The ANAK Society is the oldest known secret society and honor society at the Georgia Institute of Technology (Georgia Tech) in Atlanta, Georgia, United States. Founded in 1908, ANAK's purpose is "to honor outstanding juniors and seniors who have shown both exemplary leadership and a true love for Georgia Tech". The society is named after Anak, a biblical figure said to be the forefather of a race of giants.
ANAK comprises at least 1,100 Georgia Tech graduates, faculty members, and honorary members. Although not founded as a secret society, it has kept its activities and membership rosters confidential since 1961. Membership is made public upon a student's graduation or a faculty member's retirement. Notable members include Jimmy Carter (honorary), Bobby Dodd (honorary), Ivan Allen Jr., Bobby Jones, and most of Georgia Tech's presidents. Membership in the ANAK Society has long been considered the highest honor a Georgia Tech student can receive, although the society's activities have been the object of suspicion and controversy in recent years.
The society has been influential in the history of Georgia Tech. ANAK played a major role in establishing several of Georgia Tech's most active student organizations – including its yearbook, the Blueprint; its student newspaper, the Technique; and its Student Government Association – as well as several lasting Georgia Tech traditions. The society also claims involvement in a number of civil rights projects, most notably in peacefully integrating Georgia Tech's first African American students and preventing the Ku Klux Klan from setting up a student chapter at Georgia Tech. These claims have yet to be substantiated by independent sources.
A philanthropic organization, the ANAK Society annually awards two undergraduate student scholarships, the George Wingfield Semmes Memorial Scholarship and the Merri Gaye Hitt Memorial Scholarship. Additionally, the society annually recognizes distinguished Georgia Tech alumni with the Joseph M. Pettit Distinguished Service Award. The society's ANAK Award, granted annually to an outstanding Georgia Tech faculty member, is considered the most prestigious award of its kind. The society has also donated a number of gifts to Georgia Tech in honor of its members and notable alumni.
The ANAK Society explained its name as originating from a passage in the Book of Numbers, one of the books of the Hebrew Bible. The passage, attributed to Numbers 13:33, reads, "And there were the Nephilin [sic], the sons of ANAK, who came of the giants: and we were in our own sight as grasshoppers, and so we were in their sight." Anak was a biblical figure said to be the forefather of the Nephilim, a race of giants. For unknown reasons, the society's name has sustained minor alterations over the years, from Anak in the 1908 Blue Print, the first edition of Georgia Tech's yearbook, to ANAK in recent editions of The Technique, Georgia Tech's student newspaper.
The ANAK Society has adopted a number of symbols over the years, although it has never offered any official explanation as to their meaning. From its founding in 1908 to 1927, the society identified itself only by the name "Anak" or "Anak Society". In 1928 and 1929, the society adopted a bend sinister gules, a type of diagonal red line borrowed from heraldry. The bend was dropped after 1930, following the introduction of a crest bearing the face of a cyclops and the Hebrew inscription ענק, meaning Anak, both affixed to a capital letter T. This loosely drawn crest was replaced with a more professionally illustrated version in 1940 (see right image). In later decades, the society adopted a simple lidless eye to represent itself; this symbol appeared on red ribbon armbands worn at ANAK "tapping" rituals and a plaque outside the Paul G. Mayer Memorial Garden on Georgia Tech's campus. Most recently, ANAK published a modernized version of its crest, a lidless eye affixed to a capital letter T, in The Technique in January 2008 to commemorate its centennial.
The ANAK Society was founded on January 1, 1908 by four Georgia Tech seniors: George Wyman McCarty, Jr. (President), Harry Read Vaughan (Vice President), Lewis Edward Goodier, Jr. (Secretary) and Charles Atwater Sweet, Jr. (Treasurer). The "guiding spirit" behind these students was said to be William Henry Emerson, a professor of chemistry. Officer titles were named after famous cyclopes in Greek mythology: the president was Polyphemus; the vice president, Brontes; the treasurer, Stereopes; and the secretary, Arges. Other charter members (all seniors) were G. A. Hendrie, C. A. Adamson, S. J. Hargrove, J. E. Davenport, L. W. Robert, W. R. Snyder, C. L. Emerson (son of William Henry Emerson) and G. W. Holmes Cheney. Additional members have been initiated each subsequent year, but following the tradition set by the society's founders, no more than 12 members may be initiated per year.
In the 1909 Blue Print, the society described its purpose as follows: "[The ANAK Society] is composed of men from the Senior Class of Georgia Tech who have shown themselves zealous in the development of college spirit. This organization is not here, primarily, as a social club or honorary society, but to do all it can to develop a better morale among the student body and improve all phases of college life."
As the society's membership base grew, its influence and prestige likewise increased. By 1940, the ANAK Society was referred to as "the oldest honorary organization on the Tech campus" and membership as "the highest local honor a Tech student may obtain". These claims would generally go unchallenged throughout the rest of the century. Faculty recognition by the society, first initiated with the ANAK Award in 1942, would reach an equivalent level of prestige by the end of the century.
For many years following the ANAK Society's founding, membership was not confidential. ANAK members would select new initiates by "tapping" them (tapping them on the shoulder) or presenting them with red ribbon armbands at Georgia Tech's semi-annual Interfraternity Council (IFC) dance. The ritual was dropped in 1961 when ANAK elected to become a secret society. From this point forward, ANAK membership was made public only upon a student's graduation, via a list of graduating ANAK members published in the Blueprint and the Technique each year and the ANAK Society's home page. A similar policy applies to faculty and honorary members, whose involvement with the society is only made known upon their retirement from Georgia Tech.
The specific reasons for ANAK's transition to secrecy remain unclear. One reason, cited in several editions of the Blueprint, offers that the society changed its policies to protect its members from fallout associated with ANAK's civil rights activities at the time. According to Gary S. May, the society's faculty advisor, ANAK membership is confidential because "the members don't want to exert undue influence on processes or people because of their status as a member". In contrast, critics of the society suggest that the society acts in secret to shirk accountability for any negative consequences of its activities.
By the 21st century, ANAK comprised at least 1,100 graduates, faculty members and honorary members. Among current Georgia Tech students, only upperclassmen (junior and senior undergraduates) are eligible for regular membership. Honorary memberships for faculty members and distinguished alumni are also available. The society apparently selects members based on "leadership ability, personal achievement, strong character, and love for Georgia Tech". Membership is unrestricted by race or gender, and academic achievement is not considered in the selection criteria. The society admitted its first female member, Carol A. Burtz, in 1976, 23 years after Georgia Tech began admitting women.
As the ANAK Society is ostensibly a student organization at Georgia Tech, it is subject to the same rules and regulations as other student organizations. The society files paperwork with Georgia Tech administration and the Student Government Association, holds elections for each of its four mandatory officer positions (president, vice president, treasurer, and secretary) and is formally advised by a Georgia Tech faculty member. The president's name must be kept on file in the Office of Leadership and Civic Engagement, available to any student who seeks it. As of 2007, the society's current faculty advisor is Gary S. May, the dean of the College of Engineering and an ANAK member since 1985.
The ANAK Society played a major role in establishing several of Georgia Tech's most active student organizations, including two student publications and the student government. The society's existence was formally announced in the first edition of the Blue Print in 1908. Four ANAK charter members served on the first Blue Print editorial board. By 1911, ANAK admitted four more 1908 Blue Print editors into the society, including Editor-in-Chief John G. Chapman. These close relationships enabled the society to assert a great deal of control over the yearbook's direction in future decades. Along with several other clubs and societies, ANAK listed its membership roster and provided a group photograph in the yearbook.
ANAK and three Georgia Tech faculty members appointed the first staff of the Technique, Georgia Tech's student newspaper. Eugene A. Turner, secretary of the Georgia Tech YMCA, and Albert Blohm, an adjunct professor of English, served as the newspaper's first editors, while W. G. Perry, a junior professor of English, acted as the Technique's first faculty advisor. The Technique published its first edition on November 11, 1911, and has been in continuous weekly publication since that time, with a modern circulation of 10,000.
In the absence of an official student government during the first few decades at Georgia Tech, the ANAK society acted as an unofficial student government and proposed an Honor Code, modeled on that of West Point's, in 1908. ANAK worked to set up a more formal organization, the Student Council (later the Student Government Association), in 1922, at which point it relinquished any decision-making privileges it had over the student body.
Other student organizations ANAK claims to have established include a chapter of the YMCA in 1910 and the Ramblin' Reck Club in 1930. The former claim, however, contradicts evidence of a YMCA chapter existing before 1908, and possibly as early as 1901. In 1912, ANAK additionally formed the Koseme Society, a comparable honor society geared towards sophomores and juniors at Georgia Tech.
The ANAK Society is credited with beginning a number of lasting Georgia Tech traditions. ANAK created the "Rat Cap", a gold baseball cap still distributed to new Georgia Tech students, in 1915 in response to distinctive freshman headgear popularized at other educational institutions at the time. ANAK organized the first homecoming celebration combined with an alumni reunion around 1920, a tradition that continues to this day.
Beginning in the early 1920s, the ANAK Society involved itself in a number of civil rights activities. In 1921, ANAK spearheaded an effort to prevent the white supremacist Ku Klux Klan from setting up a chapter at Georgia Tech. The effort was successful.
Around 1960, ANAK held a series of secret dinner meetings with the families of Ford Greene, Ralph A. Long, Jr. and Lawrence Michael Williams, Georgia Tech's first three African American students. The goal of these meetings, facilitated through the Georgia Tech YMCA, was to discuss the range of potential situations that could arise when the three students enrolled at Georgia Tech the following year, as well as appropriate reactions to each of these situations. When Greene, Long, and Williams enrolled in the fall semester of 1961, ANAK members discreetly kept a close watch on the three students for the first two weeks to ensure their safety. As a result of ANAK's efforts and those of other Institute and city organizations, none of the students was involved in any serious incident, paving the way for continued peaceful racial integration.
A philanthropic organization, the ANAK Society annually awards two undergraduate student scholarships, the George Wingfield Semmes Memorial Scholarship and the Merri Gaye Hitt Memorial Scholarship. Semmes and Hitt were both Georgia Tech alumni and ANAK members; Semmes, the Class of 1910 and Hitt, the Class of 1977. Additionally, the society annually recognizes distinguished Georgia Tech alumni with the Joseph M. Pettit Distinguished Service Award (formerly the ANAK Service Award). Finally, since 1942 (annually since 1947), the society has presented the ANAK Award to an outstanding Georgia Tech faculty member. This award is considered "the highest honor the undergraduate student body can bestow on a Georgia Tech faculty member". For example, upon his retirement in 1999, Georgia Tech professor David J. McGill recalled winning the ANAK Award in 1990 as the highlight of his teaching career, despite having also won two Outstanding Teaching Awards (in 1974 and 1986) and being named the Carnegie Foundation's Professor of the Year for the state of Georgia in 1996.
The ANAK Society has donated a number of gifts to Georgia Tech. In 1921, the society donated a staircase connecting Tech Tower to the D. P. Savant Building. The staircase bears a plaque naming ANAK as the benefactor, one of very few conspicuous declarations of the society's existence on the Georgia Tech campus. On September 26, 1947, ANAK presented a life-size bronze bust of Georgia Tech football head coach William A. Alexander to the Georgia Tech Athletic Association to commemorate the society's 40th anniversary. The bust was sculpted by Julian H. Harris, a noted sculptor, architect, and Georgia Tech professor from 1936 to 1972. Along with the Class of 1924, ANAK gifted a portrait of William Henry Emerson, Georgia Tech's first dean, to Georgia Tech in 1924. The portrait was painted by noted Atlanta artist Kate Edwards. After being lost some time in the 1980s, the portrait was found and restored in the early 1990s. It has hung in the atrium of the Lyman Hall Building since October 15, 1992. Along with the Omicron Delta Kappa honor society, ANAK was involved in the dedication of the Paul G. Mayer Memorial Garden on May 30, 1987. The garden, located between the Georgia Tech Library and the William Vernon Skiles Classroom Building, features a plaque bearing the lidless eye symbol of the ANAK Society.
In 2002, the ANAK Society donated a collection of its records from 1948 to 1983 to Georgia Tech. The records are publicly available through the Georgia Tech Library's Archives and Records Management Department and include constitutions, anniversary dinner invitations, and member directories.
In recent years, ANAK's influence and status as a secret society has raised suspicion and controversy among Georgia Tech students. In particular, the society had "fallen under heavy scrutiny" during a series of student government election scandals in the late 1990s.
In 1998, Marc D. Galindo, a Georgia Tech student and ANAK member, defeated competitor Vikas Chinnan in Student Government Association runoff elections after Chinnan was disqualified for repeated campaign violations. The disqualification, however, was eventually overturned by the Undergraduate Judiciary Cabinet (the judiciary branch of student government). Although Galindo had committed a similar (but not identical nor a repeated) campaign violation, the Elections Committee did not disqualify him. Galindo had used his staff account to distribute campaign information while Chinnan had repeatedly used academic email distribution lists not available to the general public. Allegations of corruption erupted when two members of the Elections Committee turned out to be Galindo's fellow ANAK members; however, no proof of wrongdoing was ever uncovered. Chinnan, at the time of the election, was dating Anu Khurana, the then-president of the ANAK Society. Chinnan had agreed with and acknowledged that Galindo had not wanted him to be "disqualified on a technicality".
A similar incident occurred at Georgia Tech the following year. During Student Government Association elections in 1999, rumors circulated that Wendy Horowitz, a candidate for Student Body President, was a member of ANAK. "Conspiracy theories" and "intense debate" ensued among students regarding the society's intentions, benevolent or otherwise. Horowitz lost the election, a result widely attributed to her purported ANAK affiliation. It was later revealed that Horowitz, in fact, had served as president of the ANAK Society for the 1999–2000 term.
As a result of these controversies, a general feeling of distrust towards the ANAK society propagated throughout the Georgia Tech campus, epitomized by an anonymous email circulated in 1999 that accused ANAK of "being the 'lapdog of President Clough' [and] improperly influencing elections, scholarships, and the press, among other things". Critics expressed concern that ANAK members were shirking accountability for "their mistakes, their bad ideas, and their bad decisions" under the guise of eschewing "praise for their accomplishments". The Student Government Association's policy towards secret societies was called into question, resulting in a Joint Campus Organizations Committee (JCOC) resolution to consider the issue of accountability among student organization leaders. The controversial JCOC resolution, strongly opposed by ANAK representatives, would "require candidates for officer positions to recognize all campus affiliations including position and duration of involvement". The resolution failed, ensuring that ANAK membership rosters and meetings would continue to remain confidential.
The ANAK Society has granted honorary membership to a host of notable individuals associated with Georgia Tech, including former United States senator Sam Nunn, former Georgia Tech football head coach Bobby Dodd, former Georgia Tech basketball head coach Bobby Cremins, sportscaster Al Ciraldo, former United States president Jimmy Carter (inducted 1946), and most of Georgia Tech's presidents. Notable ANAK members who were active in the society as Georgia Tech students include former Atlanta mayor Ivan Allen, Jr. (inducted 1933), Scientific Atlanta founder Glen P. Robinson, former United States astronaut John W. Young (inducted 1952) and former Georgia Tech football head coach William A. Alexander (inducted 1912), and Lucius Sanford and Reggie Wilkes, former Georgia Tech and NFL football players (inducted 1978). George P. Burdell, Georgia Tech's most famous fictional student, has been a member of the ANAK Society since 1930.