Parker Merrill

Speech Competition 2020

 Congratulations to Parker Merrill 2019 Grand Champion, Maya Fray-Witzer!

                                                               photo by Todd Balfour

2020 Championship

Fall 2020 - MAC Robison Hall

The six finalists will deliver 6-minute speeches to a general audience. Three faculty judges will choose a Champion and two Runners-Up. 



Champion: $500

Runners-Ups (2): $250

2019 Championship Preview Video


                  by Dan Levesque '21.5


The 2020 Prompt is TBD.

Last year, speakers were challenged to:

"ADVOCATE!  Rally our support for a cause that really matters."

Semifinal Round

Fall 2020 - Coltrane Lounge

Twelve semifinalists deliver their 3-minute speeches without notes to a general audience. Three faculty judges choose six speakers to advance to the Championship. 


Preliminary Round

Fall 2020-  Axinn Center

Competitors prepare a persuasive 3-minute speech on this year's topic. They deliver it privately, audition-style, to a panel of five judges. Notes are permitted, but speakers are encouraged to use them sparingly, if at all. Twelve speakers advance to the Semifinals.

Reviving An Old Tradition

The competition was founded, and partly funded, by Middlebury’s first professor, Frederick Hall. When hired in 1806 he was immediately granted a two-year leave to study in Europe. While there, he was befriended by Daniel Parker, a wealthy American living in Paris. When Hall fell ill, Parker lent him $180 to tide him over. Parker refused to accept repayment, so Hall gave the sum (along with $120 of his own money) to Middlebury College as a prize for undergraduates who excelled in public speaking.

In 1855, local pastor Thomas A. Merrill added his name to the prize, seeking to recognize “the student who has excelled his competitors in the care and gracefulness of his manner, in the intonations and modulations of his voice and in the propriety and elegance of his manners.”

Our last record of the annual Parker Merrill Competition, before we revived it in 2016 is the May 27, 1965 edition of The Campus.

Congrats to the 2019 Finalists!

  • Lucy Townend '22

  • Justin Celebi '22

  • Toria Isquith '19


  • Maya Fray-Witzer '22

  • Yui Kanaoka '21

  • Alex Herrera '22


Judging Criteria

  • Compelling Idea

  • Persuasive Argument

  • Engaging Delivery

This Middlebury tradition isn't just about public speaking. It's "persuasive storytelling, scholarship, and self-expression used to bring an audience together...the kind of rhetoric we don’t hear about much—the good kind!”