The Friars Senior Society of the University of Pennsylvania was founded in 1899 by members of the class of 1901 at Penn, making it the oldest organization of its kind. The fifteen charter members of the original group of Friars, inspired by the leadership of Daniel S. Keller, Jr. ’01, founded the organization “to protest cliques and strive against caddishness and snobbery, and to firmly establish uncompromising democracy in all class, college and university activities.”
Originally an all-male organization, women were admitted in the spring of 1971. While classes were limited to 20 members in the early decades, each new class of undergraduate Friars now numbers between 30 and 36. Those proposed for membership are leaders and outstanding members of their class in such roles as class officers, team captains, fraternity and sorority presidents, community and university service group officers, editors of student publications, presidents of dramatic groups, government leaders and the like. Throughout the years, Friars as an organization has been responsible for many aspects of Penn life such as the addition of straw hats to Hey Day in 1949 and the creation of Spring Fling in 1975. Friars are also responsible for Penn’s school mascot, the creation of Feb Club for seniors and the creation of over 60 organizations at Penn.
The Friars’ Creed
“Are you willing to forget what you have done for other people and to remember what other people have done for you; to ignore what the world owes you, and to think what you owe the world; to put your rights in the background, and your duties in the middle distance, and your chances to do a little more than your duty in the foreground; to see that your fellow men are just as real as you are, and to try to look behind their faces to their hearts, hungry for joy; to own that probably the only good reason for your existence is not what you are going to get out of life, but what you are going to give to life.” – Henry Van Dyke
Although no one is quite sure when Friars adopted this as their creed, its message is carried on by each Friar class and is the motto Friars Senior Society members strive to achieve not only in community service projects each semester, but in their everyday lives while at Penn and as active alums.
Friars brings together top leaders of the Penn community who might not have otherwise crossed paths to further the true spirit of its founder, Daniel S. Keller Jr. ’01 of fraternity and helpfulness. It is a diverse group of scholars, artists, athletes, and other campus members who have contributed to the Penn community and embodies the words of the Friar Creed. The group meets, plans, and attends a variety of social and community gatherings which vary from year to year but always result in an active and bonding Friars Senior Society experience. In recent years, Friar classes have raised thousands of dollars for organizations like Habitat for Humanity, The Philadelphia Education Fund, the MS Society, ALS, and Relay for Life.