The tomb of the Sphinx sits across from Dartmouth’s athletic center. This is one of numerous Ivy League secret societies.
You’ve heard about Ivy League secret societies. Maybe you know that the 2004 election pitted two members of Yale University’s Skull & Bones against each other when John F. Kerry ran against George W. Bush. Other members of Skull & Bones include actor Paul Giamatti, historian David McCullough, President George H.W. Bush, and Senator Prescott Bush. And while Skull & Bones’ influence on American political life in particular is worth exploring, it’s not the only Ivy League secret society.
Yale also has Scroll & Key, Wolf’s Head, and St. Elmo among others. Cornell University has Sphinx Head and Quill and Dagger. Dartmouth College has Dragon, Sphinx, Phoenix, Griffin, and Fire & Skoal among others. While the vast majority of members of these societies don’t end up getting elected to public office or running Fortune 500 companies, many indeed do. And if you think these societies are clubs exclusively for white males, you’d be mistaken. While some like Dragon and Sphinx are male only, Skull & Bones has had female members since 1992 and most of the aforementioned secret societies ended racial, religious, and sexual orientation discrimination policies years ago.
Membership in these secret societies can have lifelong benefits and thus around junior year at certain Ivy League (and other) colleges, many students hope to get tapped by a current member. Maybe it’s a friend a year older on the basketball team. Maybe it’s someone a year older in your a capella group. Maybe it’s a friend from student government. After an initiation process, they, too, will be members and the following year, the society will be led by them.
It may mean a trip to a private island once every few years throughout your life. It may mean getting a mailing requesting a donation to a private box every year after graduation. It may mean signing emails to members of your crewe with inscriptions like YV (short for Yours Verily). It may mean hiding a pinkie finger or an index finger in photographs with friends (depending on the society). It may mean having a place to relax in a jacuzzi during a cold senior winter. It may mean watching “A River Runs Through It” over and over again during senior year (the author of the book the movie was based on, Norman Maclean, was a member of a Dartmouth secret society). It may just mean making a few more close friends who you’ll have lifelong ties with. It all depends.
President Woodrow Wilson, a former member of The Ivy Club (an exclusive eating club at Princeton) became a noted adversary.
Ivy League schools are known for exclusivity. And even after students gain admission to Ivy League colleges, many students still hope to get into exclusive eating clubs or secret societies. Just ask Mark Zuckerberg. In this post, we’re going to focus on a Princeton University eating club that was founded in 1879 – The Ivy Club.
The Ivy Club is considered to be one of the “Big Three” eating clubs at Princeton and it gained some fame by being featured as an aristocratic society in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel “This Side of Paradise.” Students are selected to be members of The Ivy Club through what is known as the bicker process. During students’ sophomore spring, students are welcome to attend eating clubs that they wish to get into and then the students who are already members of the eating clubs debate for a few evenings who they should tap for admission. The process varies at each eating club at Princeton.
Alumnus and former United States President Woodrow Wilson, who had been a member of The Ivy Club, became a noted adversary of these institutions during his tenure as president of Princeton. He felt they distracted from an undergraduate education at the Ivy League college and that their exclusivity was not healthy to the university. Over the years, members of The Ivy Club have included Secretary of State James Baker, “Moneyball” author Michael Lewis, Hobey Baker of hockey fame, and the chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company Bill Ford.
The Ivy Club at Princeton, the university’s oldest eating club, was featured in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “This Side of Paradise.” Connections forged in eating clubs, secret societies, and fraternities, and sororities at Ivy League colleges can often be quite helpful later on in one’s career.
Ivy League connections. It’s the secret sauce of Ivy League success stories. Some may argue that the in-classroom experience isn’t any better at an Ivy League college than it is at, say, a big state school. There are some who even argue that a community college education is a better value than an Ivy League education. We happen to vehemently disagree and think the argument is utterly absurd. But let’s indulge the argument that the in-classroom experience is the same at community colleges and Ivy League colleges for a brief moment. Will those that argue this point also claim that the out-of-classroom experience is of equal value at community colleges as compared to Ivy League schools?
The fact is, one of the central benefits of attending an Ivy League college is the people and, more specifically, the fellow students whom matriculants meet along the way. At Ivy League colleges, students are surrounded by motivated, ambitious, and bright students. They’re the future captains of industry – of finance, education, medicine, law, tech startups, and so many other fields. Many of the students’ parents are successes as well because bright and motivated individuals don’t come out of nowhere. It’s these kinds of connections that can prove quite helpful later on in one’s career.
And these connections form on Ivy League baseball, lacrosse, and field hockey fields. They form on ice rinks and in swimming pools. They form in fraternities and sororities. They form in volunteer organizations and in dorm rooms. And they form in secret societies (check back soon for a post on Ivy League secret societies). Name a community college with a secret society that dates back over a century (or an eating club)! Didn’t think so. Bet you can’t name an employee at McKinsey either who doesn’t have a degree from an Ivy League or highly competitive college.