11. Phi Beta Delta: Of Seals, Waxen and Not Furry

Phi Beta Delta is well endowed when it comes to symbols, for it has both a shield and a seal. We generally think of seals, if we think of them at all and aren't thinking about furry grey seals, as imposing devices made out of wax, often with red ribbons attached, and used to confirm the authenticity of treaties and deeds. The Great Seal of the United States appears on dollar bills is regularly if controversially cited as an example of the influence of Freemasonry on the early Republic. The Phi Beta Delta seal consists of a world constructed by lines of latitude and longitude, with the Greek letters of the society superimposed and a botanical halo of leaves encircling the world outline.

The shield on the other hand is much discussed in our society's initiation ritual and is a heraldic device, familiar to anyone who has seen some of the palaces in Europe, where shields are much used for ornamentation. Our shield appears without supporters, those strange animals like unicorns that sometimes hold the shield upright. If it did have supporters, perhaps a student and a teacher would be better choices than mythological beasts! At any rate, the shield is usually the representation that is most used by Greek societies, but many of them like us also have a seal.

All of this goes to remind us that Phi Beta Delta is part of a river of history, going back many years. Our signs and tokens link it to the rich and complicated history of tertiary education, and to the many ways in which honor and accomplishment have been recognized. Joining brings initiates into a great company of men and women who have been part of that river, and should be a source of pride. We should remember that we are for the moment what people think about Phi Beta Delta. We should strive for the community's seal of approval for our energy and our commitment to the values of international education.

prev next