As the oldest continuing community college in the Southwest, Weatherford College boasts organizations and traditions that have lasted through generations of students. But not many of those organizations can say
it’s the oldest of its kind in the State of Texas.
Phi Theta Kappa, the honor society for two year colleges, is celebrating 85 years on the WC campus this April.
The flagship group was founded in 1918 by the presidents of eight Missouri junior colleges for women and grew from there. It reached Weatherford College in 1929, and the WC group is the oldest continuously active Phi Theta Kappa chapter in the state and one of the oldest in the nation.
Now averaging about 150 students each semester, the beginnings of Phi Theta Kappa at WC were much more modest. The 1930 Oak Leaf yearbook describes the selection process for potential Phi Theta Kappa members: “All students who have a scholastic rating in the upper twenty-five percent are eligible to membership. . . Citizenship, personality, loyalty and leadership are further considerations after scholarship.”
Today’s rules of acceptance have been streamlined – Weatherford College students who have a 3.5 GPA or higher after completing 12 hours of coursework receive invitations to join Phi Theta Kappa. Those who are nominated comprise the top 10 percent of students at WC.
Once accepted into the organization, members work on the four hallmarks of Phi Theta Kappa: Scholarship, Leadership, Service and Fellowship. They do this through two main projects. The first is “Honors and Action,” a research-based service project. The second is a “college project” which is an activity that the entire campus supports.
“For Honors and Action this year they researched the culture of competition,” chapter advisor Dr. Molly Harris said. “They chose to research the history of Phi Theta Kappa and to search for an answer to ‘Does competition influence innovation?’ The end result was a survey distributed to regional and chapter leaders that gauged the perception of the importance of competition in Phi Theta Kappa.”
For their college project, members worked with CollegeFish.org and “C4” - Community College Completion Corps. Members used these initiatives as tools to encourage college completion.
“We had about 100 students create a profile,” Harris said. “CollegeFish.org is like Match.com for the transfer process. After students create a profile including specific desires for a four-year institution, CollegeFish links the student to their matching institution and scholarship opportunities. A student can place up to 10 universities in their ‘fish bowl.’ From there the university can help the student track his/her transfer process.”
Phi Theta Kappa members also represent Weatherford College at three regional events and one international event each year. You can also find them donating their time to events around campus including the Taste of Parker County, the Coyote Chase Race, WC Live, Veteran’s Day activities and commencement.
“The students in Phi Theta Kappa serve as role models to other students through their leadership activities and community service,” said Dr. Arleen Atkins, dean of institutional effectiveness and honorary Phi Theta Kappa member. “Phi Theta Kappa has a real presence and high visibility on campus and can be relied upon to help with campus events even when they are not sponsoring them.”
Back in the 1940s, the activities of Phi Theta Kappa were focused on the fellowship. In the 1942 Oak Leaf, the group’s activities for the year included a get-together and the start of the school year where they enjoyed “popcorn, candy and a grand time,” a Homecoming coffee, an introduction of nine new candidates during chapel time at the Methodist Church, a picnic party in April and a farewell sunrise breakfast to close out the year.
While Phi Theta Kappa has grown over the past 85 years, the mission has not changed, Harris said.
“Programs and initiatives have grown to further support the mission, but the mission of Phi Theta Kappa has always been to promote scholarship and fellowship among its students.”
Kelley Belding, current WC Phi Theta Kappa member and the group’s fundraising chair, said she is grateful for the opportunities she has received through membership.
“My favorite part of Phi Theta Kappa is the friendships I have gained,” Belding said. “Before I got really involved with Phi my college life was a bit dull. I was keeping more to myself and had not made many friends, until I started to get involved.”