"Why doesn't the University ever recognize an individual for his academic achievements until he is ready to graduate and receives a University medallion if he is summa cum laude?"
This question was asked by a Phi Eta Sigma officer to Dr. Ormsby L. Harry, former Assistant Chancellor for Student Affairs. Dr. Harry, who was Phi Kappa Phi Secretary during the year 1972-73, presented the suggestion that perhaps the group could help coordinate Honors Week to give recognition to outstanding students for their academic achievements as they earned them.
In November of 1972, a Steering Committee was established under the sponsorship of Phi Kappa Phi, its President, Dr. Roma Hoff, and its Secretary, Dr. Ormsby L. Harry, to plan an Honors Week at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In 1990 the Steering Committee added a student co-chair. All scholastic honor societies on campus were invited to send a representative to serve on the Steering Committee.
The week of April 9 through 14, 1973, was designated as the first University of Wisconsin - Eau Claire Honors Week. All participating groups were invited to sponsor programs with speakers whose subjects dealt with the value of good scholarship, and the groups were urged to incorporate their initiation of new members into the week.
The week culminated in an Honors Banquet on Saturday, April 14, 1973 attended by approximately 450 students, faculty, parents and friends.
The format for the week has continued throughout the years, expanding – as of 2010 – to a month of events and activities and a great increase in the number of sponsoring groups. The original five groups have increased to 34 with over 1,500 members. Banquet attendance has reached as high as 700. Several honor societies sponsor Honors Month promotion, the speakers contest, and banquet entertainment.
EVENTS OF THE MONTH
Programs presented by participating groups during the week have varied greatly. Most prominent are speeches by faculty and visiting lecturers, but such diverse programs as a slide program, panel discussions, and symposia have been held. Since 1975, Sigma Delta Pi has held its "Juegos Florales," a poetry reading contest in Spanish and English. More recently, such events as the Anne Devroy Memorial Forum, this year featuring famous White House correspondent Helen Thomas, and the Service-Learning Recognition Breakfast have been added to the April celebration of academic excellence.
Throughout the existence of Honors Week, the banquet has remained the cornerstone of the celebration. Student speakers present the keynote speech, the "Salute to Scholarship," the meditation, serve as Toastmaster, and give introductions of the various speeches including the keynote speaker. Entertainment has varied from vocal soloists and ensembles, piano soloists, a Jazz Trio, string quartet, to a brass quintet. Many entertainers are members of Honor Societies. In 2014, the banquet was changed to an Honors Reception.
TRADITION OF EXCELLENCE
Honors Month and the Blugold Honors Banquet have become part of the rich tradition of UW-Eau Claire. It serves to recognize those individuals who have come to exemplify the university motto of excellence. In 2014 students will be recognized at an Honors Reception rather than a Banquet.