On this day in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa was founded.

On December 5, 1776, while fellow Patriots were held captive in British occupied New York, five students at the College of William and Mary gathered to start a new fraternity - Phi Beta Kappa. They intended to follow what they considered to be definitively American principles, such as “freedom of inquiry” and “liberty of thought and expression.” The Greek initials, ΦBK, actually stand for a motto that translates to “Love of learning is the guide of life.”

Now PBK is the nation’s oldest and most widely known academic honor society, with 280 chapters amongst the elite academic institutions in the nation. Their mission is to celebrate and advocate excellence in the liberal arts and sciences. They have been publishing The American Scholar since 1932.

Check out the History channel’s timely reflection here.