About Mortar Board National College Senior Honor Society

Mortar Board, Inc. is a national honor society that recognizes college seniors for distinguished ability and achievement in scholarship, leadership, and service. Mortar Board began in 1918 as the first national organization honoring senior college women. When the Society opened its membership to men in 1975, the organization maintained a tribute to the founders and its heritage by strengthening the Preamble to the Constitution by including a commitment to the advancement of the status of women.


While it is an honor to be selected for membership in Mortar Board, it is the commitment to continue to serve that differentiates an honor society from an honorary. Accepting membership means accepting the responsibility and obligation to be an active participant in chapter activities. This commitment is an agreement to support actively the ideals of the society.



The mortar board is a symbol of ancient honor and distinction that carries with it grave responsibilities. At the earliest universities, students adopted the clerical or monastic robes as a sign that they were devoting their lives to the profession of learning, in recognition of which they received certain privileges. Such recognition is ours, and such responsibility is our privilege. We, too, wear a distinguishing sign, the mortar board.



Historically, students from many lands who spoke diverse tongues were able to meet on a common ground by using the classic language of learning; and so we, students in many universities and colleges, are bound together by a motto shown to the world by three Greek letters, Pi, Sigma, Alpha, representing the ideals of Mortar Board: Service, Scholarship, and Leadership.



For more information, please visit Mortar Board, Inc.'s website.


History of Mortar Board

Mortar Board was the first national organization honoring senior college women. The evolution of Mortar Board mirrors an attempt to keep pace with an ever-changing society.


In 1915, a member of Mortar Board from the Ohio State University met a member of Pi Sigma Chi from Swarthmore College at the University of Chicago. Both women wore similar pins in the shape of a mortarboard. Through discussion, they realized each represented an honor society for women with similar election methods, operating procedures, ideals, and traditions. The main difference in the honor societies was their names.

The founding meeting for the organization of the national honor society took place at Syracuse University on February 15, 1918. Representatives present at that first meeting were from Cornell University, The University of Michigan, The Ohio State University, Swarthmore College and Syracuse University. Syracus University later chose not to join the national organization.


The organizers adopted the pin of The Ohio State University, a small black mortar board. A motto was adopted, taken from the Greek words meaning service, scholarship, and leadership, to be represented by three Greek letters, Pi Sigma Alpha, the letters that appear on the pin. The constitution was adopted from a tentative plan outlined by Swarthmore. Officially, the society remained nameless until the second convention at The University of Michigan, but correspondences with prospective chapters following the February 1918 meeting referred to the new organization as Mortar Board, the name and spelling of the Ohio State honor society.