What Is Tau Beta Pi

Tau Beta Pi is the only engineering honor society representing the entire engineering profession. It is the nation's second-oldest honor society, founded at Lehigh University in 1885 by Dr. Edward Higginson Williams, Jr. to mark in a fitting manner those who have conferred honor upon their Alma Mater by distinguished scholarship and exemplary character as students in engineering, or by their attainments as alumni in the field of engineering, and to foster a spirit of liberal culture in engineering colleges.

Dr. Williams, Jr. was head of the mining department of Lehigh University when he was determined to offer technical men as good a chance of recognition for superior scholarship in their field as that afforded by the other society (Phi Beta Kappa) in the liberal arts and sciences.

Working alone he conceived an organization, gave it a name, designed its governmental structure, drew up its constitution, prepared its badge and certificate, established its membership requirements, and planned all the necessary details for its operation including the granting of chapters and the holding of conventions.

Thus, with only a paper organization, he offered membership to qualified graduates of Lehigh and received their acceptances and enthusiastic endorsement. Late in the spring of 1885 he invited the valedictorian of the senior class, Irving Andrew Heikes (HI-keys), to membership and he accepted, becoming the first student member of Tau Beta Pi; but there was no time to initiate the rest of the eligible men from the class of 1885.

Mr. Heikes returned for graduate work, however, and in the fall of 1885, he, Dr. Williams, and two alumni who had earlier accepted membership, initiated the eligible men from the class of 1886 and organized the chapter. The parent chapter, Alpha of Pennsylvania, existed alone until 1892 when Alpha of Michigan was founded at Michigan State University.

There are now collegiate chapters at 245 US colleges and universities, 40 active alumni chapters in 16 districts across the country, and a total initiated membership of approximately 575,000.

Tau Beta Pi engineers making extraordinary contributions to create a better world.
— Tau Beta Pi Vision Statement

Mission Statement

As the only honor society for engineering in all disciplines, Tau Beta Pi:

  • Recognizes academic and professional excellence rooted in personal integrity,
  • Promotes a well-rounded education essential for success,
  • Provides opportunities for leadership development and promotes lifelong learning,
  • Cultivates a community of dedicated high achievers.