Essex named Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar

Fortunately, Chris Essex checks his mail closely.

“It was a complete surprise to me,” said the Applied Mathematics Department professor, who did a double-take when informed he would a Phi Beta Kappa Visiting Scholar for Fall 2012. “In fact, when I got the initial letter on their letterhead done in the old-fashioned style, I thought at first that it was some kind of junk mail. I had to look at it twice before I realized what they were doing.”

Started in 1776, Phi Beta Kappa is the oldest academic honor society in the United States. Only 10 per cent of the college/university campuses in the United States shelter chapters of Phi Beta Kappa, where only the top 10 per cent of students are invited to join.

In 1956, the Visiting Scholar Program was born. In 2012-13, the scholars will visit 80 campuses, spending two days at each one and taking full part in the academic life of the institution. They will meet informally with students and faculty members, participate in classroom discussions and seminars, and give a public lecture open to the entire academic community.

A total of 4,845 visits have been made by 586 Visiting Scholars during the past 55 years.

Out of that number, only two have been Canadian. Essex is the first Canadian science professor ever to be involved with the program. In 1974-75, Jean S. Boggs served as a Visiting Scholar on art history and museums while she was National Gallery of Canada director.

From September-December 2012, Essex expects to visit close to a half dozen of the institutions.

“I think that it is a really nice honor. That‘s a really big thing for me and I‘m really looking forward to that,” Essex said. “It’s pretty prestigious. I think it’s great; I feel very honoured  to be representing Canada.”

– Mitch Zimmer