The Keystone Honor Society

From 1920 to 1948 more than 300 Russell Sage women were inducted into the Keystone Honor Society. The Society, according to the Troy Times in June 1931, signified “the highest non-academic honor possible of attainment by an undergraduate” and recognized service, leadership, intellectual and aesthetic development and personal self-development.


Although the award became known as the Keystone in 1931, it had been given since the first four-year class graduated in 1920. In the Class of 1920’s yearbook the following is described: “During Chapel on the 31st of January an event occurred which
meant a great deal to the Senior Class. Six of its members were presented by President Kellas with the Athletic Association sweaters. These sweaters, with the coveted RS in green are the first ever given to a class and each girl who received one as a ‘reward of merit’ had really done something worthwhile for the College.”


Although the award was sponsored by the Athletic Association, only a portion of the criteria involved athletics and sportsmanship. Academic standing, spirit, helpfulness,
attitude, self-control, poise and neatness were also considered. From 1920 to 1924, honorees received heavy white sweaters with RS monogrammed in green felt above the pocket.


Articles and letters in The Quill expressed students’ concerns about (mostly) non-athletic achievement being recognized with a “sporty” sweater, and as a result, honorees between 1925 and 1930 received white blazers with green piping trim, and RS monogrammed on the pocket. After ongoing discussion and the intervention of President Meader, the Keystone Honor Society—and a specially designed pin for honorees—was “officially” established in 1931.


The award ceremony eventually became part of Class Day. A secret committee of
upperclasswomen and the Dean identified the recipients and the president of the College always made the award presentations.


The 1936 Keystones created a Keystone Alumnae Group. During Commencement Weekend 1937, the Alumnae Group held its first meeting, and the Group held a Keystone breakfast to welcome the newest members from the graduating class through 1948.


As the college and class sizes grew, it became increasingly difficult to fairly and accurately identify those women who deserved the Keystone honor. Thus, the Class of 1949 voted to eliminate the award. The Classes of 1950 and 1951 voted likewise.The 10 Keystone honorees in the Class of 1948 were the last members of the Keystone Honor Society.


At the 1949 Keystone Alumnae breakfast, the situation was discussed. Since there
would be no more Keystone members, should the Alumnae Group dissolve? A survey was sent to all members of theKeystone Honor Society and more than two-thirds of the respondents agreed that the group should dissolve. At the 1950 breakfast, those in attendance took the official steps to dissolve the group.


The Keystone women made the most of their college educations and, at the same
time, gave back to their school and their classmates through their leadership, their
efforts and their spirit. To those of you Keystones reading this, congratulations and
thank you!


Sage Archivist Aggie Stillman answers questions of interest to RSC alumnae.
Write “Ask Aggie” at [email protected] or
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