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Mortar Board is an American national honor society whose purpose is to recognize outstanding students dedicated to the values of scholarship, leadership, and service. The Cornell University Der Hexenkreis chapter, founded in 1892, is the oldest and predates the national society's founding in 1918. Though many of the traditions within the society are secret, the membership of each chapter is public, which differentiates Mortar Board from many of the secret societies that were formed in the late 19th century.
Mortar Board has 226 chartered chapters nationwide and 19 alumni chapters. Since 1892, more than a quarter of a million college seniors have been initiated into the group.
Mortar Board and Women
Mortar Board was the first all-female honor society and continues to promote women's interests today. The organization became co-ed in 1975 following Title IX, at which point a clause was added in the Preamble to the Constitution to include a "commitment to the advancement of the status of women." Following a revision of the Mortar Board governing documents, that statement was incorporated into the organization's stated purpose.
Nearly a quarter of a million members have been initiated nationwide, with established careers in numerous fields. Some of the notable alumni are:
- Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Secretary of State
- Judith Resnick, space shuttle Challenger astronaut
- Aron Ralston, mountain climber and author
- Drew Brees, NFL player
- Bruce Littlefield, author and lifestyle expert
- David Coleman, writer and motivational speaker
- L.J. Williams, political theorist, missionary, author
Additionally, numerous community and international leaders have been named honorary members. Notable ones include:
- Lance Armstrong, cyclist
- Sandra Day O’Connor, Supreme Court associate justice
- Maya Angelou, poet
- Jimmy Carter, U.S. President
- Rudolph Giuliani, mayor of New York
- Sally Ride, first female U.S. astronaut
- Fred Rogers, educator, minister, and host of Mister Rogers' Neighborhood
Mortar Board, Inc. is a student-governed organization with national officers coming from the ranks of its alumni (except for two student representatives on the national council). Each year, student delegates meet at the national conference to set policies for the organization to be carried out by the national officers.
Leadership from the students
Mortar Board is governed by active collegiate members. Members annually attend the national conference, with one delegate from each collegiate chapter serving as a voting member of the organization, a responsibility restricted to active student members. These voting delegates determine the national dues and goals of the organization, as well as elect the National Council. The structure of Mortar Board, including its purposes and Bylaws, is reviewed annually at the national conference.
The national headquarters for the organization is located in Columbus, Ohio as an affiliate of the Ohio State University. This office is the source of records and information related to chapter operations, national conferences, alumni, the Mortar Board National Foundation and the historical archives of Mortar Board. The staff enacts policies and procedures established by the National Council and the Mortar Board National Foundation. The National Office staff includes an Executive Director, Assistant Executive Director, Communications Coordinator, and Program Assistant.
The National Council, elected by collegiate members, is charged with guiding the long-term future of the organization, pending any changes decided upon by delegates to the national conferences. All National Council members volunteer to serve Mortar Board with two-year terms (with a maximum of two consecutive terms in any one office, with the positions of president, president-elect and student representative being limited to one term).
The National Foundation was established in 1955 as the fundraising arm of Mortar Board, as well as to serve the educational aims of Mortar Board, Inc. The mission of the National Foundation is to support Mortar Board, Inc. in furthering its ideals of scholarship, leadership and service. Its primary goals are to provide fellowships to Mortar Board alumni pursuing graduate and professional degrees, grant funds to collegiate chapters for special projects that will enhance their contributions to their campus and community and raise funds to support leadership and service initiatives through grants to Mortar Board.
A board of trustees governs the National Foundation. These trustees are volunteers who coordinate the fund raising efforts in collaboration with the staff at the National Office, oversee the investment of the funds and administer the fellowship program and chapter project grants. Fund raising sources include contributions from Mortar Board members, alumni and chapters, along with royalties and donations from corporate partnerships.
Section coordinators work directly with chapters, serving as close primary contacts for chapters within a specified geographic region. The section coordinator is available to assist the chapters with a variety of tasks, including the completion of forms, execution of events and activities and assistance with communication with the National Office. Alongside the National Council, section coordinators communicate, facilitate and establish continuity within the organization.
Mortar Board is an affiliate of the Association of College Honor Societies. Mortar Board was invited into the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS) in 1937, the only female honor society of its kind to be invited at the time. ACHS is a national organization that provides resources and fosters communication between over sixty honor societies across the country.
Mortar Board is an affiliate of Ohio State University. In 1970, the Mortar Board National Office was established on the campus of the Ohio State University. Today, the National Office remains an affiliate of The Ohio State University and the office is located near campus.
The Mortar Board National Foundation
The Mortar Board National Foundation, the fund raising arm of Mortar Board, was established in 1955 to serve the educational aims of Mortar Board, Inc. Its primary goals are to provide fellowships to Mortar Board alumni pursuing graduate and professional degrees; grant funds to active chapters for special projects that will enhance their contributions to their campus and community; and raise funds to support Mortar Board programs that further the ideals of scholarship, leadership and service.
The National Foundation is governed by six trustees, who are volunteers and coordinate the fund raising efforts, oversee the investments of the funds, and administer the fellowship, chapter project grant and other programs. Fund raising sources include a contribution from Mortar Board members through their dues, donations from individuals and chapters, merchandise sales, and a Mortar Board credit card.