Mortar Board is a national senior women's honorary society. It was Page 1922founded in 1906, its formation being an outgrowth of the existence, on numerous college campuses, of senior women's honor societies whose purpose was to serve. Through the pioneering efforts of four such local societies — at Swarthmore College, Cornell University, Ohio State University, and the University of Michigan — the national organization called Mortar Board came into being.
The purpose of Mortar Board is to provide for the co-operation between societies, to promote college loyalty, to advance the spirit of service and fellowship among university women, to maintain a high standard of scholarship, to recognize and encourage leadership, and to stimulate and develop a finer type of college woman.
Tapping is carried on similarly in all ninety-six chapters of Mortar Board. The members, dressed in black caps and gowns and carrying lighted candles, tap newly chosen women after closing hours. The members march through the house where the prospective member lives, singing "Thy Ideals" and awakening other girls living in the house. The members continue singing as they place a mortar board on the girl's head and give her an invitation to become a member. The next day, the new member must wear her mortar board wherever she goes. Mortar Board taps in the spring. Between five and twenty-five girls may be tapped each year.
Some time later the girls are initiated, they then sign the chapter membership list and learn of Mortar Board traditions. They receive their black and gold Mortar Board pins inscribed with the Greek letters Pi Sigma Alpha. New members attend regular meetings with the old members until new officers are elected for the following year. New members of Mortar Board are chosen by present members of the society.
As a first step in the selection of members, letters are sent to various campus organizations, house mothers, and faculty members requesting personal recommendations for qualified girls. Members of Mortar Board may also submit recommendations. The qualifications of the girl specify what she has done, how she carried out her responsibilities, and how she worked with subordinates and leaders.
In order to be eligible, girls must be second-semester juniors or first semester seniors during the spring semester when tapping takes place. Girls chosen must be outstanding in service, scholarship, and leadership and must be willing to give time and effort to being active Mortar Board members. A girl must also have a grade point average three-tenths of a point higher than the all-campus women's average, figured through the fall preceding tapping.
Each year, Mortar Board has fundraising activities as well as service projects. Cinema Guild movies are sponsored as a source of income for the society. Mortar Board members serve as ushers for the movies and wait on table at the League as a service project as well as a source of income. The Mortar Board Society aided the Gorham Company in campus research on a new pattern. Mortar Board members were hostesses at the first alumnae tea held in the home of President and Mrs. Hatcher in 1955. The group has aided the local chapter of the League of Women Voters and has raised money to complete the Alice Crocker Lloyd Drama Collection in the League Library.
Mortar Board sponsors a State Day, when girls from other chapters in the area visit to discuss common topics of interest, to share ideas, and to get to know each other. Mortar Board, with the other senior honoraries, sponsors a Career Day Conference for all women on campus. On this day outstanding representatives Page 1923of many fields of interest are on hand to inform and advise students. Mortar Board is currently working on a project of organized tours of the University of Michigan campus and the Ann Arbor area for foreign students.
Each year Mortar Board gives a one hundred dollar scholarship to a deserving girl who is about to enter her senior year. Each year, also, national Mortar Board gives at least one Katherine Wills Coleman fellowship for graduate work. This is named for a former national president. The fellowship carries an award of five hundred dollars. Any active member of a chapter is eligible if she can quality as a candidate for an advanced degree in an accepted university.
From its beginning, Mortar Board spread over the campuses of America, always aiming to serve the ideals of discriminating service, responsible leadership, and the application of scholarly principles to personal and general problems.