Sphinx Senior Society
The Sphinx Senior Honor Society is the oldest senior society and one of the prestigious honor societies[a] at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The organization, founded in 1900, is self-perpetuating and consists of a maximum of 30 members selected annually. Its members are a diverse and varied group, coming from all areas of achievement, community, activities, and backgrounds. Each member is chosen because of the singular achievements from his or her committed leadership to the university, community and public.
The undergraduate society consists of 30 members, with 23 being inducted each spring and an additional 7 being inducted each fall. Members, officially called "Sphinges," represent outstanding student leaders that have served the university in some form or manner and are selected based on their achievement, character, involvement, leadership, and vision. This membership perpetuates through a "tapping" process every spring, during which current members personally nominate deserving juniors to attend a smoker. This informal smoker provides an opportunity for the taps to pick up an application as well as for the current members to meet and screen nominees before starting the selection process. This process is repeated each fall to tap, select, and induct an additional 7 seniors as members of the given class.
Selected notable members
- Mitchell J. Blutt - Executive Partner, J.P. Morgan Chase - 1978
- Bill Carr - Winner of two gold medals at the 1932 Los Angeles Olympics - 1933
- Richard Clarke - Author, National Counter-Terrorism Director under Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush - 1972
- William T. Coleman, Jr. - United States Secretary of Transportation, 1975–77, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom - 1925
- Jeffrey Goldberg - Award winning journalist. Writer for the Atlantic and The New Yorker - 1987
- Jon Huntsman, Sr. - Billionaire, founder of the Huntsman Corporation - 1959
- John B. Kelly Jr. - accomplished oarsman, four-time Olympian, and Olympic medal winner and President of the United States Olympic Committee; brother of famous actress Grace Kelly; Kelly Drive in Philadelphia is named for him - 1950
- John Legend/John Stephens - famous American soul singer, songwriter, and pianist - 2000
- Donald Lippincott - Winner of a silver and a bronze medal at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics - 1915
- John Edgar Wideman - American writer, Rhodes Scholar, MacArthur Genius Grant recipient and two-time winner of the International PEN/Faulkner Award; currently professor at Brown University - 1963
- The university's oldest digitized alumni catalog, 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, 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.
- Compiled by W.J. Maxwell (1917). General alumni catalogue of the University of Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania. p. 1336.
- University of Pennsylvania (1900). The Record (PDF). Class of 1900. p. 377.
- Tamblin C. Smith; et al. (1948). Pennsylvania Pictures, January 1948 Vol. IV, No. 3. Franklin Society Publication. p. 3.