Dooley Noted: The Secret Seven

At some point during their junior year at Emory, each of these seven students felt a mysterious, thrilling tap on the shoulder: an intriguing invitation to become part of a secret society more than a century old.

The D.V.S. Senior Honor Society is the oldest of Emory’s five such enigmatic groups, and its members select seven new recruits each year based on qualities such as leadership, academic excellence, and dedication to Emory. Since its founding in 1902, the society has inducted nearly eight hundred members, according to one of those, John Stephenson 70C. They include university presidents, trustees, and Rhodes Scholars.

“The stated purpose of the organization was to recognize accomplishments already made,” Stephenson says, “but more importantly, to encourage those who were tapped to continue their loyalty to Emory, to encourage their leadership skills for the betterment of society, and therefore to reflect positively on Emory.”

In the 1960s, new D.V.S. members were revealed before Commencement, says Tom Brodnax 65OX 68C. “On the steps of Candler, the new members were formally announced as part of the D.V.S. They stood in an inverted V stance, D.V.S. painted on their faces, hands in the same way, upside down pipes in their mouths.”

Emory’s other secret societies include Ducemus, the Paladin Society, Speculum, and the Order of Ammon. They each have their special set of criteria, rules, rituals, and quirks, but at least one thing they share: the powerful allure of secrecy.

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