Designated as an entity within Alpha of Illinois, PBKACA was assigned the geographic area of northern Illinois and Indiana centered on Chicago. It received its charter on October 8, 1938. As has been the pattern in establishing Phi Beta Kappa associations, the formation of a group serving the Chicago area was authorized by a Triennial Council (in our case, the 19th).

There were 27 charter members, evenly divided between the sexes with 14 women and 13 men. Unlike the oldest U.S. associations on the East Coast that originated in the 20th century before World War I, participation was open equally to men and women from the start. This gender equality was undoubtedly highly appreciated by at least two founders, as one married couple, Mr. & Mrs. James F. Stifler, was among the pioneers. The association has proudly displayed its original charter bearing names of all founders at keynote occasions, such as its Annual Dinner.

In the late 1990s, a graduate student in library science at Loyola University of Chicago archived items related to PBKACA as part of a master’s degree project. Further historical details can be derived from these collected materials and subsequent additions that were all ultimately stored at the library of the University of Illinois at Chicago, Circle campus. Access to the collection must be approved following formal request to PBKACA.