Current Scholarship and Awards Programs
The Alpha Association annually sponsors a scholarship program that includes both International Scholarships, awarded to deserving foreign students currently engaged in graduate study in Southern California, and Graduate Study Awards, given to a recently initiated member of each Southern California Phi Beta Kappa chapter who, in the opinion of the chapter, has achieved an impressive undergraduate record and is committed to a graduate program. The Alpha Association also gives smaller awards to graduating high school students, designed to help pay university application fees and for visits to prospective campuses. All of these awards are funded through donations made to the Association by its members.
History of the PBK Scholarship and Awards Programs
In the founding years of the Association, when numbers and financial support were small, the primary outreach to college and university students was through an annual essay contest that provided financial grants to winners who wrote on recommended subject fields primarily related to the liberal arts. This widely accepted program existed until the years of World War II.
It was at the end of the war years that a major shift in the Association’s outreach program to students in local colleges and universities occurred. The year 1948 was the beginning of the nearly seventy-year-old International Scholarship Fund, to be followed in time by the Graduate Study Awards and the High School Awards, with an outstanding total estimate of close to $1,400,000 in student awards.
The idea for the International Scholarship Program dates to 1945, at the end of World War II, when key Association members were inspired to act to prevent another such catastrophe. They termed their program an “Investment in World Unity” and set out to raise funds to assist international students studying in local higher education institutions, particularly those pursuing graduate degrees who would find it difficult because of the lack of United States citizenship to obtain funds. During the 1948 initial-campaign year there was an outpouring of support for the movement, and dollars began to arrive. By 1958, an estimated $45,000 had been raised and allocated to student residents of a number of countries, who upon completing their degrees returned to their homelands. The program grew through the years, and although some records were incomplete, the number of students assisted was in the hundreds. Likewise, although incomplete treasury reports do not provide a totally accurate number of dollars raised and spent, a fair estimate is over $1million.
To honor domestic students, the Association in 1980 established Graduate Study Awards, a program, which as it operates today, provides a monetary award to one graduating Phi Beta Kappa senior from each of the ten colleges and universities in Southern California with chapters.
In 1995, a modest award program was inaugurated to recognize up to four academically qualified seniors each year from Los Angeles high schools, the grants intended to be used primarily toward college tuition costs.