Dr. Rynearson’s photo in the Fifth Avenue High School (Pittsburgh, PA) 1924 yearbook.

The National Honor Society (NHS) stands as a beacon of intellectual rigor, a celebration of service, a paragon of leadership, and a champion of character.

In 1921, amidst an educational landscape caught between the balancing act of athletics and academics, Dr. Edward Rynearson, principal of the Fifth Avenue High School in Pittsburgh, PA, had a profound vision. He saw the future of an organization that would not only ignite the flames of scholarship but also fan the sparks of service, leadership, and character in the young minds of our nation.

With the support of the National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP), Rynearson’s dream turned into reality, and on March 1, 1921, the National Honor Society was born. It was an initiative that changed the narrative of American education. NHS, in its founding resolution, established the notion that high schools must be the wellspring of democracy, and anything that jeopardized this was not just a roadblock to education but inimical to public welfare.

The NHS page in the Fifth Avenue High School (Pittsburgh, PA) 1924 yearbook.

Over the century that followed, NHS has grown into a robust institution, evolving and adapting to the changing times while holding steadfast to its founding principles. Today, NHS stands tall with more than 16,000 active chapters spanning the length and breadth of every state, territories, and even overseas. It has profoundly impacted the lives of countless young individuals, fostering the four key pillars of scholarship, service, leadership, and character. The resolution also proclaimed that organizations should not only satisfy a social need but also “be devoted to the purposes of worth to the individual and of profit to the school.”

NHS expanded its reach in 1929 by establishing the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS), giving middle school students an opportunity to benefit from this prestigious institution. The momentum continued in 2008 when NASSP, in collaboration with the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP), created the National Elementary Honor Society, extending the opportunity to our youngest of achievers.

The NHS page in the Pryor High School (Pryor, OK) 1940 yearbook.

The power of NHS lies in its unique model that allows a high degree of flexibility and autonomy for local chapters to innovate and evolve while staying true to the NHS National Constitution. Each chapter becomes a creative engine, promoting Honor Society standards while nurturing a culture of initiative, resourcefulness, and ingenuity.

Guiding the day-to-day operations of NHS is the dedicated team at NASSP, while the organization’s strategic oversight is provided by the NASSP Board of Directors. This synergy ensures the legacy of Edward Rynearson’s vision is carried forward, impacting lives and fostering excellence, one student at a time.

As we embark on our second century, we look back with pride on our past, but we also look forward with excitement to a future that is bright with potential. Together, we will continue to create a legacy of success for the students of today and the leaders of tomorrow.

Join us in this remarkable journey, as we celebrate scholarship, service, leadership, and character.