Senior societies at University of Pennsylvania

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Senior societies at University of Pennsylvania are an important part of student life.[1][2][3]

Traditional societies[edit]

These were the first senior societies to be created at the University of Pennsylvania. The three traditional societies are Friars, Sphinx, and Mortarboard. Friars and Sphinx explicitly seek campus leaders, while Mortarboard seeks to recognize "achievements in scholarship, leadership, and service."[4] Friars and Sphinx are exclusive to the University of Pennsylvania, whereas Mortarboard is a national honor society.

Sphinx Senior Society[edit]

The Sphinx Senior Society University of Pennsylvania, founded in 1900, is the oldest honor society at Penn,[a] recognizing the top seniors who have made significant contributions to the university as leaders of the campus. Continuing in this tradition, the society has come to represent all facets of university life and has reflected the changing face of Penn’s student body. Members today include leaders in student government, performing arts, media, service groups, cultural organizations, Greek life, athletics, and other realms of student affairs. Sphinx was the first senior society at Penn to admit African-Americans, doing so in 1952,[8] and in February 1971 [9] was the first to be co-ed.

Friars Senior Society[edit]

The Friars Senior Society is a prestigious honor society at the University of Pennsylvania with over 2,000 alumni in the United States and in 23 countries throughout the world. Founded in 1901 by Daniel Keller, Friars was formed to establish uncompromising democracy in university activities. Each class is composed of one-third athletic captains, one-third performing arts leaders, and one-third student government, Greek, publications and community service leaders. Friars promotes interaction between those from all walks of life who have given their time and energies to making the university what it is; hence the name Friars, for those who sacrifice their time during college to meaningful activities. Throughout history, its members have contributed to many aspects of Penn life, such as the addition of straw hats to Hey Day in 1949 and the creation of Spring Fling in 1975.[10]

Mortar Board Senior Society[edit]

Mortar Board is a chapter of the national Mortar Board Senior Honor Society. It was the first and only senior society open to women until 1971, when Sphinx]] and Friars became co-ed.[b] Mortar Board recognizes juniors and seniors for their achievement.


Onyx Senior Society[edit]

The Onyx Senior Society was founded in 1974 by seven university students: Claudette Christian, Craig Inge, Sharon Moorer, Linda Walker, Charles Wardlaw, Joseph Watkins and Robert Wilson. With the aid of administrators Provost Elliot, Alice E. Emerson (Dean of Students), and Harold Haskins (Dean of Students), they formed the honor society to encourage high academic achievement and community service at the university. The society recognizes outstanding performance within, and outside of, the classroom. The organization plays a significant role in promoting the academic success of minority students who operate in a competitive environment.

One of the goals of Onyx was to re-establish the Society for African-American Students at the University of Pennsylvania. The society provided an all-expenses-paid program for black students in the summer before their first year. The program lasted from 1969–72, and concentrated on preparing its participants for the academic mainstream by providing books, room and board, a stipend, and two credited courses. This program later birthed the Pre-Freshman Program. In response to such changes, the goals of Onyx have also changed and developed over time. In the past, Onyx has focused on forums as a means to inform the campus community about black issues. Forum topics have included the organization and promotion of networking within the black community, and mentoring, both on campus and in the surrounding Philadelphia community. Onyx hopes to create a positive social experience for blacks at the university, and to recognize black achievement, past and present. Notable members of Onyx include Grammy Award-winning singer John "Legend" Stephens, former U.S. Congressman Harold Ford Jr., and former mayor of New Orleans and current National Urban League President and CEO, Marc Morial.

Oracle Senior Honor Society[edit]

The Oracle Senior Honor Society was founded in the fall of 2002 by five students: Sandeep Acharya, Earl Lee, Julia Lee, Eugena Oh, and Sylvia Srisinthorn. It recognizes outstanding members of each senior class who demonstrate passion, leadership, commitment and achievement as an Asian Pacific student or for the Asian Pacific community at the University of Pennsylvania.[12] Since its founding in 2002, Oracle has represented leadership from organizations that span all facets of university life, from academics and service organizations, to cultural and performing arts groups, to Greek life and student government.

As a self-perpetuating senior society, each current member personally invites outstanding members of Asian descent from the junior class to apply for membership every spring. These potential members, all of whom have served the university in some leadership capacity, have the opportunity to learn more about the society and to meet the current members at an informal smoker. Each prospective must then submit a written application detailing their qualifications. The current senior class selects the new class of Oracle members, representative of the diverse student population, by selecting from the applicant pool based on their fit to Oracle's purpose of demonstrating passion, leadership, commitment, and achievement. There is also an opportunity for individuals to be inducted in the fall of their senior year through a similar process, as long as the total membership of the society does not exceed 25.[13][14]

Cipactli Latino Honor Society[edit]

The Cipactli Latino Honor Society was founded in 2001 by four students: Nancy Calderón, Randy Quezada, Sabrina Harvey, and Shaun Gonzales. The mission and purpose of Cipactli is to acknowledge individual academic achievement, leadership, and distinguished service to the Latino community. Cipactli is the only Latino honor society in the Ivy League.

The members of Cipactli are chosen anytime between their sophomore spring semester and senior fall semester, and go through a rigorous application process. They are chosen for their outstanding work both in and outside the academic sphere, as well as their deep commitment to helping their communities develop in a sustainable and meaningful way. Cipactli's philosophy is known as "The three pillars of Cipactli", which are Leadership, Academic Achievement, and Community Service.[15]

Atlas Senior Society[edit]

The Atlas Society was founded in 2016 by five international students. Atlas strives to create an ethnically and culturally diverse community of international students who have demonstrated leadership and an interest in intercultural learning and global experiences. The founding class includes 21 members from 18 countries and territories.


Lantern Senior Society[edit]

The Lantern Society was founded in 1993. It is a senior society that is devoted to recognizing leaders of the Wharton School who have demonstrated academic excellence.

Hexagon Senior Society[edit]

Hexagon is a senior society that is devoted to recognizing leaders of the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The society was founded in 1910 to promote fraternization across different engineering majors. Members often lead tours of the Engineering School buildings.

Nightingales Senior Society[edit]

The Nightingales Senior Society was founded in 2011. It is a society dedicated to senior nurses who have demonstrated leadership in the nursing school.


Omega Honor Society[edit]

The Zeta Xi Chapter of the Order of Omega was rechartered at Penn in 2014. Unlike its "Omega" counterpart below, the chapter has both a university affiliation with the Office of Fraternity and Sorority Life, and a national affiliation. Omega is composed of juniors and seniors who best represent the positive aspects of Greek life: character, scholarship, service, and leadership.[16]

Omega Senior Society[edit]

The Omega Senior Society, or The O.R.D.E.R., exists to recognize leadership in the Greek community. It is composed of influential members of Greek organizations and other similar student groups (colloquially known as "off-campus fraternities/sororities").

Bell Senior Society[edit]

The Bell Senior Society was founded in 2014. The organization brings together leaders of innovation and technology around Penn's campus, from all four colleges. New members are selected by the previous class based on potential, and passion for technology and entrepreneurship.

Osiris Senior Society[edit]

Osiris, founded in the spring of 2013 by Lainie Huston and Jackson Foster, brings together senior leaders and outstanding members of the performing arts community. The society draws its name from the god Osiris, who was believed by some in ancient Greco-Egyptian times to have been the god who brought together the nine muses. Similarly, the society provides a forum for students of different art forms, including vocal, dance, theatrical, instrumental, photographic, and tech among others, to strengthen ties across the performing arts community. Throughout the year, members attend social events and support each other at shows, and each May members perform a senior showcase highlighting the talents of these students and fostering collaborative performance.[17]

Kinoki Senior Society[edit]

Kinoki was founded in the spring of 2014. This organization brings together students who are passionate about film and plan on pursuing careers in the entertainment industry.

Other groups[edit]

Carriage Senior Society[edit]

Carriage, founded in the spring of 2013, is a senior society of leaders from around campus who are members of the LGBT community, or allies. Their symbol is the a carriage wheel and members refer to themselves as "Spokes."


  1. ^ The university's oldest digitized alumni catalog,[5] as well as membership books in the University Archives, has shown the first graduating class of Sphinx Senior Society and of Friars Senior Society to be 1900 and 1901 respectively. The first mention of a senior society at the university can also be found in the 1900 edition of The Record,[6] the yearbook of the College. Though not mentioning Sphinx directly, the members notated as a senior society member were the members of the founding class of Sphinx. Due to previously lost records and the past competitive nature between the groups, the title of oldest senior society at the university has been debated by members from both organizations, and has even led to inaccurate references.[7]
  2. ^ Mortar Board was a "national honorary organization for women students. The Penn chapter [had] nine members chosen each Hey Day by the graduating seniors in the well known Tapping Service. These students represented represented nearly all activities open to women at Penn such as work on the Dolphin yearbook, the Pennsylvania News, class offices and various dramatic organizations."[11]


  1. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on December 28, 2010. Retrieved September 23, 2010. 
  2. ^ Finkelstein, Morgan (April 8, 2010). "Oh, Look, Senior Societies". Under the Button. 
  3. ^ Pollock, Judy (April 15, 2008). "The Daily Pennsylvanian". Retrieved May 29, 2016. 
  4. ^ "About Mortar Board". Penn Mortar Board. Retrieved 6 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Compiled by W.J. Maxwell (1917). General alumni catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania. p. 1336. 
  6. ^ University of Pennsylvania (1900). The Record (PDF). Class of 1900. p. 377. 
  7. ^ Tamblin C. Smith; et al. (1948). Pennsylvania Pictures, January 1948 Vol. IV, No. 3. Franklin Society Publication. p. 3. 
  8. ^ NEGROES ELECTED TO SPHINX AT U.OF P|New York Times, May 24, 1952>
  9. ^ Male Honor Society at Penn Planing to Admit Women||New York Times, February 07, 1971>
  10. ^
  11. ^ Tamblin C. Smith; et al. (1948). Pennsylvania Pictures, January 1948 Vol. IV, No. 3. Franklin Society Publication. pp. 4, [1]. 
  12. ^ About Oracle Oracle Senior Honor Society
  13. ^ Class of 2013 Oracle Senior Society
  14. ^ Spring Senior Societies, Round Two Under the Button - April 9, 2012
  15. ^ Cipactli Latino Honor Society
  16. ^ "Constitution and Bylaws : Order of Omega". Retrieved 2016-04-05. 
  17. ^ Osiris Senior Society Archived April 7, 2014, at the Wayback Machine.

External links[edit]