This prize was established in honor of Warren E. Wright, the Upson Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory at Hamilton from 1977 to 1993 upon Wright’s retirement from Hamilton College. The prize was first awarded in 1993.

In 2024, this prestigious award is worth $9,500 and the winner will be recognized at Class and Charter Day.


The Wright Prize is open to all full-time students who have successfully completed the public speaking course Genres of Oral Communication. In order to have a competition, there must be at least four contestants for the preliminary round. 


This competition requires an informative speech rather than a persuasive speech. That is, the purpose of the speech should be to enlighten rather than to advocate. 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.

Preliminary Round

To participate in the 2024 Preliminary Round, record a video of your speech and submit it to this Google Form. Be sure to check out our tips for virtual presentations. Scoring criteria are listed below.

All recordings must be a single take. That is, you may not splice together different recordings to make one complete speech.

Final Round

Each final round competitor will submit a detailed outline or manuscript of the final speech. Each final round competitor will present a six to eight minute speech. Speeches should not be read from a script. Scoring for the final round will be based on the same criteria as the preliminary round, with 10% reserved for evaluation of the content based on the submitted materials.

Following the presentation of the speech, each competitor is asked no more than two questions. Competitors have up to two minutes to respond to each question. Judging includes an evaluation of the poise with which a finalist handles the questions as well as the organization and content of those responses.


The judges will assign scores on two broad areas: content/organization and delivery.

  • 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
  • To what extent was the speaker informative? That is, did the speaker provide you with clear information about a topic without trying to persuade you to agree or take action?
  • Was the speaker poised in responding to questions?

Recent winners


Tinashe Manguwa '25, "A Collision With Decision" | video


Abbie Wolff '22, "Reimagining Time and Space with Walkable Communities" | video


Jay Menner '21, "Who Was Alexander Hamilton?" | video


Taomi Kenny ’20, "Ego Depletion: When Willpower is Powerless!" | video


Harry Dubke ’19, "Slow Food: A Revolution in Every Bite!" | video


Noam Barnhard ’18, "Now I Know My ABCs" | video


Jake Blount ’17, "America's First Music: An Introduction to Appalachian Old-Time" | video


Office / Department Name

Oral Communication Center

Contact Name

Amy Gaffney

Oral Communication Center Director

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