Florida Blue Key
|Formation||November 1, 1923|
This organization was started at the University of Florida in 1923 under the presidency of Albert Murphree. Blue Key quickly spawned chapters across the United States, before the other chapters split with the original Florida chapter in the early 1930s. Their original charge was to plan a special weekend celebration for the university.
Today, the organization remains the powerful and politically active founding Blue Key chapter. A significant amount of Florida's famous politicians and business leaders became members of Florida Blue Key during their collegiate years and have followed that network for much of their careers. According to a 1997 lawsuit by Charles Grapski, Florida Blue Key maintains tight control over the Student Government and University of Florida.
"Florida Blue Key was founded on November 1, 1923, several days prior to the University's Homecoming celebration. At the suggestion of President Albert E. Murphree, Bert C. Riley, Dean of General Extension, brought together a group of student leaders to form an organization which would recognize leadership and promote service to the University. Among the duties assigned to Florida Blue Key were playing host to campus visitors and to be at the call of the President of the University for any duty designated by him.
In this respect, Blue Key was given the task of planning and executing Homecoming activities that year and has continued to lead this activity ever since. Also included in the 1923 Homecoming was Dad's Day, a time for parents to visit and acquaint themselves with campus life. Dad's Day and Homecoming were held concurrently until the 1930s.
The organization quickly became so popular that Blue Key spread to colleges and universities across the country.
Initially, membership in the organization was ex officio; a student automatically belonged to the organization if he held one of the major student organization positions on campus.
Separation with national chapters
The concept of a group of student leaders pooling their talents and interests to plan and promote a major event for their campus was a popular idea. Through Dean Riley's travels and professional contacts, similar organizations were developed on other campuses and it wasn't long before it seemed appropriate to organize into a national group.
For a variety of reasons, the University of Florida chapter decided not to be part of the national organization between 1932 and 1935. The Florida group thought the proposed Constitution of the national organization took too much control from the hands of the students; and it disagreed with some specific tenets of membership, including the requirement of a 2.5 grade point average. The Florida group believed the organization was not an academic one but, rather, a leadership and service group; thus, if one was progressing satisfactorily toward a degree (i.e. 2.0), one should be eligible for membership. Since then, Florida Blue Key has changed its stance on the grade point average requirement, now requiring a 2.75 GPA in order to be tapped.
The Blue Key National Honor Society came into being and is a very respected national organization with chapters on many campuses throughout the country. Florida Blue Key was also formed as an organization only to be found at the University of Florida. The dispute was a clear indication that FBK did not intend to serve as a passive honor for University of Florida students, but rather as an active force in shaping the events of the university and state.
The parting of the ways between the parent chapter and other chapters forming the national organization left deep wounds on many Florida students. The perceptions of the conflict being a very important part of any subsequent discussions about the organization for years to come; including discussions of orientation of new members. The active members at that time wanted nothing to do with the national organization once it was founded, and, further, wanted to be sure that their successors would not become involved in it. Examples of such feelings are expressed in the last sentence of the Oath of Membership in Florida Blue Key and the Constitution. Through the 1940s, the orientation of new members included hours on the discussion of this topic.
Today, it is still part of the orientation, but only for the purposes of relating its historical significance and for emphasizing that Florida Blue Key is the name of the organization that it has no relationship to, and is not part of, The Blue Key National Honor Society. A transfer student to the University of Florida often assumes his membership in a Blue Key National Honor Society chapter at another institution provides him with reciprocal membership in Florida Blue Key only to find out that is not the case. To this day, Florida Blue Key controls the use of all trademark and intellectual property rights related to Blue Key. Furthermore, Blue Key National Honor Society is prohibited from chartering or forming chapters at any institution within the State of Florida.
Florida Blue Key is one of the most unusual student organizations in American higher education. In the 1920s, the University of Florida was the state's only institution of higher learning where a white male could continue his education. During the same time, the leadership of the state was male, predominantly those from Florida. If one of those leaders were college educated, it was most likely he went to the University of Florida and, to a large measure, it was consistent that student leaders at the University of Florida would likely remain in Florida and would assume roles of leadership within the professional, political, governmental, business, education cultural, religious, and social life of the state. The networking of those students with each other, and with other alumni of the institution, provided a powerful force and unique opportunity for service to the University of Florida. While Florida Blue Key membership offered many opportunities for service to the University, it also provided opportunities for personal enhancement and advancement. Many doors were opened to young college graduates whose resume included membership in Florida Blue Key.
The organization continues to sponsor and organize the University of Florida's annual Homecoming celebration and Gator Growl. These events are widely recognized as the largest Homecoming celebration in the country, which has grown to encompass dozens of events and community activities throughout the fall semester.
One of these events, Gator Growl, is billed as the largest student-run pep rally in the world; an estimated 75,000 people have attended the event in past years. Gator Growl, nicknamed "Growl" by some students, usually features comedians such as Bill Cosby, Frank Thornton, and Dane Cook in addition to the school rallies, but occasionally a top-tier musical act headlines the show. The first Gator Growl occurred in 1932, and has been a tradition at the University of Florida for over 80 years.
The Blue Key Speech & Debate Tournament, sponsored by FBK since the early 1980s, is one of the largest and most prestigious high school speech & debate tournaments in the country.
Other responsibilities include organizing UF's Legal Day, sponsoring the Miss University of Florida pageant, lobbying efforts on behalf of the university, and various community debates regarding issues concerning Florida and UF.
A short list of alumni include:
Although the university opened its doors to women in 1925 and to black students in 1958, FBK admitted primarily just white males until the early 1970s. The growing threat of lawsuits and increased national and state pressure caused the organization to change its policies. Today, FBK is fully integrated.
In 1995, Florida Blue Key was sued by graduate student Charles Grapski, who claimed that some of the organization's members had run a slanderous campaign against his candidacy for student body president.
In his complaint, Grapski charged that several members of FBK conspired to alter Grapski's criminal record and post it around campus, containing a false charge of child molestation.
Two years later, FBK was found guilty of defamation of character and conspiracy to defame, and held liable for damages of $250,000. Grapski and FBK eventually settled for $85,000, and FBK has since claimed no liability.
- Florida Blue Key
- UF Homecoming
- Gator Growl
- Blue Key Debate
- John F. Kennedy speaks to Florida Blue Key in 1957
- Who's Who in Florida Blue Key; Volume XIII
- Who's Who in Florida Blue Key; Volume XIII
- Pursuant to the Buckman Act, adopted by the Florida Legislature in 1905, the University of Florida was reserved for white male students, Florida State College for Women was reserved for white female students, and Florida Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes was a coeducational institution for black students.
- Who's Who in Florida Blue Key; Volume XIII
- Background history of FBK
- Boedy, Matthew (March 15, 2000). "Suit over fliers brings $6-million". St. Petersburg Times. Retrieved 20 June 2017.