History of Beta Gamma Sigma

The Birth of Honor

In the spring of 1907, a group of commerce students at the University of Wisconsin received permission from the faculty to organize a commerce honor society, which they called Beta Gamma Sigma. The purpose of the Society was to encourage and reward scholarship and accomplishment in the field of business studies among commerce students at the University. At about the same time, students at the University of Illinois and the University of California felt the need for such an organization on their campuses and respectively organized Delta Kappa Chi (1910) and The Economics Club (1906). In 1913, having become aware of their coexistence and common purpose, representatives of the three societies met at Madison, Wisconsin, to consummate a merger which made Beta Gamma Sigma into a national organization.

Action was initiated in 1919 to establish Beta Gamma Sigma as the only scholastic honor society recognized by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). This organization, which was renamed AACSB International - The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, includes in its membership collegiate schools of business that meet high standards of eligibility required of accredited member institutions with respect to curricula, teaching staff, teaching loads, library and laboratory facilities. Beta Gamma Sigma amended its constitution in 1921 to restrict the installation of new chapters to collegiate schools of business which are accredited members of AACSB International.

The following is a timeline that traces the Society’s history and highlights many of its significant milestones:


The first women were inducted into Beta Gamma Sigma. Until then, Gamma Epsilon Pi had served as the scholastic honor society for women. Women who were members of Gamma Epsilon Pi prior to 1933 were retroactively admitted into Beta Gamma Sigma in 1933.

The New York City Alumni Chapter, the Society’s oldest and largest, was formed.


Beta Gamma Sigma celebrated its 50th anniversary. Dean Fayette Elwell, the Society’s first president, wrote The First 50 Years of Beta Gamma Sigma. In the 50th anniversary year there were 102 chapters and approximately 43,000 members.

The National Honoree Award – now known as the International Honoree Award – was established.


The Society established the Directors’ Table, which is composed of BGS members who are also chairmen, presidents, CEOs and COOs of Fortune 1000 firms or their equivalents.


Beta Gamma Sigma authorized a new organizational structure whereby the Board of Governors was created as the Society’s governing body.


The first Outstanding Chapter Awards were presented. Beginning in 1995, scholarships were awarded to student members from the year’s Outstanding Chapters. In 1997, the Society began honoring Outstanding Chapters at different levels: Gold, Silver, Bronze and Honorable Mention.


The first Medallion for Entrepreneurship was awarded outstanding individuals who combine innovative business achievement with service to humanity.


The Society celebrated its 75th anniversary. The Board of Governors formulated a plan to increase the organization’s effectiveness and to maintain and promote the principles of Beta Gamma Sigma. As part of the 75th anniversary celebration, the Society launched the Scholarship Program to reward some of its most outstanding student members.


The first chapter outside the U.S. was installed at the University of Calgary.


Utilizing a grant from the Lilly Endowment, the Board of Governors developed the Society’s long-range plan.

Beta Gamma Sigma and Delta Mu Delta established the Federation of Business Honor Societies to coordinate honor society recognition in the field of business.


Beta Gamma Sigma established Sigma Beta Delta, the honor society for non-accredited business programs, to ensure that honor society recognition was available to all deserving students of business.


The Board of Governors met to update the Society’s long-range plan. The Board decided that enhancing the value of Beta Gamma Sigma for student and alumni members in their professional lives should be one of the Society’s main priorities. Focusing on the same goal, a new mission statement and set of objectives were also approved. The Los Angeles Area and Chicagoland alumni chapters were established. The Board of Governors approved the establishment of three alumni chapters annually to form the Alumni Network.

The Business Achievement Awards were presented for the first time recognizing significant achievement in business through the traditional corporate route.


The Society established its first collegiate chapter outside North America at The Chinese University of Hong Kong. Later that year, a chapter was established at the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology.

The Society debuted the BGS On-line Community, a free on-line service for members.


The first Student Leadership Forum was held to give outstanding student leaders a chance to focus on their career and personal goals.


Beta Gamma Sigma marked its 90th anniversary in 2003. Collegiate and alumni chapters participated in the anniversary by holding special events.

The Society inducted its 500,000th member - a junior from Concordia University.

BGS CareerCentral debuted. This service, the Society's on-line job board, connects "the best in business" with those companies that wish to hire them.


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