The Clark Prize

This prize was originally established through a gift from Aaron Clark in 1859. It was later reestablished in 1892 through a gift from the Fayerweather estate.


Open to the class of 2014, The Clark Prize is directed to all senior students in all disciplines. The Clark competition requires both an essay and a speech. The paper will address the assigned topic. The essay, of not more than 1500 words, must be submitted to pubspeak@hamilton.edu. A group of three faculty judges will provide a blind review of the senior papers. Based on that review and the performance of all entrants in the preliminary speaking round, three seniors will be chosen to speak in the final round of the competition. The prize will be awarded to the senior who most effectively addresses the assigned topic.


2014 Clark Prize Topic: Water

In his 2009 New York Times op-ed, Columbia University professor Mark C. Taylor wrote:

“In the coming decades, water will become a more pressing problem than oil, and the quantity, quality and distribution of water will pose significant scientific, technological and ecological difficulties as well as serious political and economic challenges. These vexing practical problems cannot be adequately addressed without also considering important philosophical, religious and ethical issues. After all, beliefs shape practices as much as practices shape beliefs.” 

People need and use water in many ways, ranging from mere survival to agriculture and industry to spirituality and religion to art and recreation. Competitors for the 2014 Clark Prize are invited to think about the challenges presented by our relationships with water.

Approaching this topic from any disciplinary perspective, write an essay in which you analyze one of the challenges related to human use of water and propose an approach or a solution to that challenge.

Essays will be evaluated on the extent to which it demonstrates the following qualities: 

  • Appropriateness and interest for the Hamilton audience
  • Depth of analysis
  • Effectiveness of development and support
  • Originality

Preliminary Round

AA group of three faculty members will provide a blind review of the essays submitted. Based on the rankings assigned by the committee, up to six semi-finalists will be selected for the preliminary competition round. In this round, each competitor will present a three to five minute speech based on their essay. Speeches should not be read from a script. Each judge will assign a score for each competitor's presentation. The three competitors with the highest scores will advance to the final round of the competition.

Final Round

Each competitor will present a six to eight minute speech based on their essay. Speeches should not be read from a script. Each judge will assign a score for each competitor's presentation. The competitor receiving the highest final score will be determined to be the Clark Prize recipient.


$1,600. The Clark Prize winner will be recognized at the Class and Charter Day ceremony.