NDSU Mortar Board National Senior Honor Society

Leadership begins with students

The North Dakota State University Mortar Board Honors Society is an organization of people chosen for their exceptional ability and accomplishment in leadership, service, academics , and exemplary scholarship. Realizing the benefits of a national union of senior honor societies, the society formed a national honor society with the following goals in mind: to promote cooperation among member societies, help members become more self-aware, advance women’s status, support college or university ideals, advance a spirit of scholarship, recognize and encourage leadership, provide service, and create opportunities for meaningful individual and group idea exchange. 

On February 15, 1918, Mortar Board was established, and chapters were located at Cornell University, University of Michigan, Ohio State University, and Swarthmore College. Official representatives from every chapter present at the national convention in 1923 decided that the Mortar Board needed districts in order to support its expanding membership, which at the time consisted of eighteen chapters.    

The association’s mission statement, which was adopted in July 1994, states that it honors college seniors for their accomplishments in leadership, service, and scholarship; offers chances for ongoing leadership development; encourages lifetime contributions to the global community; and supports college and university service.  Their motto is “Pi Sigma Alpha,” which is made up of the letters for the three Greek words that stand for the principles of Mortar Board: leadership, service, and scholarship.  An honor and distinction that symbolizes the organization is the mortarboard, an ancient symbol. A common symbol used by early scholars to represent their commitment to learning was clerical or monastic robes.  Silver is the color of opportunity, and gold is the color of achievement.

Among the distinguished Mortar Board alumni were former U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Challenger space shuttle astronaut Judith Resnik, and NFL player Drew Brees.  Throughout history, many leaders have been named honorary members such as Sandra Day O’Connor, a Supreme Court associate justice; Maya Angelou, a poet and civil rights activist; Jimmy Carter, a former U.S. president; Rudolph Giuliani, a former New York mayor; and Sally Ride, the country’s first female astronaut.   

The NDSU Mortar Board Association remains dedicated to serving the community as a whole, advocating for social justice, volunteering, and making donations.  This year they helped stock the food pantry, collecting food for the less fortunate members of the community throughout the month of Thanksgiving. Additionally, they have tidied and cleaned the rooms at the Fargo, North Dakota, Ronald McDonald House, which provides services to women, children, and families.  In the month of December, they will be putting into practice a “Reading is Leading” program at Eagles Elementary School in an effort to help the neighborhood’s children and youth rediscover who they are, improve their communication and critical thinking abilities, and become more inventive.   

This Thanksgiving please take a moment to consider the incredible work and resiliency of our students, community, and educators. Together, they challenge the injustice that millions of systematically underprivileged people must live with every day.  Let’s dig deep to establish enduring roots for a teaching and learning process that makes all Americans, educators, and students feel like people. 

The organization acknowledges that Thanksgiving is observed by indigenous communities as a National Day of Mourning.  As we honor their identities, truths, and stories, let’s consider how we might celebrate a “day of gratitude” that is inclusive and respectful of our Native American neighbors, friends, family, and coworkers. 

The same is true for every community to which we belong. Let us carry our work as a community into everyday life. Remember that we are standing on indigenous land, and you should learn more about yours. Recognize that millions of Americans are impoverished, food insecure, and starving. Seek out and elevate the stories of our underserved communities to create a better, more beautiful present and future.  Never forget to feed a stranger. May your Thanksgiving be rejuvenating, reflective, and rewarding. 

Author’s Note: All information is from the North Dakota Mortar Board.

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