Tau Beta Pi
|Tau Beta Pi|
|Motto||Integrity and Excellence in Engineering|
|Formation||June 15, 1885 (Inc. 1947)|
|Membership||approximately 545,000 |
|National President||Dr. Larry A. Simonson (2006-)|
The Tau Beta Pi Association (commonly Tau Beta Pi, ΤΒΠ, or TBP) is the oldest engineering honor society in the United States and the second oldest collegiate honor society in America. It honors engineering students who have shown a history of academic achievement as well as a commitment to personal and professional integrity. Specifically, the association was founded "to mark in a fitting manner those who have conferred honor upon their Alma Mater by distinguished scholarship and exemplary character as students in engineering, or by their attainments as alumni in the field of engineering, and to foster a spirit of liberal culture in engineering colleges."
When academic honor society Phi Beta Kappa sought to restrict its membership to students of the liberal arts in the late 19th century, Edward H. Williams, Jr., a member of Phi Beta Kappa and head of the mining department at Lehigh University, formulated the idea of an honor society for those studying technical subjects. Irving Andrew Heikes, the valedictorian of his class at Lehigh, was initiated as the first student member of Tau Beta Pi on June 15, 1885. A statue on Lehigh's campus commemorates this event.
In 1892, a second chapter was established at Michigan State University. Since then, the association has grown to 244 collegiate chapters across the United States and Puerto Rico. Tau Beta Pi was a founding member of the Association of College Honor Societies. The national headquarters of Tau Beta Pi are currently located in Knoxville, Tennessee on the campus of the University of Tennessee.
Although Tau Beta Pi never discriminated on the basis of race or religion, Tau Beta Pi did make its start as a male-only society. Female engineering students were scholastically eligible for Tau Beta Pi as early as 1902; however, those women were not granted membership. Starting in 1936, TBP awarded a women's badge to exceptional female engineering students, and a total of 619 women's badges were awarded until 1969. In 1969, Tau Beta Pi began granting women full membership in the society.
In 1974, the Sigma Tau fraternity merged with Tau Beta Pi. Sigma Tau was an honor society for engineering much like Tau Beta Pi and was founded at the University of Nebraska in 1904. At the time of the merger, Sigma Tau consisted of 34 collegiate chapters and a total membership of 45,000. The basis of the merger of Tau Beta Pi and Sigma Tau was the conviction that a single, strong honor society would better serve the engineering profession.
The colors of Tau Beta Pi are seal brown and white, which are the school colors of Lehigh. The official badge, called the Bent, is a watch key in the shape of the bent of a trestle (see picture). The trestle is the load-bearing part of the bridge, representing Tau Beta Pi's principle of Integrity and Excellence In Engineering. Originally, the keys could be used to wind watches. However, because watches have since been fabricated with their own winding mechanisms, modern keys do not. The symbols on the Bent are an ancient form of Greek letters. The quarterly magazine of Tau Beta Pi is also titled The Bent.
As of February 2013, there are 248 collegiate chapters (241 active, and 7 inactive). A chapter is designated 'inactive' when their engineering school shuts down or merges into another university. Each chapter is assigned a chapter name based on their state and order of initiation into the society. The order is designated by a Greek letter.
For example, the first three chapters of Pennsylvania are:
- Lehigh University is "PA Α" or "Pennsylvania Alpha" (1885)
- Pennsylvania State University is "PA Β" or "Pennsylvania Beta" (1912)
- Carnegie Mellon University is "PA Γ" or "Pennsylvania Gamma" (1916)
California is the only state, thus far, to exceed 24 chapters and move into double letter indications. The 25th chapter, California State University, Chico, is named "CA ΑA" or "California Alpha Alpha" (1996); and the 26th chapter, University of California, Riverside, is named "CA ΑΒ" or "California Alpha Beta" (2005), etc.
Tau Beta Pi also has 59 alumni chapters. Alumni Chapters are composed by alumnus members of Tau Beta Pi in a geographical region, and receive their name accordingly. Unlike Collegiate Chapters, however, Alumni Chapters do not initiate new members, although they may recommend persons to the Collegiate Chapters.
Both undergraduate and graduate students are invited to become candidates of Tau Beta Pi based on their academic qualifications. Juniors who rank in the top eighth of their class and seniors who rank in the top fifth of their class are invited to become candidates for membership in Tau Beta Pi. Graduate students who have completed at least 50% of their degree requirements and who rank in the top fifth of their class are also eligible to become candidates for membership. Others who have had a large impact on engineering and society through engineering are often invited by individual chapters to join as eminent engineers.
Scholastically eligible students are elected by the chapter members based on their exemplary character. Electees become members after attending a members-only initiation ceremony. Membership dues are payable the year a candidate joins and last a lifetime.
- 869 students have been given stipends exceeding $4,555,000 since 1929.
- 1,768 students to borrow more than $830,000 from the educational loan program since 1932.
- 479 students have received scholarship awards of $958,000 since 1998.
One initiative provided by Tau Beta Pi is the MindSET (Math, Science, Engineering, Technology) K-12 program. This program is designed to foster interest in engineering among elementary, middle, and high school students with classroom and hands-on activities. The goal of MindSET is to have students completing algebra by 8th grade and calculus by 12th grade.
Tau Beta Pi's membership includes some famous figures in engineering and technology, including 19 nobel laureates:
- Buzz Aldrin, second astronaut to walk on the moon
- Neil Armstrong, first astronaut to walk on the moon
- Charles Bachman, computer scientist and database technology pioneer
- Jeff Bezos, Amazon.com founder
- Michael Bloomberg, founder of Bloomberg L.P. and mayor of New York from 2002 to 2013
- Stephen G. Bowen, astronaut
- Wernher von Braun, rocket scientist
- Frank Capra, movie director
- Leon Cordero, former president of Ecuador
- Seymour Cray, supercomputer pioneer
- Thomas Francis Farrell, Major General, United States Army
- Ernie Fletcher and Paul E. Patton, former governors of Kentucky
- Fred Haise, astronaut
- Lee Iacocca, former Chrysler CEO
- Kelly Johnson (engineer), American systems engineer and aeronautical innovator
- Bernard J. Lechner, TV engineer and LCD inventor
- Curtis Lemay, General, United States Air Force
- Linus Pauling, two time Nobel prize winner
- Michael Porter, Bishop William Lawrence University Professor at Harvard Business School & Notable Strategist
- Dan Reneau, president of Louisiana Tech University
- Robert S. Langer, David. H. Koch Institute Professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- Buddy Tudor, General contractor and real estate developer in Louisiana
- C. Gordon Fullerton, astronaut
Seven astronauts who died on Apollo 1, Space Shuttle Challenger and Space Shuttle Columbia were members of Tau Beta Pi. In their honor, a fellowship has been given out five times (1986, 1987, 1997, 1998, 2004). These astronauts and their chapters are:
- Roger B. Chaffee, Apollo 1, Indiana Alpha 1957
- Gus Grissom, Apollo 1, Indiana Alpha 1950
- Edward White, Apollo 1, Michigan Gamma 1952
- Ellison Onizuka, Challenger, Colorado Beta 1969
- Judith Resnik, Challenger, Pennsylvania Gamma 1970
- Dick Scobee, Challenger, Arizona Alpha 1965
- Rick Husband, Columbia, Texas Beta 1980
- "Tau Beta Pi General Facts". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2011-11-19.
- "Tau Beta Pi". Association of College Honor Societies. 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Tau Beta Pi Information Book, History". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Tau Beta Pi Mission Statement". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Historical Information". Association of College Honor Societies. 1983. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Tau Beta Pi Information Book, Membership". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Collegiate Chapters". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2013. Retrieved 2013-02-16.
- "Tau Beta Pi Information Book, National Programs & Awards". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "K-12 MindSET index". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-02.
- "Distinguished Tau Beta Pi Members". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- History, Tau Beta Pi, Ohio Beta Chapter, retrieved February 19, 2014, "A highlight of the 1975 convention was the initiation of Professor Neil Armstrong of the Aerospace Engineering Department into Tau Beta Pi as an Eminent Engineer."
- "Tau Beta Pi Information Book, Programs - Fellowships". Tau Beta Pi Association. 2009. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- "Tau Beta Pi Information Book" (pdf). Tau Beta Pi Association. Retrieved 2009-01-01.
- Official website
- Biography of Tau Beta Pi founder Prof. Edward H. Williams Jr.
- Association of College Honor Societies: Tau Beta Pi