Five students at the College of William and Mary founded The Phi Beta Kappa Society in 1776, during the American Revolution. For more than two and a quarter centuries, the Society has embraced the principles of freedom of inquiry and liberty of thought and expression. Phi Beta Kappa (ΦΒΚ) stands for Φιλοσοφία Βίου Κυβερνήτης in Greek (Philosophia Biou Kybernētēs in Latin letters), which means “Love of learning is the guide of life,” the motto of the Society. These ideas, symbolized on Phi Beta Kappa’s distinctive gold key, still lay the foundations of personal freedom, scientific inquiry, liberty of conscience, and creative endeavor.

In February of 1968, after many years of waiting and dedicated effort by its first president, Professor Bernard Kohlbrenner, a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was chartered at Notre Dame, as Epsilon of Indiana. The first initiation of students took place in May 1968.

The early history of the Notre Dame chapter is described in the 2005 Notre Dame Magazine article, “The Irish of Phi Beta Kappa”.