Phi Sigma Iota - The University of Tulsa

Phi Sigma Iota

Phi Sigma Iota is an foreign language honor society whose members are elected from among outstanding advanced (juniors and seniors) and graduate students of foreign languages and literatures including Classics, Comparative Literature, Philology, Bilingual Education, and Applied Linguistics. The primary objectives of this honorary society are recognition of remarkable ability, attainments in languages and literatures, and the promotion of a sentiment of amity between our own nation and the nations using these languages.

Phi Sigma Iota honors undergraduate students who have chosen to pursue a curriculum with emphasis in foreign languages (a major or a minor), who have at least a B average in their college course of study, as well as in all courses in foreign languages, who rank in the top 35% of their class, and who have completed at least one course in a foreign language at the third-year level or beyond.

Phi Sigma Iota History

Phi Sigma Iota was founded in 1922 at Allegheny College by Dr. Henry W. Church, who with his colleagues and students met regularly to discuss linguistic and literary interests. It became a national society when Beta Chapter was established at the Pennsylvania State University in April, 1925, followed less than a year after by Gamma chapter at the College of Wooster . Since that time expansion has been steady and today there are more than 200 chapters from coast to coast, as well as in Mexico and France . In November, 1949, Phi Sigma Iota was voted membership into the U.S.A. Association of College Honor Societies, the first language society to receive that honor. In 1978 the Society expanded from a Romance language society into a foreign language society to honor outstanding achievements in any foreign language.

The insignia of the society, adopted in 1935, was designed by Robert E. Dengler, Professor of Classics at the Pennsylvania State University. The words PHI, SIGMA, and IOTA may be understood, respectively, as philotes (meaning Friendship), Spoude (meaning Research and also Individuality), and Idioma (meaning Zeal).

The key of the society is dominated by a five-pointed star. The center of this star represents the literary languages of classical antiquity: Greek, Latin, Sanskrit and Hebrew. These tongues live on today in spirit, furnishing the foundation for many modern languages and transmitting to the western world the basis of much of our culture. Originally a Romance language society, Latin, the foundation of our modern Romance languages, formed the foundation of our insignia and was symbolized by the ivy wreath which surrounds the star on the Phi Sigma Iota key. The key was designed in 1935 by Robert E. Dengler, Professor of Classics at the Pennsylvania State University, and since 1935 was the bimillenium of Horace’s birth, Dr. Dengler put an ivy wreath in the design to recall the words of Horace, the Roman poet of the height of Augustian literature who wrote: “As for me, I want the ivy, the crown of learned brows, that unites me with the gods above…” The five-point star originally stood for the Romance languages but now are symbolic of the many rays of learning that emanate from all linguistic and literary traditions. The shield of Phi Sigma Iota is comprised of designs meant to recall various language and literary traditions represented by the Society. Today our Society represents not only the Romance languages, but all languages. The colors of the Society are purple and white.


Title: Zita Jusinskas Halka, Applied Instructor of French
Office: College of Arts and Sciences
Address: Oliphant Hall 167
Phone: (918) 631-2346
National Web site: