Mortar Board is a campus-wide honor society that recognizes college seniors for their achievements in scholarship, leadership, and service. It additionally seeks to create opportunities for continued leadership development and to promote service and to encourage lifelong contributions to the global community. Membership is offered to second-semester juniors in the top 35 percent of their class who have made exceptional contributions to leadership, scholarship, and service. The organization was founded in 1918 by combining four local senior women’s honor societies—societies at Swarthmore, Ohio State, the University of Michigan, and Cornell as the first national organization honoring college women.
The UT chapter (Pi Sigma Alpha) dates from November 1937 when Cap and Gown, a UT senior women’s honorary society founded in 1928, affiliated with Mortar Board. The symbol of the Cap and Gown Honor Society (adopted in 1930) was a torch. The UT chapter has a tradition of “tapping” those selected for membership by current members dressed in academic caps and gowns. The UT chapter admitted its first male members, David W. Long and Steven Taylor, in 1977.