A Brief History of The Rho Chi Society

The Rho Chi Society has its origin in the merger of two movements, both commencing in 1917, to create a national honor society for pharmacy.  One had started on the campus of the University of Michigan where there had been a local honor society (known as the “Aristolochite Society”) in existence at the Pharmaceutical Department since 1908.  This group began to plan for national expansion in 1917, and finally established a second chapter at the School of Pharmacy of the (then) Oregon Agricultural College in 1919 and a third at the University of Oklahoma in 1922.

The other movement, originally independent of the Michigan movement, was initiated even earlier in 1917 by Rufus A. Lyman in his presidential address to the American Conference of Pharmaceutical Faculties.  Under the stimulus of his suggestion, and the conscientious efforts of Professor Zada M. Cooper, it was decided to take advantage of the activity in progress at Michigan. The “Aristolochite Society” had in the meantime become the “Rho Chi Society,” and had been granted a charter by the State of Michigan on May 19, 1922.  The Conference of Pharmaceutical Faculties, finding that the group met the standards which the Conference had determined upon, extended its recognition to Rho Chi, as “the Honor Society of Pharmacy.”  Rho Chi, in turn, provided that chapters could be established only at colleges that were members of the Conference (now the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.)

A policy of conservative expansion followed. After five years of existence, Rho Chi could count eight chapters; and after ten years, eighteen, but thereafter, growth continued more rapidly.  In 2018, there were 128 active chapters and additional chapters are anticipated at new schools of pharmacy.

The high standards maintained for membership in Rho Chi have resulted in the general recognition of the Society not only by Pharmacy, but also by academic circles generally.  Since 1947, the Society has been a member of the Association of College Honor Societies.

Objectives of The Rho Chi Society

The fundamental objective of Rho Chi has always been to promote the advancement of the pharmaceutical sciences through the encouragement and recognition of sound scholarship.  High standards of intellectual and scholarly attainment have been demanded for election to membership; and such election, symbolized by the award of the Rho Chi Key, supplies a unique scholarship incentive.

Rho Chi seeks to promote scholarly fellowship in pharmacy by bringing professional students, graduate students, and faculty members together in fraternal and helpful association.  Regular chapter meetings, and other activities, emphasize the professional aspects of pharmacy and point the way to instructive study and research.  By such means, Rho Chi, like its sister honor societies, seeks to increase the awareness of the ethical and social responsibilities of the profession, and thereby, to enhance the prestige of the profession.

The Society has also sought to encourage research in pharmacy and in1972 established a first-year graduate scholarship.  In 1992, the first-year graduate scholarship was awarded in conjunction with the American Foundation for Pharmaceutical Education (AFPE) Board of Grants.  This scholarship is awarded, on a competitive basis, to a student in the final year of professional studies or to a member who has completed professional studies.   It is limited to members of the Rho Chi Society who enter graduate programs in accredited schools/colleges of pharmacy leading to the Ph.D. degree.  A similar post-doctoral clinical research scholarship was established in 2003 and is administered by the Rho Chi Scholarship Committee.  The Scholarship is awarded to a Rho Chi member entering the second year of fellowship training.  In addition, small cash awards are presented to chapters who are selected in the Chapter Awards Program and are based upon competitive theme entries suggested each year by the Society’s Executive Council and/or sustained activities of the chapter.

The Society’s Insignia

The Greek letters, “Rho” and “Chi,” were originally selected because, when placed in the relative position in which they are found on the Rho Chi Key, they are emblematic of the prescription sign.  The colors attached to the seal of membership were chosen to indicate the royalty of purple and the loyalty of white.  The eight sides of the Key, although they have had different meanings in the past, now represent chemistry, biology, physiology, pharmaceutics, pharmacology, and the biomedical, social/administrative, and clinical sciences.

Society Publications

Beginning in 1933 and for the next 60 years, the Society published its annual report, The Report of Rho Chi, containing complete accounts of the activities of the Executive Council, the National Office, and local chapters, and distributed the Report in print version among collegiate and honorary members at their initiation.  Although the Report of Rho Chi is no longer printed, the content is nonetheless published through the Society’s Website, www.rhochi.org.

Roy A. Bowers and David L. Cowen published their history of the Society in 1955 in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (1955; 19:244-284). In that same year, the First Edition of the book now known as the “History of The Rho Chi Society” was published.

A historical study, called The Rho Chi Society  by Roy A. Bowers and David L. Cowen, was issued by the Society in 1955 in cooperation with the American Institute of the History of Pharmacy.  This work was first published in the American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education (1955;19:244-284).  The fifth revision, edited by Robert A. Buerki, published in 1992 is the current edition.  In the future, The Rho Chi Society will be published through the Society’s Website.

The Fifth Edition of the Society’s history, “The Rho Chi Society”, as revised by Historian Robert A. Buerki from The Ohio State University, was published in 1994. A limited number of copies are available from the Society’s National Office.

An online version of the Society’s history is in preparation and will be accessible from this page when completed.

Current information about the Society, useful both for members and non-members, can be found at the Society’s Internet site, www.rhochi.org/about-rho-chi.  Members and guests are welcome to visit the site or to contact the National Office through email at RhoChiSociety@umich.edu for further information.

View Rho Chi CHAPTER LIST here
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