History of Tau Beta Pi

With Thanksgiving coming up, many families will be seeing their favorite college students since the semester started. While carving the turkey and catching up with loved ones, you may learn that your students have some big news. They might have been accepted by an engineering honor society if they are more technically minded. Whether or not they’re sporting their new Greek chapter lapel pin (almost like fraternities and sororities), it is interesting to learn about all different types of honor societies. We at PinProsPlus, along with wishing you a happy Thanksgiving, would like to give you a lesson on Tau Beta Pi, the first engineering honor society.

What Is an Engineering Honor Society?

An engineering honor society is like any other society of prestige and excellence. Think of any subject, English, History, or all of liberal arts, there is an honor society for it. They are institutions that want to denote students of merit. They say that the students have achieved a certain level of excellence in the given field. Engineering honor societies are no different. They dignify students of worth in technical studies, as opposed to the liberal arts.


PinProsPlus made lapel pin for Kappa Epsilon.

What Is Tau Beta Pi?

Tau Beta Pi is the oldest engineering honor society and holds the prestige of being the second oldest collegiate honor society in the United States. It began when Phi Beta Kappa decided only to allow students of the liberal arts into its ranks. Edward H. Williams, Jr. of Lehigh University did not find that to be fair for those interested in technical subjects. He took it upon himself to start Tau Beta Pi in 1885 and give engineering students the respect they deserve. Since the inaugural day, this society has grown to 244 chapters across the United States and Puerto Rico.

Originally, Tau Beta Pi was a male only honor society. Women were eligible for honors since 1902, but could not actually join. They were given “women’s badges” to show their excellence until 1969 when they were allowed to become full-fledged members. At that time, Tau Beta Pi had, and continues to have, no restriction on membership, be it gender, religion, or race.

What does restrict membership is the student’s achievements and character. Tau Beta Pi’s motto is “Integrity and Excellence in Engineering.” The honor society only allows in those who have shown their skills in engineering. In addition to academic prowess, the inductees must carry themselves with dignity in both personal and professional situations. Once they are pillars in their communities of these characteristics, then they may be invited into Tau Beta Pi.


Hopefully, you enjoyed this lesson on the oldest engineering honor society in America. If you are more interested in them please visit: http://www.tbp.org.

How do you feel about honor societies? Are you part of one?

If you’re interested in any Tau Beta Pi Pins or any other lapel pins or badges for your honor society’s chapter, contact us at PinProsPlus! Once again, thank you for reading, and Happy Thanksgiving.