Golden Key Founding and History

Each and every one of us has a unique history—a set of beginnings and endings, of stories and accomplishments—that made us who we are today. History tells us that the past dictates the future, and as a Society, we are no different. Since its inception more than 30 years ago, Golden Key has been synonymous with excellence. The world’s largest honor society, and the only one to be based on a foundation of Academics, Leadership and Service, Golden Key was founded 29 November 1977, at Georgia State University in Atlanta.


Historical Milestones

Originally established as Golden Key National Honor Society, the name was later changed to reflect an international presence. And just as the name evolved, so did the Society. Since 1977, more than 2 million undergraduate and graduate students have joined and we have awarded more than $10 million in scholarships and grants. With over 400 chapters in eight countries, and a new focus on the three pillars, Golden Key continues to grow, while helping our members realize their potential.

29 November 1977

Golden Key is founded at Georgia State University by Jim Lewis. More than 300 students from all fields of study are inducted into the Society.


Six chapters are established, including the University of Georgia—the longest continually active chapter—and the University of Florida.


The first Golden Key National Conference is held in Atlanta.


The first Golden Key Regional Conference is held at Michigan State University.


Golden Key surpasses the $100,000 mark in scholarships awarded on 29 November 1984, the seventh anniversary of the Society. The 50th Golden Key chapter is established at San Diego State University.

8 August 1985

Formal dedication of the Society's first National Headquarters located in the Druid HIlls Historic District in Atlanta.


NCR and KMPG Peat Marwick become Golden Key’s first corporate partners, contributing $70,000 in computer equipment and $40,000 toward scholarships and the National Conference, respectively.

5 May 1988

In recognition of the success of Golden Key, Founder and Executive Director James W. Lewis receives a special honor when he is presented the American Eagle Award by the Invest-in-America Council in the U.S. Senate.


Stacie Brown, a Ball State University student, receives the first Golden Key Scholar Award.


The first chapters outside of the United States are established in Australia at the University of Queensland, University of Sydney, Macquarie University and RMIT. The 200th chapter of Golden Key is established at Southern University A&M.

10 November 1994

The one-millionth dollar in scholarship support to students is awarded.


Golden Key National Conference is renamed Golden Key International Conference, and the first chapter at a service academy is chartered at the U.S. Naval Academy.


The first chapters in Malaysia and Canada are established, and Louisiana Tech becomes the 250th Golden Key chapter.


The Society’s name is changed from Golden Key National Honor Society to Golden Key International Honour Society to reflect international presence.


Golden Key receives Make a Difference Day recognition and a $10,000 grant for community service. More than $4.5 million in scholarships have been awarded since Golden Key’s inception.


Golden Key receives the Election Assistance Commission grant to support the 2008 elections in the United States. Incorporation of a service opportunity at the International Conference. Augusta State University becomes the 375th chapter.


International and Regional Conferences become International and Regional Summits. The Society introduces a new image family, officially adopting three pillars of Academics, Leadership and Service.

31 October 2010

Golden Key reaches the 2 millionth member milestone.


Golden Key begins awarding $1 million in scholarships and awards each year. A tradition that would continue for the next four years. More than $12.5 million in scholarships had been awarded since Golden Key’s inception.

4 March 2011

Golden Key welcomes its 400th chapter.

29 November 2012

Golden Key celebrates 35 years of business.

31 July 2014

Golden Key officially launches SPARK a Change, our global service initiative to impact and improve the lives of at-risk youth through literacy, education and real-world preparedness.

November 2014

Golden Key welcomes 100,000th member from Canada.