Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI)

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Phalanx Tapping Ceremony

April, 2022
Heffner Alumni House – Great Room
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D., President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Thank you, Aloni. Good afternoon. I am delighted to be here together with you for our annual Phalanx Honor Society Tapping Ceremony.

Phalanx is the highest honor society at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and being “tapped” to join it is a great privilege. 

What exactly does it mean to be inducted into the Phalanx Honor Society — to be “tapped”? To answer this question, allow me to quote from the Phalanx Leadership Honor Society Constitution & Bylaws, Article I: 

The purpose of the society shall be to honor those students who have distinguished themselves among their peers in the areas of leadership, service, and devotion to the alma mater; to band them together in a spirit of good fellowship, and thus to create a greater interest in student activities and better the standing of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in the college world.  

Today, we honor 15 new Phalanx inductees and 8 new White Keys. These remarkable young men and women have made valuable and distinctive contributions — through their leadership, service, and devotion to Rensselaer — in a wide variety of activities both on campus and off campus. They have distinguished themselves within a student body that is already outstanding.

As you may know, the Phalanx Honor Society takes its name from the “phalanx,” a hallmark of ancient Greek warfare, in which troops would stand close together, in a tightly choreographed formation, carrying overlapping shields and swords. This produced a strong, cohesive unit impenetrable by enemies.

A more contemporary meaning of “phalanx” is “a group of people united by a common cause,” perhaps a more fitting definition for our Phalanx Society. As some you may know, I like to say, “We are one Rensselaer.”

Our Phalanx and White Key inductees are, indeed, a strong cohesive unit — banded together in a spirit of good fellowship, and they truly make Rensselaer a better place. 

Through their participation in a variety of activities — from student government to Athletics, from academic organizations to Admissions, and from professional societies to the Arts — they support and shape many essential aspects of the extraordinary student experience at Rensselaer. 

Their contributions go beyond participation to being in positions of campus leadership — as President of the Engineering Ambassadors, Captain of the football team, Graduate Council President, Executive Producer of the RPI Players, Vice President of the Black Students Alliance, and Vice President of the Biomedical Engineering Society, to name just a few.

Let me share some of the ways our newest inductees devote their time, talents, and leadership:

  • Many of our inductees support education initiatives here at Rensselaer. One student is president of the nonprofit group named coding&community, which makes computer science education more accessible to underrepresented minority students by offering coding classes on the weekends, and another student is president of the Graduate Women in Science club. 
  • Six of our new inductees have dedicated themselves to organizations that seek to empower and champion the causes of minority groups. One new inductee is a regional representative for the Society of Hispanic Engineers, another is an officer with the Black Students Alliance, another is president of the National Organization of Minority Architecture Students Rensselaer chapter, and three inductees hold leadership positions within organizations that support women at Rensselaer. 
  • Two inductees are members of Engineering Ambassadors, an organization devoted to inspiring middle and high school students to pursue STEM careers. 
  • Three new inductees help to enliven the campus through their participation in arts organizations including the Rensselyrics a cappella group, the RPI Players, and the RPI Ballroom Dancing team.


By inducting these young men and women into the Rensselaer Phalanx Honor Society, we recognize what they have accomplished thus far, and that, as they go forward in their lives, they will live up to the leadership, vision, audacity, creativity, empathy, and optimism that Phalanx represents.  

We are enormously proud of all of our inductees. As their activities on and off campus demonstrate, they are the embodiment of Phalanx Honor Society values. And for that we honor them.

We also have the pleasure today of adding three new honorary members to the Phalanx Honor Society:

  • Steve Dombrowski, longtime Technical Staff Member in the Department of Electrical, Computer, and Systems Engineering, who passed away in November 2021.
  • Louis Trzepacz, Dean of Student Success
  • Ralph Isernia, Head Football Coach


These exceptional gentlemen have dedicated many years of service to Rensselaer — and, today, we commend them for their leadership, service, and devotion.

I also congratulate Dr. Brandon Costelloe-Kuehn, Lecturer and Director in Science and Technology Studies in our School of Humanities, Arts, and Social Sciences, who will deliver the traditional David M. Darrin ’40 Counseling Award speech.

The Darrin Counseling Award acknowledges a faculty member who offers special support and guidance to our students, as they strive to become the leaders of tomorrow who will face the most pressing global issues of the day. It was established by David Darrin of the Class of 1940, who recognized the influence faculty have in the lives of our students, in listening to them, mentoring them, and helping them to reach their full potential.

Dr. Costelloe-Kuehn is an anthropologist of media, science and the environment. Using multi-sited ethnographic methods, his research examines, and participates in, the design of innovative media systems to address the communication and collaboration challenges of politically and scientifically complex environmental issues. 

I would like to thank Phalanx President Jeffrey Chai (CHI), Vice President Aloni Jordan, and all of the current members and advisors of Phalanx for their time and dedication to Phalanx and to Rensselaer, and for organizing this wonderful ceremony today.

Finally, congratulations to each of our inductees. As you take your places among the active and alumni and alumnae members of the Phalanx Honor Society — which number just 1,664 in its 110-year history — may you continue to lead lives characterized by leadership, service, and devotion.