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Insignia & Traditions

Dr. Leavitt O. Wright

Dr. Leavitt O. Wright


1952 original certificate design; the recipient is American author

Kit Reed (Lillian Craig).

Prof. Jacques Fermaud

Prof. Fred Hillman

Dorothea Di Paola


Laura Dempsey

Pi Delta Phi Key


The first record of the Pi Delta Phi key appears in the 1921 University of California, Berkeley Blue & Gold yearbook. The key was likely based on other keys used by college fraternities, sororities and other academic honor societies. In 1955, the Executive Board selected L. G. Balfour Company of Attleboro, Massachusetts to be the official jeweler of Pi Delta Phi. The Balfour Company served as the jeweler to many academic societies, fraternities and sororities. Pi Delta Phi directed Balfour to develop a a recognition pin (also called a key) using the Society's Greek letters.



From 1925-1926, Leavitt Olds Wright (1891-1980), a graduate student at Berkeley, served as President of Sigma Delta Phi, La Sociedad del Prado (now the National Collegiate Hispanic Honor Society), which was established on November 14, 1919. Wright obtained his B.A. from Harvard University in 1914, a Bachelor of Divinity degree from Union Theological Seminary in 1917, and a M.A. (Spanish, 1925) and Ph.D. (Spanish, Romance Philology, 1928) from the University of California Berkeley. Leavitt was inducted into Pi Delta Phi as a graduate student in 1927, and hired as a professor of Romance Languages at the the University of Oregon following the completion of his doctorate. Other honor societies at Berkeley used Greek letters, e.g. Pi Delta Phi (French), Tau Beta Pi (engineering), and of course Phi Beta Kappa (established in 1776). Greek letters were thus also selected for the new Spanish honor society, but were chosen because of and represented a non-Greek name; La Sociedad del Prado. (1) During his presidency of the Alpha chapter of Sigma Delta Phi, Leavitt, who was well versed in several languages including Latin and Greek, felt that non-Greek mottoes for the Spanish, French and Italian honor societies–all founded at UC-Berkeley–were inappropriate. For example, the Greek letters Pi Delta Phi were selected because of the French society's original motto Pour défendre le français, while the Greek letters for the Italian honor society Pi Mu Iota (now defunct) were chosen because of the Latin phrase Pro musa italica. Leavitt thus created new mottoes in Greek for all three honor societies including: Spanías didagéi proágomem (Let’s go forth/continue forth under the teaching/guidance of the Spanish language) for the Spanish honor society and Probaínomen Diakritoi Philogálatoi (Avançons, amis fidèles de la culture française; Forward, faithful friends of French) for the French honor society. (2) Leavitt also fostered very close ties between the Spanish, French and Italian societies, and organized one joint meeting during his term as president. (3) He later served as President of the American Association of Teachers of Spanish and Portuguese in 1948.

Charter & Initiation Ceremony

Prior to 1951, charters were provided to chapters at no cost.  Beginning in 1951, the Executive Committee required a fee for the hand lettering and mailing of chapter charters. Schools seeking to establish chapters of Pi Delta Phi were originally required to apply for affiliation with the Society prior to the submission of any fees. Prior to 1950, no officially approved ritual to initiate new members into chapters existed or was required. Chapters had the freedom to create their own ceremonies provided that the ceremonies reflected the ideals of Pi Delta Phi. In December 1950, the new Executive Committee voted to approve an official initiation ceremony for all chapters. The text was based in the ceremony created by President Richter at Linfield College.


In 1950 the Executive Committee voted to offer for the first time a certificate to members; the first certificates were offered in January of 1951. Professor Jacques Fermaud (Alpha Xi) at the University of Minnesota prepared the French text for the certificate. President Richter was perhaps able to secure the assistance of Professor Fermaud since Ricther had graduated from Minnesota in 1940. Fermaud obtained his M.A. (1938) and Ph.D. (1943) from Minnesota. Professor Fred Hillman, head of Linfield College Art Department and colleague of President Richter, designed and printed the certificate. The certificate measured. 7.5 x 11 inches, included a facsimile of the Pi Delta Phi key, and a gold Pi Delta Phi paper seal in the lower right corner. The text (or font) used was a combination of Goudy text and Depense italics that Richter noted was “simple, yet elegant, and in keeping with good taste”. (4) In 2010, the Executive Board voted to change the size of the certificates to 8.5 x 11 to allow framing the certificates in standard-sized frames. In 2016 the Executive Board edited the certificate wording so that moderators could print student names and other information using a laser printer.




Following the December 1950 meeting of the Executive Committee, the very first Pi Delta Phi News Letter (two words) was mailed to all chapters. The purpose of the newsletter was "to disseminate announcements of business and administrative nature." (5) The aim of the newsletter was to supplement the information that President Richter published in his "Pi Delta Phi Notes" that appeared in the French Review between 1950-1955, and to serve as an initial step toward the republication of Deux Patries, the first publication of the Society (1938-1941) that contained Society news and announcements, as well scholarly articles on French literature and culture. Republication of Deux Patries was, however, never realized. In 2021, the Executive Board changed the name of the society newsletter to À Vous l'honneur.




The very first Pi Delta Phi scholarship was awarded in 1955. First Vice President Dr. H. Wynn Rickey of Southern Methodist University was named to chair the scholarship committee and Dr. C. L Pell of Southern State College in Magnolia, Arkansas served as the second reader. The Executive Board voted to award a $500 scholarship annually, the Jules A. Verne Award, to a graduating senior and future teacher of French. (6) The winner of the first award in 1955 was Miss Dorothea Delores Di Paola of New Hyde Park, New York. Di Paola graduated magna cum laude from Miami University in 1954 with Honors in French. While at Miami, Di Paola was elected to Phi Beta Kappa and served as President of both the Alpha Eta chapter of Pi Delta Phi and the Alpha Alpha chapter of Sigma Delta Pi. Di Paola had been so anxious to begin graduate study that she received special permission from New York University to begin taking courses during the 1954 summer session under the direction of Professor Germaine Brée. The Pi Delta Phi scholarship thus helped Miss Di Paola to pay for her graduate studies. Di Paola later worked as a Director of Exchange with The American Scandinavian Foundation from 1961-1992 and as an administrator with The Institute of International Education.

The first Pi Delta Phi graduate scholarship, the President's Scholarship for Graduate Students, was awarded in 2018. The award allows a full-time graduate student who is a member of Pi Delta Phi and who is pursuing graduate work in French or select related fields to study or to conduct research abroad in a French-speaking country. The first scholarship was granted to Laura Demsey (Omicron Upsilon), a Ph.D. candidate in French linguistics at Indiana University in Bloomington, Indiana. A report of her study can be found in the fall 2018 Pi Delta Phi Newsletter.

(1) T. Earle Hamilton, "Sigma Delta Pi: A Brief History, The First Seventy-Five Years 1919-1994" (2004); 1.

(2) T. Earle Hamilton, "Sigma Delta Pi: A Brief History, The First Seventy-Five Years 1919-1994" (2004); 7.

(3) T. Earle Hamilton, "Sigma Delta Pi: A Brief History, The First Seventy-Five Years 1919-1994" (2004); 7-8.

(4) Louis E. Richter. "Pi Delta Phi Notes" The French Review 25:4 (1952): 333.

(5) Louis E. Richter. "Pi Delta Phi Notes." The French Review 23:5 (1950): 427.

(6) George J. Edberg. "Modern Language Societies, Honors, and Awards." The French Review 48:1 (1964): 42.

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