top of page
Pathfinder Awards

At the spring luncheon each year, the Puget Sound Chapter of Phi Beta Kappa honors individuals (both adult and youth), businesses, and institutions with the Pathfinder Award. The award certificate reflects the imagery on the distinguished Phi Beta Kappa key, a hand pointing to the stars. It is given to those who “encourage others to seek new worlds to discover, pathways to explore, and untouched destinations to reach.” The people, businesses, and institutions honored do something to broaden peoples' interest in active intellectual accomplishment; they reach beyond ordinary routine, beyond the regular requirement of their lives and jobs, in order to break new intellectual ground and/or inspire others to do so.

Awardees for 2021:

Atlantic Street Center, a non-profit social service agency which works to help families and communities raise healthy and successful

children and youth through direct services as well as advocacy for social justice and equity. This includes services such as education, family support, and behavioral health counseling to low-income minority populations in King and Pierce Counties.

Andrea Liao, founder of Book the Future. Andrea is an Interlake High School student who founded Book the Future, which has as its
goal providing diverse books to children to help improve their futures and obtain global youth literacy. This includes monthly book drives, summer literacy camps, writing workshops, and a digital magazine.


Luis Ortega, founder of Storytellers for Change, an organization committed to building an empathetic, inclusive, and equitable world by
harnessing the power of stories to make social change.

Humanities Achievement Awards

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of their founding by an act of Congress and in recognition of the valuable support given by the National Endowment for the Humanities and the National Endowment for the Arts to liberal arts education, the Puget Sound Association of Phi Beta Kappa established its PSA-PBK Humanities Achievement Award. It is offered on a non-monetary, non-periodic basis to individuals or organizations whose contributions to the humanities or arts are considered to be outstanding.

The two National Endowments are dedicated to supporting research, education, preservation, and public programs in the humanities and the arts. They provide grants for high-quality projects to cultural institutions and individual scholars, and provide opportunities for life-long learning.

This non-monetary, non-periodic award is bestowed on an individual or organization who is judged to have contributed outstanding work in the humanities or arts.

The Puget Sound Association of Phi Beta Kappa wishes to recognize this person's or organization's contribution in furthering its own goals of supporting liberal arts education.

The nominee's work will have been done in one of the following fields: arts (visual and performing), comparative religion, history, jurisprudence, languages (ancient and modern), literature, philosophy, and elements of humanistic work in the social sciences.

Our inaugural award was presented at our Spring 2015 Luncheon to Speight Jenkins, for advancing the cultural life of the Pacific Northwest through education and performances of operas throughout his 31-year career as the general director of the Seattle Opera. Our second  award was made to Professor Richard G. Salomon of the Department of Asian Languages and Literature at the University of Washington, where he is William and Ruth Gerberding University Professor. The award was given primarily because of his co-directorship of the Early Buddhist Manuscript Project, a joint enterprise of the University of Washington and the British Library. The work involves the decipherment of Gandhari-language birch bark scrolls, the earliest Buddhist literature extant, dating from the first century BCE. (Gandhari is a variety of Sanskrit.) The results will shed light on the early history of Buddhist culture. Professor Salomon is also general editor of the UW Series on Gandhara Manuscripts. He is a past president of the American Oriental Society, the oldest U.S. learned society devoted to a particular field of scholarship, in the humanities or otherwise. In 2018 we presented the award to David Armstrong, executive producer and artistic director of the 5th Avenue Theatre. In 2022 the award went to Professor Valerie Curtis Newton, a Black woman theatre director and head of directing and playwriting at the UW School of Drama.

High School Outreach Awards

Each spring we award a personally inscribed book to outstanding graduating seniors in participating high schools throughout the Puget Sound area. This is one way we encourage and reward outstanding scholastic achievement in the liberal arts and sciences. High school principals and guidance counselors are asked to provide the name of one graduating senior who exemplifies what Phi Beta Kappa represents — a love of learning — as demonstrated by their academic achievement as well as a record of service to others.

Among the books we have chosen in the past are Gordon S. Wood's Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic; Daniel James Brown's The Boys in the Boat; Hope Jahren's The Lab Girl; and Susan Orlean's The Library Book.

Schools may select multiple award recipients. However, we can only pay for the first book award per school. Additional books, with the students' names inscribed on the bookplates, may be ordered at a cost of $35 per book, including shipping and handling. You can place your order using PayPal or by sending us a check.

If you would like additional information about the High School Outreach Awards program or would like to volunteer to present books at the schools' award ceremonies in May and June, please e-mail or, or call Linda Willenberg at (425) 641-1606.

bottom of page