prit-nee-an Prytanean Women’s Honor Society is the oldest collegiate women’s honor society in the United States. The Davis chapter was founded as a branch of the UC Berkeley chapter in 1952. Like all Prytaneans, we at UC Davis seek to promote the high ideals of scholarship, leadership, and service within the University and the community while upholding values of friendship, support, and respect among diverse women.
"the oldest collegiate women's honor society in the United States"
Prytanean hosts a variety of events throughout the year, most notably community service activities and events with our extensive network of alumnae.
The Prytanean Society is the oldest collegiate women’s honorary society in the United States. Founded on the Berkeley campus of the University of California in 1900, Prytanean was established on the Davis campus in 1952 by the Berkeley chapter. The initiation class was made up of sixteen members, several of whom live in Davis today and support the active chapter.
The word Prytanean derives from the Greek word “Prytanes” meaning, in a broad sense, a representative. Ancient Greece was divided into a number of political units, each responsible for sending a representative to the law-making convention in Athens. When the convention was in session, a lamp was kept burning over the door of the building, where the meetings of the Council of the Chosen Ones were held. This lamp appears on the Great Seal of the University of California, whose motto is “Let there be light,” and also serves as the Prytanean symbol.
The history of Prytanean is the development of a respected campus organization whose members maintain the high ideals of scholarship, service, friendship, and respect for one another. Its purpose has been to secure due recognition for women of achievement. During the academic year, active membership numbers 40-75 students of diverse ethnic backgrounds and majors from all three colleges. The alumnae membership now numbers over 3,000 women, including physicians, journalists, professors, lawyers, judges, artists, and other outstanding women dedicated to community service. The Davis chapter remains a nexus for active women working toward common goals, both academic and service, within a supportive framework of active members and alumnae.
Activities and Services
Throughout our history at UC Davis, Prytaneans have performed extensive campus and community service. Current service projects include volunteering with Families First, a youth shelter and private school located here in Davis. Prytaneans have been active in helping with both the boys house as well as enriching the lives of the few girls present at the facility. Members organize hygiene kit donations, billboard decorating at the campus school, and have Girls’ Nights with the young girls in the facility. Other service events include volunteering at SPCA events, participating in the UC Davis Weekend of Service, running and walking Relay for Life, and many more events on the UC Davis campus and within the greater Davis communities. Traditionally, Prytaneans also participate in the Picnic Day Parade. Be sure to look for us in purple!
Prytaneans are also active on campus. One of the most popular events is the annual Dinner for Ten Strangers. This event allows members to invite their favorite professors to a dinner hosted by Prtyanean. This provides an opportunity for the members to get to know a member of the faculty on a more personal level, and is thus a favorite among all Prtyaneans. Also, every year Prytanean bestows the Susan F. Regan Award to one or more outstanding graduating senior women.
Benefit Ball is another yearly event hosted by Prytanean that serves as a fundraiser for Empower Yolo, a sexual abuse and domestic violence center serving Yolo County. This event is open to the public and is held during Winter Quarter. Prytaneans love this event because not only is it for a great cause, but it gives everyone an excuse to dress up and literally have a ball.
The current UC Davis Prytaneans also enjoy a close association with our local alumnae. In addition to social events, alumni and active members collaborate on many community service projects, including the Christmas Stocking Project, which provides hand-made gift-filled stockings for women and their children at a local woman’s shelter. Additionally, an effort is being made to compile a history of Prytaneans at UC Davis through the experiences of the alumnae, who represent the graduates of UC Davis since the 1950’s.