In 1921, NASSP officially established the National Honor Society. Though many local and regional honor societies existed prior to 1921, no nationwide organization had been founded. Under the leadership of Dr. Edward Rynearson, principal of the Fifth Avenue High School, Pittsburgh, Pa., the organization grew from the original Alpha Chapter at the Fifth Avenue School to more than 1,000 chapters by 1930. Equipped with a constitution, an emblem and motto, and a group of dedicated principals as coordinators, the new NHS organization quickly developed into one of the country's leading educational groups.
Four main purposes have guided chapters of NHS from the beginning: "To create enthusiasm for scholarship, to stimulate a desire to render service, to promote leadership, and to develop character in the students of secondary schools." (from the NHS Constitution) These purposes also translate into the criteria used for membership selection in each local chapter.
In 1929, the NASSP turned its attention to middle level schools and expanded the scope of its concern for recognizing outstanding students by establishing the National Junior Honor Society (NJHS). With its own constitution and handbook, NJHS has established criteria that parallel the emphases found in the NHS with an added purpose to encourage citizenship. (Additional information on establishing a chapter of the NJHS is available upon request from the NASSP Department of Student Activities.)
The NHS is sponsored and supervised by NASSP which appoints a National Council - the controlling body of NHS. In addition, National Council members also serve as the selection committee for the prestigious NHS Scholarship which has been administered annually in schools with NHS chapters since 1946.
The day-to-day administration of NHS national concerns is handled by the NASSP Department of Student Activities, headquartered in Reston, VA.