Recognizing student leaders has long been a tradition at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.

The chancellor’s honor society, the Innocents, was organized in 1903 by then-Dean of Law Roscoe Pound. Innocents started as an all-male society; women were invited beginning in 1976. The 13 members of the group, selected as juniors, serve during their senior year and are chosen — based on leadership, character and service — by the current group of Innocents.

Black Masque, composed of 13 women, was organized in 1905 as a female counterpart to Innocents. In 1921 this group affiliated with the national women’s honor society Mortar Board and has remained the Black Masque chapter since. Chosen on the basis of scholarship and leadership, Mortar Board also emphasizes service to others, and membership is now also open to men.

In 1916 both societies began to announce their incoming classes on Ivy Day, which had started in 1901 as a spring festival held on the first weekend in May. Ivy Day became an elaborate spring fête with a maypole dance, a queen with a court of honor and other activities. The spring fair aspect of Ivy Day dwindled in the 1960s, but Innocents and Mortar Board still announce their new members on Ivy Day and recognize honorary members with a ceremonial planting of ivy on the lawns of Love Library.

As part of celebrating the university’s first 150 years in 2019, a new tradition in student recognition is launching. On Friday, the inaugural Student Luminary Awards will recognize 10 Nebraska students who make a difference through their leadership and extraordinary commitment to improving the campus or community while excelling in their academic pursuits. Students were nominated by members of the university community.

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