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Phi Alpha
Literary Society
Nickname: Phis
Founded: 1845 at Illinois College
Motto: "Onward and Upward"
Slogan: "Lovers of Truth"
Headquarters: Lower Beecher Hall, Jacksonville, ILmarker
Official Colors: Blue and White
Official Mascot: Sylvester (Sly) the Squirrel
Phi Alpha (ΦΑ) is a men's Literary Society founded in 1845 at Illinois College in Jacksonville, Illinoismarker. It conducts Business Meetings, Literary Productions, and other activities in Beecher Hall, the oldest college building in the state of Illinois.


"On Thursday evening, September 25, 1845, seven students from Illinois College gathered in a small room on the third floor of the old dormitory and made a momentous and historic decision. In order to unite a group of men whose ideas and principles were similar enough as to desire a common bond of fellowship, a new society was to be organized. Five days later the Immortal Seven drew up and adopted the constitution that proved to be the birth certificate of Phi Alpha Literary Society.

The seven founders of Phi Alpha who are called the Immortal Seven are:

An eighth man associated with this founding was:
  • Pike Clinton Ross"


The purpose of Phi Alpha Literary Society is concisely stated in its constitution. "The purpose of the society shall be the attainment of truth, literary improvement of her members, and the furthering of her democratic heritage."The society also strives to develop the social, communication, and leadership skills of the membership.


True to its purpose, Phi Alpha hosts a number of literary functions throughout the year. Each semester, two judged Literary Productions are held. These judged meetings consist of five pieces given by society members to an audience. Pieces range from opinionated speeches to research presentations to original fiction. Also a Poet who is elected each semester will recite an original poem, and an impromptu speech is given on a subject revealed by the Critic during the meeting. A similar kind of meeting (called a Cooperative Literary Meeting) is held once a semester. It is composed of three Phis and three Illinois College faculty or staff members. This is intended to develop a stronger relationship with the campus community, and it provides a learning opportunity for the membership.

Phi Alpha also hosts public debates in the pursuit of the strengthening of communication skills.

Finally, Phi Alpha conducts weekly business meetings, which are conducted using Robert's Rules of Order. These meetings are intended to direct the everyday operations of Phi Alpha and also to serve the mission of Phi Alpha by practicing democratic principles.


"Old Phi Alpha Days"(Sung to the tune of "Auld Lang Syne")

In old Phi Alpha halls we sow Those seeds of "love and truth" That bear through life, where e'er we go, The fair, fresh flowers of youth. Then ne'er forget, no, ne'er forget, Though wide our wand'ring ways, But "tak' a cup o' kindness yet" For old Phi Alpha days.

We "swing the white" with pride no pow'r Can weaken or destroy, And hold our league the fairest flower That decks "Old Illinois." We'll not forget-no' ne'er forget Though crowned with fame's green bays But "tak' a cup o' kindness yet" For old Phi Alpha days.

We wander east-we wander west-In sorrow and in joy-But memory will turn back for rest To brave "Old Illinois." And least of all can we forget, Though wide our wand'ring ways, To "tak' a cup o' kindness yet" For old Phi Alpha days.

Fill high the cup with bumpers bright, Till all our pulses thrill-And roundly swear Phi Alpha's white Shall wear the "honors" still. Fill high-fill high-and ne'er forget, Though wide our wand'ring ways,To "tak' a cup o' kindness yet" For old Phi Alpha days.

Notable Members

Since its founding, Phi Alpha has incorporated many successful men into its ranks, for example,
  • Henry Smith Van Eaton, U.S. Representative from Mississippi, 6th District, 1883-1887.
  • Paul Findley, U.S. Representative from Illinois, 20th District, 1961-1982.
  • Ralph Tyler Smith, U.S. Senator, 1969-1970
  • Richard Henry Mills, Judge, U.S. District Court 1985-
  • Samuel W. Nichols, philanthropist, donated property now known as Nichols Park in Jacksonville, IL

Notable Honorary Members

Phi Alpha, in addition to its traditional membership, has granted honorary membership to those whom it feels exhibit the characteristics of a Phi Alpha member. Often, such a person is first invited to give a literary production to the Phi Alpha membership.
  • Abraham Lincoln, U.S. President, 1861-1865, inducted February 4, 1859.
  • Paul Simon, U.S. Representative, 1974-1985, U.S. Senator, 1985-1997, Democratic presidential nominee candidate, 1988, inducted 1997.
  • Alison Weir, Freelance Journalist, inducted March, 2004. First woman to receive membership.
  • David Herbert Donald, Professor and Author, two time Pulitzer prize winner, inducted November 19, 2002.
  • Dr. Axel Steuer, President of Illinois College, 2003-, inducted April 25, 2005.
  • Rami Khouri, Palestinian-Jordanian author, scholar and commentator, inducted 2001.
  • Ken Bradbury, Playwright, inducted November 6, 2006.


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