In 1925, Dr. Clarence Cook Little became president of the University of Michigan after serving in that capacity at the University of Maine. Coming from the institution where Phi Kappa Phi was founded in 1897, President Little was not only a member of that prestigious society but became a strong advocate for the need to form a chapter at the University of Michigan. According to the October, 1926 edition of the Phi Kappa Phi Journal, “Credit for the formation of this chapter is due particularly to the untiring efforts of Professor Clarence E. Bardsley of the Missouri School of Mines, who during the past year was a graduate student at Michigan and during the summer session was a member of the teaching staff. He was ably assisted by Professor E. H. Kraus, dean of the College of Pharmacy.”
Dr. Kraus later noted that Phi Kappa Phi was begun on the U-M campus in 1926 because that organization answered the need for a national honorary society that was wide enough in its scope and character to take in undergraduate and graduate students from all schools and colleges. “Accordingly,” said Dr. Kraus, “a number of us who were members of Phi Beta Kappa and Sigma Xi petitioned for a chapter of Phi Kappa Phi, which was installed in the fall of 1926.”
In summing up its October 1926 editorial announcing the University of Michigan’s petition for a chapter, the Phi Kappa Phi Journal stated “Our Society, with its emphasis on the unity and democracy of education, seeks as one of its aims to counterbalance in some measure the separative (sic) and decentralizing tendencies that inevitably develop among the divisions of a great university. While Phi Kappa Phi is interested in the quality of an institution rather than its size it will take great pleasure in welcoming the chapter of a university where the two elements are found in so marked a degree as at Michigan.”
On November 26, 1926, the installation of Michigan Chapter 39 was conducted in the Michigan Union by Dr. L. H. Pammel, the President General and Dr. J. S. Stevens, past President General. Charter members included President Little, Deans J. A. Bursley, Mortimer E. Cooley, Edmund E. Day, John P. Effinger, Edward H. Kraus, Marcus L. Ward, and Allan S. Whitney, along with Registrar Ira M. Smith, Secretary Shirley W. Smith and fifteen faculty members. Following the installation ceremony, Dean Kraus was elected chapter president and Mr. Edwin M. Baker, Assistant Professor of Chemical Engineering, was elected secretary. In 2016, the chapter will proudly celebrate the 90th anniversary of its founding.
Since its founding, more than 8,500 students who have met the high academic standards of the organization have been initiated into the University of Michigan chapter. Some current notable members are President Mark Schlissel, Former President Mary Sue Coleman, Provost Martha Pollack, Interim Vice-President Jack Hu, Deans Alison Davis-Blake (Business), Deborah Ball (Education), David Munson (Engineering); Mark West (Law) Carol Fierke (Rackham), James Woolliscroft (Medical School), Kenneth Fischer, President of the University Musical Society, as well as many senior administration members and Distinguished University Professors.