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Pi Alpha Xi has a long history at The Ohio State University. Chartered as the Epsilon chapter of the society on January 6, 1929, the honorary is in its 79th year at Ohio State. The idea to create an honorary for floriculture and ornamental horticulture members came from a spontaneous discussion among representatives of several universities attending the International Flower Show held in New York City in 1923. Cornell University lead by Arno Nehrling, created the organization, drafted a constitution and ritual, and designed the key. The formal installation of the Alpha Chapter was at Cornell University on June 1, 1923. Today the honorary has grown to thirty-five chapters with over 10,000 members. The organization was named the official honor society for horticulture in 2006.
The Greek Letters Pi, Alpha, and Xi stand for fellowship, scholarship, and a love of plants. These three letters are symbolized in the key. The Greek letter Pi stands for scholarship and is illustrated by a stylus, an ancient writing instrument. Alpha was chosen because it stands for one who takes care of flowers. Alpha is illustrated by the use of a lotus flower. The final letter, Xi, stands for unity and a being one, this represents the bond of those who are members of Pi Alpha Xi. Also shown on the key are two symbols that represent culture and design. Culture is represented by the Egyptian hoe, and design is represented by an ancient vase which shows how ornamental plants were used as decorative material.