Beshears joins America’s oldest honor society

Published 8:28 am Tuesday, April 16, 2024

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A Demopolis City Schools’ elementary teacher recently joined America’s oldest honor society.

Katelyn Beshears of Demopolis teaches second grade at Westside Elementary School. She was recently initiated into Phi Kappa Phi, America’s oldest and most selective all-discipline collegiate honor society. 

Beshears is a 2015 graduate of Demopolis High School and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of West Alabama (UWA) in 2022. She is pursuing her master’s degree in elementary education.

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“I wanted to further my education for the benefit of my students,” Beshears said. “I wanted to make sure that I am qualified to ensure that I was able to be the best I can for my students.”

The Demopolis native was initiated at UWA, joining around 25,000 students, faculty, professional staff and alumni to be initiated into Phi Kappa Phi each year.

The distinction comes by invitation only and requires nomination and approval by a chapter. Only the top 10% of college seniors and 7.5% of juniors are eligible for membership. 

The top 10% of graduate students can also qualify for the honor, as can faculty, professional staff and alumni who distinguish themselves with academic excellence.

Beshears has distinguished herself in Demopolis for many years. In 2013, she won the title of Miss Junior Christmas on the River. Now, while working to further her education and teach children at Westside, she also helps coordinate COTR and serves as Demopolis Middle School assistant softball coach.

“[Earning this honor] is very rewarding because it shows that my hard work is paying off,” Beshears said. “While I am doing graduate studies, I’ve been working with the community where I have been teaching. So, for me to be juggling all that, it’s rewarding to see that I’m still being distinguished with high honors.”

Founded in 1897, Phi Kappa Phi is a national honor society. Undergraduate student Marcus L. Urann founded the society out of a desire to create a unique organization recognizing excellence in all academic disciplines.

There are more than 325 chapters on college campuses across America today, supporting the mission “to recognize and promote academic excellence in all fields of higher education and to engage the community of scholars in service to others.”

More than 1.5 million members have joined the society through the years. Notable members include former President Jimmy Carter, NASA astronaut Wendy Lawrence, novelist John Grisham and YouTube co-founder Chad Hurley. Phi Kappa Phi awards $1.3 million each year, supporting students and members through graduate and dissertation fellowships, undergraduate study-abroad grants, funding for post-baccalaureate development and grants for local, national and international literacy initiatives. 

For more information about Phi Kappa Phi, visit