown into a leading international honor society with a million members and 300 chapters worldwide. Its mission: "to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education, and to engage the community of scholars in service to others."

"Lasting Impression" features a memorable person or event in UMaine history.


UMaine Today Magazine
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