On May 15, 1928, a local professional fraternity by the name of Gamma Theta Upsilon was formed at Illinois State University under the guidance of Dr. R. G. Buzzard. Before that it was the Geography Club at Illinois State Normal University. After three years letters were sent out to other geography clubs suggesting the formation of a national fraternity.
On May 15, 1931, the organization, consisting of four chapters, was announced. On March 5, 1936, Gamma Theta Upsilon was incorporated, then with ten chapters, as a professional fraternity in geography under the laws of Illinois.
Gamma Theta Upsilon became an International Honorary Geographical Society in January 1969. The organization is a college honor society, and has been a member of the Association of College Honor Societies since 1976.
The badge of Gamma Theta Upsilon is a key, significant of achievement of quality in a field of science. The symbolism of the key is as follows:
The base or body of the key is a seven sided shield, the bevel of which carries on each side the initial of one of the great land masses of the earth. Beginning with Europe at the top, to the right is Asia, Africa and Australia, the great land masses of the Old or Eastern World. To the left on the key is North America, South America, and Antarctica, the three great land masses brought into geographical knowledge as man expanded westward from Europe, the so-called New World.
Spread across the base of the key are five wavy blue lines, significant of the five great bodies of water which have carried man out from Europe to the lands of the earth, -the Atlantic Ocean, the Indian Ocean, the Pacific Ocean, the Arctic Ocean, and the Antarctic Ocean or Great Southern Ocean.
Above the waves significant of the oceans is placed a white star, symbolic of Polaris, the great guide to man as he pushed out from Europe over the uncharted vastness of the ocean.
At the top of the key the Greek-letters, Gamma, Theta, and Upsilon, the initials of the three Greek words, (Ge), (Thalatta), and (Hypaithrios), meaning earth, sea, and atmosphere-placed there to remind you of the three great environmental domains with which geography deals.
To further professional interest in geography by affording a common organization for those interested in this field.
To strengthen student and professional training through academic experiences other than those of the classroom and laboratory.
To advance the status of geography as a cultural and practical discipline for study and investigation.
To encourage student research of high quality and to promote an outlet for publication. To create and administer funds for furthering graduate study and/or research in the field of geography.
Local Chapters are chartered by Gamma Theta Upsilon at colleges and universities. A petition for a new chapter must be submitted by the faculty member who will serve as chapter sponsor or by the department chair and a letter of support from the department chair (if not the petitioner) or an appropriate administrator is required. An on-line form is available at http://www.gammathetaupsilon.org/petition-for-charter.html. As of December 2012, there are 163 active chapters (http://www.gammathetaupsilon.org/chapters.html).
Once a chapter has been established, members can be initiated into the society. Initiates must have completed a minimum of 3 geography courses, must have a GPA of at least 3.3 overall and in geography, and must have completed at least 3 semesters or 5 quarters of college course work.
Five scholarships (four for undergraduates and one for a graduate student) are awarded on an annual basis. In evaluating scholarship applications, consideration is given to cumulative GPA, geography GPA, letters of recommendation, the applicant's contribution to local GTU chapter and the department, as well as the applicant's own appraisal of how the scholarship will help him or her personally and professionally. The Scholarships are:
Previous recipients of the Scholarships can be found at http://www.gammathetaupsilon.org/scholarships-awarded.html.
This scholarly journal is published twice a year by GTU. Articles concerning any area of geographical interest are solicited from students and faculty. Initiates receive two free issues after initiation and may subsequently renew their subscription.
The Visiting Geographical Scientist Program, funded by GTU and administered by the Association of American Geographers (AAG), provides an opportunity for chapters to host a distinguished geographer on their campus. The visiting geographer will give a lecture on a topic in geography and meet with faculty, students and administrators.