Jim Dougan Phi Beta Kappa Friendship Award 


Election to membership in Phi Beta Kappa is intended to honor the clear manifestation of three core values, signified by the three stars on the PBK emblem, which we deem central to our community:

1) we honor, and hope to foster, the value of liberal learning;

2) we honor, and hope to foster, the value of academic integrity and commitment to the social good;

3) we honor, and hope to foster, a value of friendship.

The importance of this third value was vigorously espoused by Jim Dougan, first President of our Phi Beta Kappa chapter (and a dear friend), who passed away in 2010. In his memory, the Illinois Wesleyan chapter of PBK has established the Jim Dougan Phi Beta Kappa Friendship Award. We invite all of our candidates for induction not only to accept our offer of membership to the Society, but also to think about writing a brief essay (< 500 words) to be considered for the award.We urge candidates to explain in their essays what they think the value of friendship means for PBK members in today’s world and in today’s academic setting.   Moreover, we ask that in their essays candidates share meaningful stories that illustrate such friendship in their experiences and relationships at IWU. 

It is our hope that, in presenting this award, we will encourage our PBK initiates to reflect upon and bring to light these stories, and through these examples move our community to embrace and put into practice—ever more fully—the value of friendship.  Such is a fitting tribute to our friend, Jim Dougan.

The essay should be sent to Prof. Rebecca Gearhart at rgearhar@iwu.edu.


2014 Winning Essay:

“The Power of Friendship”

By: Daniel Truesdale

Without friendship, many people would not find the courage to wander into the great unknown. Friendship gives people the confidence to pursue their passion and dreams. This value of friendship has been true for me throughout my life, but my time at Illinois Wesleyan University has truly opened my eyes to the power of friendship and how it can promote confidence and courage in people. A good friend can lay the necessary foundation to promote these characteristics in an individual, allowing him or her to explore and discover things that they never thought possible.

When I had made the decision to attend Illinois Wesleyan University, I figured I would remain in the same shell that I had known in high school. My identity would be purely school work and baseball. However, when I arrived on campus I was greeted by an environment that promoted exploration and discovery.  Numerous possibilities were at my finger tips and yet freshman year I stood idle. It was not until I had met my best friends at Illinois Wesleyan University that I gained the confidence and courage to explore college and life in an alternative lens.  My friends at Illinois Wesleyan University helped me to grow as an individual, allowing me to learn more about myself and my environment. Fellow peers gave me the confidence to attend numerous school activities which enhanced my understanding of the world. My friendships with my professors enhanced my ability to critically analyze problems both inside and outside the classroom.  In aggregate, my friendships at Wesleyan gave me the confidence to explore the unknown.

One personal example occurred last year. As a sophomore, I was nervous about attending a semester in Washington D.C. having that I had never visited the city. Knowing that I would be the only Wesleyan student attending the Washington D.C. program, I truly felt as though I was stepping into the great unknown.  It was the unconditional encouragement and assistance of one the Illinois Wesleyan professors that gave me the necessary confidence to attend, what turned out to be, one of the greatest adventures of my life. If I had never met this specific professor or had grown a relationship built on trust, I may not have had the necessary confidence to attend the program.

I tell this story not to promote my experience in Washington D.C. but to instead offer my opinion on the value of friendship. I believe that friendship is one of the most powerful tools that we possess in today’s society.  A role of a good friend should be to bestow confidence in those around them. I have been blessed with many great friends whose constant encouragement has given me the necessary confidence to discover my passion. When we do finally enter the “real world” let us use the powerful tool of friendship to bestow courage and confidence in our society.  Let us be the friend, who gives the nervous student, intern, or employee, the assurance to continue the pursuit of their dreams.