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Phalanx Honor Society Tapping Ceremony

“Service, Leadership, and Devotion”

Remarks by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Biotech Auditorium
Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, Troy, NY

Saturday, April 26, 2014


I am honored to be here to celebrate the induction of new members into the Phalanx Honor Society.

This is the highest honor society at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. The Phalanx is named for an ancient Greek troop formation, in which soldiers stood shoulder to shoulder, and marched as one entity. “Phalanx” has a more modern meaning of people united for a common purpose—in the case of the Phalanx Honor Society, for service to the Rensselaer community and leadership within it.

“Phalanx” also has a botanical meaning, as a group of stamens—or the pollen-producing parts of flowers—held together by their stalks. In the case of our Phalanx, a profound respect for, and attachment to, Rensselaer serves to bind the individual elements together. Since 1912, the Phalanx Honor Society has recognized those who demonstrate devotion to Rensselaer, as well as service and leadership.

In 1939, our junior honor society, the White Key Society, was founded to recognize the most promising leaders among the freshmen and sophomore classes. New Phalanx and White Key members make up only a very small percentage student body. They must be nominated, and then chosen from among other extraordinary nominees, for their unique contributions.

Today, we celebrate 20 new Phalanx inductees and 21 new White Keys—students who have distinguished themselves within a student body that is already outstanding.

Who are these students we thank and honor today? They are leaders who support and shape essential aspects of life at Rensselaer by:

  • Helping other students at our Advising & Learning Assistance Center and through our Women at Rensselaer Mentor Program;
  • Helping Orientation to run smoothly—providing a positive start for our incoming students;
  • Providing daily support to our students through their Residence Life work;
  • Organizing and coordinating activities through the Student Senate, the Union Executive Board, the Interfraternity and Panhellenic Councils, and more;
  • And reaching beyond themselves by working with and through organizations like Habitat for Humanity.

We have one inductee, who began the Greater China Business Club to inform Rensselaer students about business trends in China—and to recruit brilliant Chinese students to Rensselaer—by spotlighting the influence of Rensselaer alumni and alumnae in China.

Another of our inductees, volunteered to chair the Student Senate Communication Group in her freshman year when the previous chair stepped down, and no one was available to fill the position. Since then, she has initiated new ways to give feedback to the Senate that are so effective, that they have resulted in many new projects and goals.

We also have the pleasure today of adding two new honorary members to the Phalanx Honor Society:

  • The Honorable Arthur Gajarsa, J.D., Chairman of the Rensselaer Board of Trustees, who has served as a Board member for 20 years, and has dedicated much of his time to ensuring the betterment of Rensselaer and its students.
  • Mr. Jim Knowlton, Athletics Director of Rensselaer since 2007, who has not merely overseen a successful athletic program. He has turned our student-athletes into a source of inspiration for the entire Rensselaer community—by emphasizing teamwork, respect, academic success, tolerance, and kindness.

I add my congratulations to Dr. Charles Boylen, Professor of Biology and Associate Director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute. Dr. Boylen is honored with the Darrin Award because of an outstanding record in counseling undergraduate and graduate students. As Associate Director of the Darrin Fresh Water Institute, he has affected the lives of many students conducting research, especially in ecological and environmental stewardship. He extends his involvement with the Rensselaer community further as the faculty advisor of Theta Xi, a Greek organization that has its house nearby his own. Chuck has assisted the brothers at Theta Xi in their academic ventures at Rensselaer, and beyond. 

I also would like to extend my thanks to Phalanx President Chaz Goodwine and the current officers, members, and advisors of Phalanx for their time and their dedication.

I thank all of you for your vital service to Rensselaer and the larger community.

Today’s inductees are splendid additions to the Phalanx and the White Key Societies. The best way to teach is by example—and the example set by the people we honor today is a vital component of the Rensselaer experience for everyone at the Institute.

You are role models. Through your actions and choices, you complete the education of all of our students—and inspire faculty, administrators, and everyone else in our community.

Thank you, for all you do for Rensselaer. I offer my admiration and heartfelt congratulations to each of you. Well done!


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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