Purpose – Mortar Board, as an honor society, is an association of individuals selected for distinguished ability and achievement in scholarship, leadership and service, which recognizing the advantages of a national union of senior honor societies, has formed a national honor society, whose purpose shall be to facilitate cooperation among those societies, to contribute to the self-awareness of its members, to promote equal opportunities among all peoples, to emphasize the advancement of the status of women, to support the ideals of the college or university, to advance a spirit of scholarship, to recognize and encourage leadership, to provide service, and to establish the opportunity for a meaningful exchange of ideas as individuals and as a group.
Founding – Mortar Board was founded on February 15, 1918, with chapters at four institutions: Cornell University, The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University and Swarthmore College.
Mission – Mortar Board, a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for their achievements in scholarship, leadership and service, provides opportunities for continued leadership development, promotes service to colleges and universities and encourages lifelong contributions to the global community. (Adopted July 1994)
Motto – Pi Sigma Alpha, letters that correspond to three Greek words representing the ideals of Mortar Board: scholarship, service and leadership.
Symbol – A mortarboard, an ancient symbol of honor and distinction, represents the organization. Many early scholars adopted the clerical or monastic robes as a symbol, illustrating their devotion to learning.
Colors – Gold (representing achievement) and silver (symbolizing opportunity)
Certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies – Mortar Board has been a certified member of the Association of College Honor Societies continuously since 1937, when it became the first women’s organization admitted to membership. Many Mortar Board leaders have served as presidents of this august body. Membership in ACHS guarantees that a society meets strict criteria designed to ensure student growth and tangible, lifelong benefits to belonging. Mortar Board joins ACHS in urging caution before accepting invitations from noncertified groups. ACHS provides an Information Alert to facilitate this examination.
Official Publication – The Mortar Board Forum magazine features stories about alumni, chapter activities and accomplishments, current issues and trends, messages from national leaders and more. It is distributed in both print and digital formats to collegiate and alumni members across the nation. Alumni can continue to receive a print version of the Mortar Board Forum by purchasing a subscription.
Pin – Shaped like a black mortarboard with the Greek letters representing the motto engraved in gold
Membership – More than 250,000 members have been initiated at 232 chapters nationwide.
National Project – In 1985, the collegiate members decided they wanted each chapter to engage in and actively promote a national project each year. Over several years, the national project promoted many issues, and today’s permanent project is Reading is Leading.
Notable Members – Notable members include NFL quarterback and philanthropist Drew Brees (Purdue University, 2001), nationally-known speaker David Coleman (Bowling Green State University, 1982), former Director of the National Science Foundation Rita Colwell (Purdue University, 1956), Golden Girls star Rue McClanahan (The University of Tulsa, 1956), U.S. Army Installation Management Director John B. Nerger (Northwestern University, 1978), author and subject of the film 127 Hours Aron Ralston (Carnegie Mellon University, 1997), astronaut on the Challenger Judith Resnik (Carnegie Mellon University, 1971), diplomat and educator Condoleezza Rice (University of Denver, 1974) and WNBA basketball star Katie Smith (The Ohio State University, 1996).
The National Mortar Board website is an excellent source for additional information:
View the latest National Mortar Board Newsletter here. Past issues are available here.