Omicron Delta Kappa (ΟΔΚ), also known as The Circle and ODK, is a national leadership honor society in the United States, with chapters, known as circles, at more than three hundred college campuses. It was founded December 3, 1914, at Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, by fifteen student and faculty leaders. The society recognizes achievement in five areas: scholarship; athletics; campus and community service, social or religious activities, and campus government; journalism, speech and the mass media; and creative and performing arts. Some circles of ΟΔΚ are quasi-secret, in that newly selected members remain undisclosed for some time.
Membership in the Omicron Delta Kappa Society is regarded as one of the highest collegiate honors that can be awarded, in the tradition of Phi Kappa Phi and Phi Beta Kappa. To be selected as a member of ΟΔΚ, one must stand among the top thirty-five percent of all students at that particular institution and hold a leadership role in one of the society's five areas of recognition.
On the evening of December 3, 1914, the Omicron Delta Kappa Society was founded by fifteen men who gathered in a small office on the third floor of Reid Hall on the campus of Washington and Lee University. J. Carl Fisher first introduced the idea of creating such a society to a close friend, Rupert Latture. The two soon included mutual friend William Brown in the discussion, and thus these three are referred to as the principal founders of the society. Together with three faculty members, including the president of the University and the dean of Engineering, they gradually selected nine others to join them. The complete list of the fifteen founders is as follows.
- James Edwin Bear, ΒΘΠ, editor of the student magazine
- William Moseley Brown, ΔΚΕ, ΦΒΚ, debater, a president of the YMCA
- Carl Shaffer Davidson, ΚΣ, student instructor in civil engineering
- Edward Parks Davis, ΚΣ, athlete
- Edward A. Donahue, ΦΚΣ, captain of football and baseball
- De la Warr Benjamin Easter, PhD, ΚΣ, ΦΒΚ, professor, and the founding president of ΟΔΚ
- James Carl Fisher, business manager of the student magazine, founder of the campus radio station
- Philip Pendleton Gibson, ΠΚΑ, president of student government, editor of the student newspaper
- Thomas McPheeters Glasgow, ΦΔΘ, orator, athlete
- David Carlisle Humphreys, FIJI, professor and dean of the School of Applied Science
- Rupert Nelson Latture, ΔΥ, ΦΒΚ, a president of the YMCA
- John Eppes Martin, ΑΧΡ, business manager of the year book
- William Caulfield Raftery, ΦΚΣ, athlete
- John Purver Richardson, Jr., ΣΧ, instructor in biology
- Henry Louis Smith, PhD, ΦΔΘ, ΦΒΚ, president of Washington and Lee University
The fifteen founders of the Omicron Delta Kappa Society
All fifteen men were prominent leaders on campus, and they rallied around the idea that all-around leadership in college should be recognized, that representative men in all phases of college life should cooperate in worthwhile endeavor, and that outstanding students and faculty should affiliate in the spirit of mutual interest and understanding. The founders intended that ΟΔΚ not be yet another society in which members would simply earn a societal Key and then be done. Members of ΟΔΚ would remain active as leaders, in upholding spiritual and moral values, and in rendering service to the campus and community.
Reid Hall, the birthplace of The Circle
The founders decided that The Circle would be kept a complete secret until keys could be designed and produced. The keys arrived shortly past the winter holiday, and each man first wore his key on the 15th of January in 1915. The student newspaper, the Ring-Tum Phi, broke the news in the issue dated January 12, 1915 of a new society to be known as "The Circle," with the secret significance of its three Greek letters known only to its members.
Purpose of the Society
The Purpose of the Society is threefold:
- First, to recognize those who have attained a high standard of efficiency in collegiate activities and to inspire others to strive for conspicuous attainments along similar lines;
- Second, to bring together the most representative students in all phases of collegiate life and thus to create an organization which will help to mold the sentiment of the institution on questions of local and intercollegiate interest;
- Third, to bring together members of the faculty and student body of the institution, as well as other Omicron Delta Kappa members, in the spirit of mutual interest and understanding.
Women in ODK
Only men could become members of Omicron Delta Kappa in the first sixty years of its existence. At the 1970 and 1972 National Conventions, the University of Alabama Circle introduced an amendment to the National Constitution to admit women into the Society. In June 1972, Title IX of the "Education Amendments Act of 1972" prohibited sex discrimination in federally assisted educational programs and amended parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Professional and honor fraternities were included in Title IX. The Special Committee on the Possible Role of Women met in January 1973 and recommended changes to the National Constitution that would abolish segregation based on gender within the Society. On March 12, 1974. the National Convention convened in New Orleans and approved the initiation of women into the Society. On that date, the first women members were recognized by the Society. They were the Carolyn Julia Kucinski and Diane Christine Ragosa of the Newark College of Engineering Circle, and Robbie Lynn Cooney, Maria Dolores Delvalle, Roxane R. Dow, Catherine Ann Rohrbacher, Karen Diane Janzer, Linda Ann Touten, Martha Gwyn Van Deman, and Cathy Sue Welch of the University of South Florida Circle.
Cheryl Hogle was elected as the first woman National President at the Convention in Knoxville, Tennessee on February 25, 1998. After serving four terms as a Faculty Province Director and two terms as National Vice President for Extension, she was elected by unanimous vote of the Convention. On June 26, 2010, the ODK National Leadership Summit and Convention elected Dr. Betsy Holloway as the 34th National President, the second female to be elected.
On March 22, 1992, the National Convention passed a resolution authorizing the incorporation of the Society. On July 1, 1992, the Omicron Delta Kappa Society was merged into the corporation, The Omicron Delta Kappa Society, Inc.
Relationship with Mortar Board
A similar honorary society, for exceptionally outstanding women leaders, known as Mortar Board, had been established just a few years after ODK, in 1918, with many similar ideals and purposes. With the passage of Title IX in 1972, each of those two societies was then required to accept candidates of either gender into its membership. As a result, the two organizations found themselves competing to tap many of the same distinguished students, and those formerly complementary societies became rivals at many institutions, perhaps fiercely so during membership selection, while more congenially so during the rest of the year, as the two rivaled one another in service, athletics, or other campus activities.
Unlike the college honor societies that accept all potential members who meet the selection criteria and pay the required fees, O∆K chooses only a highly select group from a pool of potential and qualified students through a process known as tapping. Eligibility for membership in O∆K requires at least junior academic standing. Unlike Phi Beta Kappa, which limits membership to the liberal arts and sciences, O∆K contemplates candidates from every field of study who distinguish themselves as outstanding leaders in at least one of the five areas celebrated by O∆K: scholarship; athletics; campus and community service, social or religious activities, and campus government; journalism, speech and the mass media; and creative and performing arts. Members may be chosen either annually or semi-annually depending on the tradition of each individual circle. The number of candidates tapped each year is limited to three percent of the undergraduate population, but most circles limit membership to fewer than the top one quarter of one percent of the students on their respective campuses.
Once a circle votes on who will be tapped for membership, it withholds that secret from all but those few chosen for initiation. Once tapped, each candidate must maintain the secret until the circle reveals it to the campus and community in a public ceremony, only after the circle has initiated the new members into the bonds of the society through its private ritual. At some institutions, such as the University of Missouri, with several such elite societies that tap new members, the public revelations are all held in conjunction, in an annual ceremonial Tap Day celebration on campus.
Omicron Delta Kappa uses the term circle to indicate chapters. As of December 1, 2017, 413 circles have been chartered. The practice of designating Circles with Greek letter names was abandoned in 1949. Members who have died are said to have entered the Eternal Circle.
- Frank Beamer (Virginia Tech 1967) Head coach for Virginia Tech Hokies football team.
- Terry Bowden (Auburn University 1994) College football head coach.
- Paul "Bear" Bryant (University of Kentucky 1949) Longtime Head Coach for the University of Alabama football team.
- Ron Fraser (University of Miami 1975) College Baseball Coach at University of Miami
- Bob Griese (University of Miami 1988) NFL Quarterback for the Miami Dolphins
- Gene Keady (Purdue University 1988) Longtime head coach for Purdue University basketball.
- Archie Manning (University of Mississippi 1970) NFL quarterback for the New Orleans Saints, Houston Oilers, and Minnesota Vikings.
- Peyton Manning (University of Tennessee 1997) NFL quarterback for the Denver Broncos
- Rudy Niswanger (Louisiana State University 2005) NFL center for the Kansas City Chiefs
- Arnold Palmer (Wake Forest University 1964) Professional Golfer.
- Joe Paterno (Pennsylvania State University 1976) Football Coach.
- Gaylord Perry (Campbell University 1978) Professional Baseball Player and Cy Young Award winner.
- James E. Perry (Campbell University 1978) Professional Baseball Player and two-time winner of Cy Young Award.
- Homer Rice (Georgia institute of Technonogy, 1981) Football Coach and Athletic Director.
- Myron Rolle (Florida State University 2008) Former safety for the FSU Seminoles and 2009 Rhodes Scholar
- Adolph Rupp (University of Kentucky 1937) Longtime University of Kentucky basketball head coach.
- Tubby Smith (University of Kentucky 2001) Men’s Basketball Coach
- Steve Spurrier (University of Florida 1991) Heisman Trophy winner, NFL Quarterback, and Head Coach for the University of Florida, the Washington Redskins, and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
- Ernest Malcolm Sutter (Tulane University 1938) Winner of the NCAA Tennis Singles title twice, 1936–37
- Bob Wolff (Duke University 1942) longest running sports broadcaster in television and radio history
- Barry Chapman Bishop (Alpha Theta, 1953), geographer, researcher, and Executive Vice Chair of Research, National Geographic
- Ely Callaway Jr. (Mu, 1940), American entrepreneur, textiles executive, winemaker, and golf club manufacturer
- Dan Carmichael (Mu, 1967)
- Harvey P. Eisen (Alpha Xi), chairman of Bedford Oak Advisors, chairman and CEO of National Patent Development Corporation
- Robert S. Jepson, Jr. (Epsilon, 1963), chairman of the board and CEO of three corporations and a California winery, director of four other companies, founder of the Jepson School of Leadership Studies at the University of Richmond
- Richard D. Kinder (Alpha Xi), CEO of Kinder Morgan, former president of Enron, ranked #46 on the 2011 Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Kinder's net worth is more than $8.2 billion as of March 2012.
- Kenneth L. Lay (Alpha Xi, 1964), former chairman and CEO of Enron
- Clay Foster Lee, Jr. (Pi, 1951), retired Bishop of the United Methodist Church
- William S. Thompson, Jr. (Alpha Xi), director at Citigroup, former CEO and Managing Director of Pacific Investment Management Company (PIMCO)
- Buddy Tudor, General contractor and real estate developer in Louisiana
- S. Robson Walton (Beta Beta, 1965), chairman of Wal-Mart Stores, Inc., ranked #11 on the 2011 Forbes 400 list of richest Americans. Walton's net worth is $23.1 billion as of March 2012.
Arts & Entertainment
- Yvette Nicole Brown (The University of Akron, 1982), actress and comedian
- Sheryl S. Crow (University of Missouri, 1983), singer/songwriter, winner of 9 Grammy Awards
- Tara Dawn Holland (Florida State University, 1993), Miss America 1997
- Mark Powell, American symphony and opera conductor
- Douglass Wallop, (University of Maryland College Park, 1941), famous author, librettist of Damn Yankees
- Gordon R. England (University of Maryland College Park, 1963), 72nd U.S. Secretary of the Navy, Former U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense, Former Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security
- Donald Evans (University of Texas at Austin, 1971), 34th U.S. Secretary of Commerce
- Martin Frost (University of Missouri, 1962), Political Commentator, Fox News Channel, former member of the U.S. House of Representatives for Texas's 24th congressional district
- John R. Gibson (University of Missouri, 1948), Senior Federal Judge, U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit
- Joe LeSage, (Louisiana State University, 1950), attorney, former state senator
- Lewis Franklin Powell, Jr. (Washington and Lee University, 1928), former Associate Justice of the Supreme Court
- Dean Rusk (Davidson College, 1930), 54th U.S. Secretary of State
- Virginia Kilpatrick Shehee, (Centenary College, 1975), Shreveport businesswoman, first woman elected to the Louisiana State Senate, first woman in Omicron Delta Kappa
- Lloyd F. Wheat, (Louisiana State University), member of the Louisiana State Senate from 1948 to 1952
Journalism & Mass Media
Science & Engineering
- Walter Williams - founded the Alpha Xi Circle at Missouri
- Franklin D. Roosevelt - University of Maryland, 1940
- E. F. L. Wood, 1st Earl of Halifax - University of Maryland, 1941
- Hodding Carter - University of the South, 1953
- Jonas E. Salk - University of Pittsburgh,1954
- Wehrner von Braun - Grove City College, 1961
- Joseph I. Goldstein - Washington and Lee University, 1961
- Bob Hope - Tulane University, 1964
- Jimmy Carter - Georgia State University, 1972
- Edith Killgore Kirkpatrick - Louisiana State University, 1968
- Walter Cronkite - Florida Southern College, 1979
- Walter Mondale - University of South Carolina, 1981
- Gerald R. Ford - Florida Southern College, 1984
- F. Story Musgrave - University of Kentucky, 1984
- Winston S. Churchill III - Florida Southern College, 1990
- Margaret Thatcher - Harding University, 1995
- George H. W. Bush - Harding University, 1997
- Hillary Clinton - Alfred University, 2000