(Inaugural) Key of Excellence Award, from The Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society

Submitted by aktiwar2 on January 6, 2017 - 2:57pm
December 4, 2013

ASU’s Project Humanities stepped into the national spotlight again and was recognized today by a leading higher education organization for its innovative effort to engage communities with the arts and sciences.

The Phi Beta Kappa Society selected Project Humanities as its inaugural recipient for the Key of Excellence Award at a Dec. 4 ceremony in Washington D.C. The ceremony was the launch of The Phi Beta Kappa Society’s National Arts & Sciences Initiative, which recognized Project Humanities for its leadership and impact.

(In Picture) Anne Wise, director of Phi Beta Kappa's National Arts & Sciences Initiative; Neal Lester, director of ASU's Project Humanities and NPR's Shankar Vedantam.


“Project Humanities received unanimous support in our selection process for its leadership in local and national conversations about the breadth, depth, and value of the humanities across disciplines,” said John Churchill, secretary for The Phi Beta Kappa Society. “Project Humanities is successfully blending academic research, community outreach, student development, and interdisciplinary approaches in compelling frameworks created by and enjoyed throughout the community. We applaud their vision and believe their efforts deserve Phi Beta Kappa’s national spotlight."

The Phi Beta Kappa Society was founded in 1776 and is the oldest and most widely known academic honor society in America. It celebrates and advocates excellence in the liberal arts and sciences, and has over half a million members and chapters at 283 American colleges and universities. 

Neal Lester, who helped to create and has directed Project Humanities since its inception, accepted the award and a $5,000 cash prize to support continued work.

“The pursuit of meaningfulness, integrity and truth is at the heart of the work of Project Humanities and we are committed to finding common ground where talking, listening and connecting do matter,” said Lester, who is a Foundation Professor of English and Director of Project Humanities. “Humans flourish when we accept that we are not the center of the universe and that one measure of success is accepting a life grounded in generosity, service, selflessness and possibility.”

ASU’s Project Humanities is a university-wide initiative that promotes and showcases the range, relevance, and diversity of faculty and student humanities research and outreach. With both a national and international presence in conversations about the role, impact, and importance of humanities study, content, courses, and multidisciplinary collaboration, Project Humanities sponsors or co-sponsors approximately 100 programs a year. Themed bi-annual kick-offs such as, “Perspectives on Place”; “Are We Losing Our Humanity?”; “Heroes, Superheroes and Superhumans” and “Humor…Seriously,” have featured high-profile guests and scholars, student and community participation, and garnered national attention.

Click here to visit the official Phi Beta Kappa award page

To view media coverage in ASU Spotlight, click here.

To view Acceptance Speech for Inaugural Phi Beta Kappa Key of Excellence Award, click here.

To view the announcement of the Key of Excellence award on Phi Beta Kappa News website, click here.

Click here to view the article on Phi Beta Kappa newsletter, The Key Reporter, and for details on Key of Excellence award click here.

Media coverage of AwardArizona InformantThe Jackson Herald and Ahwatukee Foothills News.

National forum examines implications of diminished humanist values

Off the ChArts & Sciences PBK award information
Media Advisory for Project Humanities Award


Award Kudos:

"Congratulations. You must be very proud that your efforts have been rewarded -- and so useful."  - John R.

"I am so glad to see this great program getting the attention and accolades it deserves." - Kaari A.

"Really proud to be a part of such an amazing team. Your continuous efforts for the project has received this recognition and we are glad we rallied around a leader like you. Learnt a lot from you and looking forward to the future of the project as we take a step into another glorious year." - Yaswanth N.

"It is really wonderful you & the program are being recognized for its relevance across the spectrum." - Becky G.

"What great news! Congratulations! You guys deserve it! I look forward to hearing more about the great accomplishments of the project." -  Zach M.

"Congratulations! Much deserved, and a powerful affirmation for leadership and service which sometimes seem in conflict with individualism and 'careerism' in the academy ."  - Sapphire

"This morning I saw an article in the most recent issue of the Arizona Informant, noting that at a ceremony in Washington, DC, the Phi Beta Kappa Society selected ASU's Project Humanities as its first ever recipient of its Key of Excellence Award. As someone who participated in a Project Humanities presentation at ASU, and attended another Project Humanities presentation at the Arizona Science Center, I can attest to the breadth of the disciplines you covered, the scope of your outreach and the many different constituencies you have reached. Congratulations on this wonderful recognition of your work!" - Myles  L., ASU Professor of Law

"I read the wonderful article about you in ASU Spotlights. Receipt of the Key of Excellence award from the Phi Beta Kappa Society is such a terrific honor for you and Project Humanities. The event sounds like a grand affair. I'm so happy that you and Project Humanities are being recognized in such a public and outstanding way! Kudos to you. Have a happy and healthy holiday." - Mary S.

"Congratulations on the special recognition your humanities project has received from Phi Beta Kappa.  That is really great and well-deserved. All the best to you as the new year gets under way." -  John R.

Official Press Release:

Advocacy Initiative to Energize Members, Engage and Recognize National Leaders, and Honor Regional Programs for Extraordinary Efforts in Support of Arts & Sciences

Washington, D.C., December 5, 2013 – The Phi Beta Kappa Society (ΦBK), the nation’s oldest academic honor society, formally launched its National Arts & Sciences Initiative to energize support for a broad-based arts and sciences education for the value and opportunity it brings through all of life. The multi-year initiative kicked off with an evening reception in celebration of the arts and sciences at the Woolly Mammoth Theatre, where Senator Lamar Alexander and Representative Rush Holt were recognized as recipients of The Phi Beta Kappa 1776 Award. 

The Society also unveiled The Key of Excellence Awards, a new regional award and event series designed to showcase innovative programs across the country that reflect the excellence, range, and relevance of the arts and sciences to their communities. Arizona State University’s Project Humanities has been selected as the first regional recipient of the award and will be honored in Tempe in February. “This initiative is exciting for The Phi Beta Kappa Society, our members and supporters, because it shines a deserved spotlight on the importance of the arts and sciences in higher education today,” said Katherine Soule, president of ΦBK. “Access to a broad-based education is a critical investment in our country. The arts and sciences drive important economic and societal innovations, as well as prepare individuals to be more resourceful employees and more engaged members of a democratic society.”  More at:  Phi Beta Kappa award page

Selection criteria for the Key of Excellence Award: Phi Beta Kappa award page

Rhiana Quick

Deputy Director, National Arts & Sciences Initiative

The Phi Beta Kappa Society