Legacy of the Scholars’ Hero

Remembering the life’s work of Dr. Dorothy Mitstifer

Although she touched the lives of millions of college and university honor students, most would never recognize her name. But when she died in September 2015, she left a forty year legacy that will help to shape honor societies around the world and the students who enjoy the recognition that honor society membership brings for decades to come. Her name? Dr. Dorothy I. Mitstifer.

If you have been recognized by a legitimate honor society, you are a direct beneficiary of her tireless devotion to excellence. The honor you received is made meaningful by her insistence on high standards for all societies accepted for membership in the Association of College Honor Societies (ACHS), an organization she served for four decades, most recently as Executive Director.

Mitstifer disdained phony honor societies and fought tirelessly to ensure that students, their families, educators and administrators were made aware of these groups, which exist not to reward but to profit from student achievement by cynically impersonating legitimate societies. In some cases, when even well-established and recognized societies failed to pass the litmus test of transparency and high standards, they found Dr. Mitstifer to be a gentle but unyielding adversary who insisted that the “honor” in honor society be respected and followed. We are all better for her impassioned commitment to integrity.

Two colleagues expressed her strategic importance to the past and future of honor societies everywhere. As Dr. Jerry Rudmann, president, ACHS and national director, Psi Beta National Honor Society in Psychology for Community and Junior Colleges put it when announcing Dr. Mistifer’s retirement, “Her contributions to higher education and America’s honor societies are immense and simply immeasurable. She truly is a hero to today’s post-secondary education. Those who have been involved in any aspect of honor society life—as a member, faculty adviser, or support staff—owe Dorothy Mitstifer a world of gratitude for all she had done to assure college honor society quality and excellence.”

Bil Johnson of Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society, a colleague of Dr. Mitstifer’s for several decades, described her as “the cornerstone, the prophet, the warden, the mentor, the go-to person, the dedicated honor society director, the all-round catcher-in-the-rye whose guidance has aided every one of the ACHS organizations—and many who aren’t members.”

Students who are invited to join an honor society today can verify the legitimacy of the invitation by visiting the ACHS web site at www.achsnatl.org to view our member roster and our checklist for evaluating the credibility of an honor society. Thanks to Dr. Mitstifer, the members listed here are those that are certified to exist for the right reasons, operate in a transparent way, and in which membership is truly an honor because they are selective and demanding in their membership criteria. ACHS certified societies not only demand excellence, they embody it.

This year, we honor Dr. Mitstifer’s legacy by congratulating those students who have worked to be among the best of the best on campus, and we ask that you remember her efforts on your behalf by investigating the value of any non-ACHS member invitations before you commit to them financially. It was Dr. Mitstifer’s wish that not one more student should be taken advantage of by these fraudulent groups, and your diligence can help make that vision a reality.

(Editor’s Note: Psi Beta has been a member of ACHS for more than 15 years. Psi Beta members and advisors can visit the ACHS website at http://www.achsnatl.org/ for information on honor society legitimacy. Don’t allow your friends, loved ones, and fellow students to be taken in by a phony “honor society.”)

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