National Collegiate Honors Council


Date of this Version



Honors in Practice 14 (2018)


Copyright 2018 National Collegiate Honors Council


Sometime in the year after the 1983 NCHC national conference in Philadelphia, I had a gripe. A younger and less circumspect professor in those halcyon days of a quarter-century ago, I was not hesitant to express it: Why, I wondered irritated and irritatingly, doesn’t an organization like this one do a better job of welcoming and orienting newcomers to Honors? I thought at the time that the NCHC had a tendency to drift toward being an “old boy’s club,” where neophytes often felt baffled and uncomfortable, marginalized and patronized. (I had been attending the meeting for eleven years at that point and still felt “out of it” most of the time.) Grumble, grumble, grumble. At that point in our collective history, one of the presiding elders of our organization was Dr. John Portz. I have always admired John and seen in him the quintessence of much of what is best about the honors movement. He was bright, creative, funny, humane, unpredictable, endlessly inquisitive. We shall not look upon his like again. When John heard my complaint about our collective inability to bring new people into the honors movement and into NCHC and, in fact, into our annual conference, he responded, in fairly typical John Portz fashion, “why don’t you do something about it?” I was, of course, somewhat startled by the unique notion, at least in academe, that instead of griping about something, I should try to fix it. And thus was born at the 1984 conference in Memphis “Beginning in Honors.”