By Mark Sanders

On Dec. 3, 1914, 15 members of the Washington and Lee University student body and faculty created an honor society focused on leadership in different areas of student life. This summer, 100 years later, more than 400 of their descendants and members of the Omicron Delta Kappa society they created will be coming to Lexington to celebrate all that the society has become.

The ODK national headquarters, working in connection with the Washington and Lee ODK Circle, has five days of events planned. From Wednesday, June 11 to Sunday, June 15 the W&L campus will play host to a variety of happenings that represent the five disciplines of leadership that ODK honors.

ODK is a national nonprofit organization centered around leadership in academics; athletics; campus and community service; the fine arts; and with mass communications and journalism. ODK’s foundation helps to provide thousands of dollars in scholarships for ODK members as well as promote leadership in universities nationwide.

In 2012, the ODK Society Inc. generated revenue of $817,000 from donations and private funding, according to the organization’s Form 990, filed with the Internal Revenue Service. In the same year, ODK spent more than $430,000 on member programming, which includes scholarship funding and leadership training. Additionally, the ODK Foundation Inc. is a private foundation whose role is to fundraise for the organization’s charitable programs. In 2012, this foundation brought in an income of more than $403,000 for the national leadership society.

The centennial celebration will include the society’s usual national convention business events. This year, service events, a 5k run, live bands and guest speakers will also surround the conference.

Tracy Lyons, director of communications and programs at ODK, said she is excited about the plans for the summer.

“This year’s centennial celebration will have a reunion type feel,” said Lyons. Some of the June weekend’s events, according to Lyons, will honor descendants of the society’s original founding fathers, including the Centennial Ball in Evans Hall on June 14.

“It’s been nice to get in touch with descendants of the men who were here in 1914 and learn some of their stories and what they did and where they went,” Lyons said.

In addition to her usual duties of producing ODK’s magazine, The Circle, and overseeing the national office’s communications and general programming, Lyons is in charge of planning the centennial celebration.

The convention is set to open with a guest lecture at Lee Chapel by Dr. Shane Lopez, a senior scientist with Gallup Inc. It will be followed by a parade of circles, in which each of ODK’s 282 university circles will be represented. Teach for America, a partner of ODK, will also be involved in an awards ceremony later in the week.

The celebration will also include a few events that hold specific significance for the Lexington-based headquarters. A June 14 brunch at the national office, former Lexington train station on McLaughlin Street, will be the official dedication of the building that became national headquarters in 2010.

The Washington and Lee circle, which doesn’t officially turn 100 until December, has been working closely with the national headquarters in preparing for the celebration.

Luckily, the recent renovation of Gaines dormitory on the W&L campus coincides with the summer’s festivities. Lyons says that more than 200 guests will be housed in the renovated facilities during their stay in town.

Another of the week’s events is an organized service day within the Lexington community. The service day will feature 15 groups helping 15 local charities, representing each of the founding fathers of ODK.

The centennial convention itself will incorporate the society’s normal business meetings as well, which include scholarship and budget allocations, review of constitutional bylaws as well as national elections for the society.

For more information about the centennial celebration or registration info, visit

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