On Saturday, Prof. Ben Gomes-Casseres ’76 (IBS) delivered the annual address to the new members of Brandeis’ chapter of the Phi Beta Kappa society.  

The Mu chapter of Massachusetts, Brandeis’ chapter of Phi Beta Kappa, inducted 90 new students from the class of 2015 and eight students from the class of 2016, representing approximately ten percent of the graduating class and less than one percent of rising seniors. 

According to Prof. Kathryn Graddy (ECON), master of ceremonies at the event, students were chosen based on faculty recommendations, the quality of their academic record and the variety shown in their chosen course load.

University President Frederick Lawrence gave the opening remarks, congratulating the new members and expressing hope that they push themselves to achieve great heights. “There are moments to be your own greatest cheering section, and there are moments to be your own harshest critic,” Lawrence said. 

“The wisdom is to know which one is which.” 

Prof. Craig Blocker (PHYS) then presented a brief history of the society, expressing a belief that the “ideal Phi Beta Kappan has demonstrated intellectual integrity, tolerance for other views and a broad range of academic interests.” 

Blocker expressed pride in the inductees, acknowledging that “membership in Phi Beta Kappa is a real mark of excellence and the highest honor you can get in an undergraduate career.” 

Gomes-Casseres then welcomed the new members and implored graduates to strive to add value to society, noting that the “potential to add value is immense, precisely because you have learned to think for yourself. The world is chock full of problems, difficult problems … tackling these problems is your job.”

Gomes-Casseres questioned how to translate successes in the classroom to utility in the world ahead, coming to the conclusion that the key was the Brandeis education, “where we have a long tradition of producing minds that matter.”

He left the graduates with one last bit of advice. 

 “Swimming in the real world will be different from strolling in the Brandeis bubble, and it won’t always be easy,” he said. 

“You will swallow water. But remember that one learns more from failure than from success, and the water is invigorating; … the water is wonderful. Jump in and swim like mad.”