About Iron Key

Following is an excerpt from the Purdue Exponent of May 14, 1910, that might shed light on the history and purpose of IRON KEY:

QUOTING FROM THE ARTICLE : The society, as planned, corresponds in many respects to similar organizations at other universities, being honorary in nature and recognizing men (now, “men and women”) of ability, prominence, interest and influence in student affairs generally. The organization will be strictly non-political in policy and aims to be representative of the class and student body.”

The plan of organization was conceived over a year ago (1909) and in order to escape undue criticism the nucleus of the society was selected from among the members of the present junior class by a committee composed of prominent members of the faculty and local alumni. The policy of ‘Iron Key’ as stated in the Constitution is to duly respect the opinion of the faculty in electing the membership of the society, but it is to be strictly a student organization.

The POLICY OF THE SOCIETY WILL BE SECRET in so far that NO PUBLIC ANNOUNCEMENT OF MEMBERSHIP will be until the close of the college year. END OF QUOTE

In actuality, in these modern times, the names of the officers and advisor may be released to the public in the same manner as they would be for any other recognized student organization at Purdue University. The information, however, is not indiscriminately released. We do so only when necessary or as required. We must list all officers and the two continuing advisors with the Student Activities and Organizations area of the Office of the Dean of Students in order to maintain our official recognition. Officers of each new class, however, are not selected until the fall semester, after the class members have had a chance to get to know one another better.

Adding to the mystique of the organization is the fact that the non-officer members of Iron Key, however, are asked (in keeping with the original charter of IK) not to identify themselves to their peers or others until the end of the year in which they have served as members. Even the officers, though officially listed with the University, are asked not to VOLUNTEER information about their IK positions and involvement, except in the performance of their duties.

The purpose behind “secret membership” is for each class of IK members to learn how to serve the University and other students without receiving individual recognition or credit for their work. They learn the value of “service-oriented leadership,” where it does not matter who receives credit. The focus or the organization is meant to be entirely on achieving the goal, not on receiving recognition. All IK members are leaders in their own right already; therefore, the challenge is for the members of each class to accomplish something without additional individual recognition and for them to learn how they can move “behind the scenes” to achieve goals.

It is important to keep in mind that the Office of the Dean of Students is not permitted to REQUIRE the names of members of any student organization, because this practice was outlawed in the late sixties, early seventies. Therefore, not knowing the individual members in Iron Key is really no different than any other organization. The exception, of course, is that all other groups may voluntarily release the names of members for specific purposes, such as requesting scholarship data collection for evaluation and ranking through the ODOS or for fund-raising or philanthropic activities.

The relationship between Iron Key student leaders, the president of Purdue University, the administration and the faculty are strengthened by the fact that Iron Key does not require financial support from them. Yet, the anononymity of Iron Key’s membership prevents the organization from raising funds on campus like other student organizations. Therefore, the ability of Iron Key to conduct business effectively rests in the generosity of its alumni and other benefactors.