The oldest and most prestigious honorary society in the United States, Phi Beta Kappa was established in 1776 at the College of William and Mary. Phi Beta Kappa's goal is to further ongoing learning in the letters, arts and sciences. New members are initiated in recognition of extraordinary academic achievement in the liberal arts and sciences.

Each year Phi Beta Kappa, with its affiliates, raises and distributes over $1,000,000 to benefit student and scholars through programs such as scholarships, lectures, book and essay awards, summer institutes for teachers and funds for visiting scholars.

The Rice University chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, Beta of Texas, was founded in 1929, and is governed by the Chapter Constitution & By-Laws. All resident Rice University faculty, students, and staff who have been initiated by the Beta of Texas or other chapter of Phi Beta Kappa are regarded as General Members of the Beta of Texas chapter. The chapter officers are drawn from the General Membership, and are elected at the Induction Ceremony every spring.