Charles McKinney signed an agreement in 1878 which allowed Hamilton to claim a portion of his estate for the purpose of establishing these prizes. His intent was to have the prizes "stimulate the undergraduates of said College to diligence and proficiency in that department [oratory]."
Open to all full-time students. One McKinney prize is awarded to each class. There must be at least four contestants from each class for the preliminary round in order to have a competition for that class.
This competition requires a persuasive speech rather than a solely informative speech. The topic should have relevance and interest for a Hamilton College audience and should be presented in a manner appropriate for the occasion and setting. The speech should not be read from a script. A typed full-sentence outline, including bibliography, must be turned in at the preliminary round.
A typed, full-sentence outline must be turned in at the preliminary round. Each competitor must present a three to five minute version of the speech at the preliminary round. Each judge will assign a score for each competitor's presentation. The two competitors in each class with the highest total scores will advance to the final round of the competition.
Competitors will be judged by class year. Each competitor will present a five to eight minute persuasive speech. Each judge will assign a score for each competitor's presentation. The student in each class with the highest total score will be determined to be the McKinney Prize recipient for that class.
Four McKinney Prizes will be awarded, one to a contestant from each class: $575 each for first-year, sophomore, and junior class winners, and $1,150 for the senior class winner. McKinney Prize recipients will be recognized at the Class and Charter Day ceremony.