Prytanean’s History of Service
The Prytanean Society of the University of California, the oldest women’s collegiate honorary society in the U.S., was founded on the Berkeley campus in September 1901 with 18 charter members. As the first senior class women’s honor society, its pledge was “Faith, Service, and Loyalty to the University of California.”
The name Prytanean and the symbol of the lighted lamp—chosen from an ancient Athenian council that placed burning lamps outside the rooms where representatives from Greek political chambers met—express the timeless ideal of representative government: eternal vigilance for the good of all.
In 1914, Prytanean Society ideals and practices worked their way to Los Angeles. On the original UCLA Vermont Avenue campus, the ladies of the Los Angeles State Normal School (the predecessor to UCLA) began a Social Efficiency Club (“SEC”), affirming as did its northern prototype, “Service without Self.”
When the Normal School officially became the University of California, Southern Branch, SEC members continued to serve the university in many capacities, including hostessing and fundraising. Later, the Berkeley organization extended official recognition to the Southern Branch group. SEC joined with Prytanean, assuming the latter’s name in 1924, and was installed at UCLA in 1925.
UCLA Prytanean activities included shepherding a vocational guidance program, assisting with orientation activities at the university, and raising scholarship and loan funds for deserving female students. A “B” grade point average, combined with dependability and leadership in student body activities, laid the foundation for admission to membership in Prytanean.
In 1939, Prytanean became an honorary alumnae organization while its undergraduate counterpart disbanded at some time in the mid-1970s when the Chancellor’s Office adopted a policy that required all student groups at UCLA be co-ed. As the co-ed requirement was contrary to Prytanean’s charter and Mortar Board, another senior women’s honorary group, had already converted to co-ed, the members (of the undergraduate group) at the time opted to disband.
Today, UCLA Prytanean Alumnae Association’s official motto, “Honor through Service,” has been realized through the funding of annual scholarships to outstanding students, raising substantial funds to assist in the construction of such university structures as Pauley Pavilion, donating Bear Bags/toys to the UCLA Mattel’s Children’s Hospital, and coordinating Dinners for Twelve Strangers, which unites students, alumni, and faculty in an informal atmosphere.
Prytanean membership totals in excess of 125, composed of five categories: honorary, active, contributing, nonresident, and provisional members. Each year, outstanding UCLA senior female students and alumnae are invited to become members.
The Tradition Continues…