One Hundred Years of Pi Sigma Alpha

Throughout 2020 Pi Sigma Alpha will mark its centennial milestone with a series of history features, events, and new programs. The national office encourages chapters  and members - both on and off campus - to contribute to this special year in any way possible. Contributions of memories from members is especially welcome. 



In December 1919, members of the government department at the University of Texas, Austin gathered for their monthly faculty meeting. In addition to regular business, the concept of a new political science honor society emerged. The task was handed to Professor C. Perry Patterson and over the course of the next year he set the foundation for what was to become Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society.

The Alpha chapter of Pi Sigma Alpha was formally chartered in October 1920. The first class of members were undergrads and graduate students. The class included a future Supreme Court Justice and U.S. Attorney General, a future U.S. Ambassador, a number of future attorneys, and other individuals who would go on to make an impact in their communities. Patterson set out to build the organization and added the University of Oklahoma (Beta) and the University of Kansas (Gamma) in 1922. By end of the decade 14 chapters had emerged. Patterson served as president of the organization until 1932 and remained a driving force around its expansion. 

Today, Pi Sigma Alpha hosts chapters on nearly 850 campuses and has inducted more than 300,000 members. Its rolls feature national, state, and local political leaders including one president, three Supreme Court justices, and dozens of members of Congress. Through these 100 years there have been many changes but neither the mission of the organization or the quality of the young men and women inducted has changed. Each year those who have achieved academic excellence are inducted and display the same passion for politics and policy. Like those who first joined, today’s student strives to uphold the purpose of Pi Sigma Alpha first described in 1919: “to encourage the scientific and practical study of problems of government, to foster reforms in our governmental machinery, and to aid in the education of the electorate in problems of government.”

DePauw University, 1932

Morehouse College, 1956

University of Alabama, 1970

University of Maryland, 1985


One way to mark the Centennial is to use a bit of history in your induction event. The national office has built some special language to include as part of your ritual. DOWNLOAD.


The key was the first symbol of Pi Sigma Alpha, designed in 1919. Before honor cords and medallions, members were granted the right to wear the key as a pin or a charm. Today, the national office is bringing back access to the original key in different forms.  ORDER ONE TODAY


For Alexandra Janiskee, president of the Theta Iota Chapter at Cal State San Bernardino, the story is more than just academic success. LEARN MORE.



Indiana University at Kokomo, 2019

Pi Sigma Alpha
1527 New Hampshire Ave, NW
Washington, DC 20036
e: office@pisigmaalpha.org

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