Group photo of Cardinal Key members at a JDRF Walk


Cardinal Key National Honor Sorority was organized on May 6, 1932, as a result of requests for a nationwide honor sorority for college or university women of at least junior standing. The founder and sponsor for a number of years was the late Bert Clair Riley who founded the men’s honorary fraternity, Blue Key. The first chapter (32A) was chartered at Midland Lutheran College in Fremont, Nebraska. In 1939, Mrs. Ruth Lemon Riley, the wife of founder B.C. Riley was elected as the First National Director under a new Constitution and Bylaws adopted by all chapters. She served until her retirement in 1962 due to ill health. Cardinal Key was incorporated by Arizona State laws in Phoenix on November 8, 1967, as a nonprofit organization.

On July 1, 1976, the Sorority complied with the Title 9 legislation and opened its membership to both men and women. For historical purposes, “Sorority” was retained as part of the organization’s name until October 25, 1991, when it was changed to Cardinal Key National Honor Society, Inc.

National Directors

1939-1962Mrs. Ruth L. Riley
1962-1972Dr. Byrd Burton of Northern Arizona University
1972, 1973-1981Dr. Roy Morgan of Eastern New Mexico University
1981-1985Ms. Jaqueline Williams; prior National Advisor
1985-1989Ms. Edith Borg; prior Assistant National Director
1989-1993Ms. Mary Tiffin
1994-2001Ms. Rayna Diers of Baker University; prior National Advisor
2001-2009 Mrs. Kathleen Hecox (neé Kisicki); prior National Advisor
2010-presentMrs. Devin Lammy & Mrs. Amanda Bennett Lothrop; prior National Advisors

Founders Day

To commemorate the founding of Cardinal Key National Honor Society, Inc. and honor its pioneers, Ruth L. Riley, Bernice Ashburn, and Edith McBride Cameron, May 6th has been designated as Founder’s Day. The second Saturday in May has been set aside for chapter observance to strengthen the feeling of National unity.