Back in 1977, a group of students had a vision for a new kind of campus organization – an honor society that would empower high–achieving students to become future world leaders. As soon as discussions began, Golden Key began to evolve into the organization that it has become today. The philosophy was floated that students become leaders by serving others, by taking responsible roles in campus organizations, and by joining groups of like-minded, community–minded students.
The importance of scholarships and awards to help high–potential students fulfill their promise was recognized. The students drafted a constitution and bylaws and incorporated Golden Key National Honor Society as a nonprofit corporation. On November 29, 1977, more than 300 students from all fields of study, races, religions and life experiences were inducted into the first Golden Key chapter at Georgia State University.
In the earliest days of Golden Key’s development, the Board of Directors of the Society consisted primarily of student founding members. Serving at that time were James W. Lewis, Michael MacLauchlan, James G. Lewis, Brad Rainey and Alfred Simon. Brad Rainey, who serves as Golden Key’s Executive Director today, recalls that while big ideas were being discussed, something else was happening too – an organization was being born where highly ethical practices, transparency and commitment to students were already palpable. He also says that those same values still are deeply felt within the organization.
That perception is more than one leader’s opinion. It has been borne out in milestones that marked Golden Key’s 40 years of evolution . . .
Students saw Golden Key’s promise at once, and within a few months of that initial induction ceremony in November 1977, efforts began to open new chapters. By the end of 1978, six Golden Key chapters had been established at the University of Georgia, the University of Florida, and other campuses. Chapters began to engage in service projects in the communities where they were located. The Society hired its first staff people and opened its first office to organize programs of foreign study for members.
Then in 1982, the first annual national Golden Key Conference was held in Atlanta. Members connected, shared service opportunities, and the founding values of Golden Key began to resonate on a deeper level. The value of bringing together members was clear and one year later, the first annual Golden Key Regional Conference took place at Michigan State.
The value of offering financial assistance to students began to take life. By 1984, Golden Key had awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships to members. In that same year, the 50th Golden Key chapter opened at San Diego State University.
In 1985, Golden Key was able to purchase a building to house its national headquarters and a remarkable period of growth began. Corporate sponsors NCR and Peat Marwick came on board and fostered continuing growth.
In 1993, Golden Key opened chapters in Australia. New chapters were established in Malaysia, Canada and other countries and in 2000, the Society changed its name to Golden Key International Honour Society.
Success has followed success. By 2010, Golden Key reached the milestone of having 2 million members. And by 2011, the Society was annually awarding more than $1 million in scholarships to members.
Golden Key Today
Today, Golden Key International Honour Society is a widely recognized and highly regarded collegiate honor society that prides itself on operating with integrity and transparency at over 400 colleges and universities worldwide.
Golden Key maintains offices in Australia, South Africa and the United States. Its international headquarters are in Atlanta, Georgia
Golden Key International Honour Society is governed by an independently elected Board of Directors comprised of highly regarded professionals from universities, businesses and not for profits. These voluntary board members receive no compensation and are legally responsible for ensuring that the Society operates within its charter and in accordance with the various laws and regulations within the jurisdictions where Golden Key operates.
As its 40th year begins, almost 2.5 million high achieving students have joined Golden Key. Many members are Rhodes and Fulbright Scholars. Two Governor Generals of Australia, a former Canadian Prime Minister, astronauts, university presidents and other notables such as Bill Clinton, Desmond Tutu, Bill Ford and Elie Wiesel have proudly accepted honorary membership into the Society.
“We are not resting on our accomplishments,” says Executive Director Brad Rainey. And what accomplishments they are – 40 years’ worth.
Rainey adds, “Golden Key’s values, mission, history, accomplishments, and students have built a robust platform for a bright future of supporting students as Golden Key helps to create the world leaders of the future.”
About Golden Key
Golden Key is the world's largest collegiate honor society. Membership into the Society is by invitation only and applies to the top 15% of college and university sophomores, juniors and seniors, as well as top-performing graduate students in all fields of study, based solely on their academic achievements. As an international honor society with more than 400 chapters at colleges and universities around the world, Golden Key is committed to a high standard of scholastic achievement, and an ethos of integrity, innovation, respect, collaboration and diversity.