Forty-eight Harvard College seniors received invitations Monday to join Harvard’s chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest and most esteemed academic honor society in the country.
The new “Senior 48” includes students from the Class of 2024 across all 12 undergraduate houses and a wide array of academic concentrations. The cohort will join 24 of their classmates already inducted in March.
Leading the cohort is Lowell House with eight inductees, followed by Mather House with six and Leverett House with five.
The most represented concentration is Computer Science with seven inductees, followed by Government with six, and Math, Physics, and Social Studies with five each.
Two inductees — Aishani V. Aatresh ’24 and Benjamin Chang ’23-’24 — were also selected as Rhodes Scholars last week.
Shreya P. Nair ’24 had just woken up from a long nap after starring in a campus production of Footloose when she read the email informing her of her induction.
“We had a Footloose cast party to wrap up the show. And it was a really long weekend of performances. So I was out like a light and I woke up to a message,” she said. And then I clicked it and I was like, ‘Oh, sick!’”
“Like I do with anything that happens on campus, I immediately took a screenshot and sent it to my family group chat,” Nair added.
Mark F. Petrasko ’24 was walking down to the dining hall to get some tea when he saw the email pop up.
“The announcement line was pretty neutral,” he said. “My first gut reaction was, ‘Oh, I guess I didn't get it.’ And then the first line said, ‘Congratulations.’”
“It just felt unreal,” Petrasko added. “I just didn’t really believe it.”
Zoree S. Jones ’24 was at home in northern Virginia visiting family when she received the invitation.
“It was really cool to touch down and, not long after that, get the email, so I was able to let them know pretty quickly,” she said.
“The application process sort of just inspired some reflection on my coursework and my broader experience studying during my time at Harvard and the gratitude that I have for all the different instructors and courses that I’ve taken in a field that I’m really passionate about,” Jones added.
Zachary J. Lech ’24, a Crimson Arts editor, said he was “very pleasantly surprised” to learn of his induction while browsing through emails during a German course. When he realized he had won, he announced it to the class.
“I just couldn’t help myself,” he said. “They were very happy for me, including the professor in whose class I was just browsing email.”
In addition to language citations in both Russian and Spanish, Lech is also pursuing a double concentration in Government and German, along with a concurrent master’s degree in German.
“I’m interested in a variety of fields — especially across the humanities,” Lech said. “But I would say that my true passion is foreign languages and literatures and I think that is very much reflected in what I’m studying.”
LyLena D. Estabine ’24 also said she was “really excited” upon reading her email.
“I texted my family and proceeded to explain to them what PBK is,” she added.
Estabine, the former co-president of the Harvard Undergraduate Association, also noted some financial barriers associated with induction into the society.
“The cost to accept the honor of Phi Beta Kappa is $115, which includes both the membership dues and the cost of ‘induction and literary exercises around graduation,’” Estabine wrote. “I was not aware of this cost when I initially received notification of my eligibility and was notified upon inquiry that financial aid is only offered to students who are SEF eligible.”
Estabine added that while she is “very grateful” to be invited to join the honor society and for overall financial support that is available, the amount “still poses a challenge” for students who are not eligible for the Student Events Fund.
“This is reflective of a larger issue across Harvard financial policies and I hope the University may take steps to bridge this gap for students in the future,” she added.
Harvard College spokesperson Jonathan Palumbo did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Nic G. Pantelick ’24 wrote in an emailed statement that upon learning of his induction, he “felt successive emotions of surprise, excitement, and gratitude.”
“I opened the email unsuspectingly in the Pfoho dining hall, eating with one of my roommates,” Pantelick wrote. “After the initial shock, I reflected on my path over the last few years since I transferred to Harvard as a sophomore in fall 2021.”
“I have been immensely fortunate to have collaborated with exceptional professors, peers, and mentors,” Pantelick added.
Sophia N. Fend ’24 also highlighted the honor as an opportunity to celebrate cross-disciplinary learning.
At Harvard, Fend has focused on “combining things from the field of medicine with ideas from philosophy and quantitative tools in economics.” She said she believes her interdisciplinary interests are part of why she was elected to the society.
Fend said the selection was particularly important to her because of the example of her grandmother, who wasn’t able to finish college as a young adult but went back to school in her 50s and earned Phi Beta Kappa.
“The most meaningful thing was just being able to tell her that I got it,” Fend said. “I think it means a lot to her.”
—Staff writer Adelaide E. Parker can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on X @adelaide_prkr.
—Staff writer Sophia C. Scott can be reached at email@example.com. Follow her on X at @ScottSophia_.