During a time when many women did not attain advanced degrees, Elizabeth Bullard nee Garee completed her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in government and history at the University of Oklahoma. She completed her master’s degree in 1928 with the Phi Beta Kappa key and her thesis was entitled The Relation of the Oklahoma Inspection Bureau to Cities in Oklahoma.
Elizabeth was my husband’s maternal grandmother and we are fortunate to have among our treasures Elizabeth’s Phi Beta Kappa Key charm. It is engraved with her name, school and graduation year and hangs on her bracelet with many other meaningful charms.
Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest national honor society that was established in 1776 and the University of Oklahoma Chapter began in 1920. Currently, only about 1% of college seniors are invited to become a member. “The symbol of the Phi Beta Kappa Society is a gold key engraved with the image of a pointing finger and three stars. These represent the ambition of the young scholars and the three distinguishing principles of the Society: friendship, morality, and learning. On the back of the key are the initials ‘SP,’ which stand for the Latin words ‘societas philosophiae’.” (allexperts)
Elizabeth taught school at Noble, Oklahoma for many years while she raised her children. My mother-in-law recalls wanting to wear her mother’s key charm, “because it was so pretty…but Mom would never let me, of course..and told me it was for grown ups only..that had gone to college. I don’t remember her telling me it was for good grades..only that it was for grown ups. After I was in college, I attended a few Phi Kappa dinners with mother…where they received the new honorees.”
When Elizabeth retired from school teaching she helped her father, Ed Garee, with his nursery business. One day while getting ready to move some stock with the workers at the nursery Ed jokingly said to my father-in-law “There goes Elizabeth and her Phi Beta Kappas.” Ed was truly proud of his daughters. Actually, Elizabeth was the second of her family to receive the Phi Beta Kappa. In 1922, her older sister Stella received her bachelor’s degree and was the first woman at OU to receive the honor of Phi Beta Kappa in mathematics. Their parents were both educators in their early careers and made education a priority for their children.