Facebook pixel tracker

The McKinney Prize

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. In the event that too few competitors register for a certain class year, those students registered from the class may choose to compete with the class above them.


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 outline - not an essay or a complete script - including bibliography, must be submitted to pubspeak@hamilton.edu in advance of the preliminary round. Exact deadline to be announced.

Final Round

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.


Competitors will be evaluated on the following components: 

Content and Organization 

  • Topic and specific focus were appropriate for the audience (Hamilton community).
  • Clear organization was followed consistently throughout the speech.

  • Speech consistently used evidence that was appropriate for the topic (e.g., narrative, statistics) and was cited as appropriate.

  • Language use was appropriate for audience (e.g., avoided jargon) and occasion.

  • Logical connections were clearly made between ideas within the speech.


  • Speaker’s use of vocal qualities (volume, pitch, emphasis) enhanced the presentation.

  • Nonverbal behaviors (gestures and eye contact) enhanced the presentation.

  • Speaker was fluent (e.g., avoided fillers such as “um”) and conversational.

Overall Impression

  • The speaker was engaging throughout the presentation.

  • The overall presentation was consistently persuasive.


Four McKinney Prizes will be awarded, one to a contestant from each class: $1,000 each for first-year, sophomore, and junior class winners, and $2,000 for the senior class winner. McKinney Prize recipients will be recognized at the Class and Charter Day ceremony.

Contact Information

Amy Gaffney

Oral Communication Center Director
Kirner-Johnson 222
315-859-4401 oralcomm@hamilton.edu


Aug 26 – Dec 13

S 3 p.m. – 10 p.m.

M 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

T 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

W 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

T 12 p.m. – 10 p.m.

F 12 p.m. – 3 p.m.

Back to Top