The 3rd Annual
Spencer Prize in Oratory
Spencer Prize 2019 Finalists (from left to right): Jack Rudnick of Cook, Ellie Thompson of Atwater, Justin Celebi of Ross, Grand Champion Roni Lezama of Ross,
Regina Fontanelli of Brainerd, and Sophie Hochman of Wonnacott Commons.
photo by Gioia Kuss '83
step to the mic
Grand Championship: $500
Commons Championships: $100
Nominate a Speaker
To compete in the Commons Championships, first-year students (including Sophomore Febs) must be nominated by a Middlebury College faculty member.
Faculty are asked to recognize students for public speaking potential as well as current ability, or for their eloquence and engagement in classroom discussions.
The nomination period for Spencer '20 will be open until 5pm on December 9, 2019.
Faculty-nominated students deliver 3-min. presentations
Topic: Connect something you learned in a Middlebury class to something you care about. Can you get your Commons to care too?
Brainerd Commons Championship
Tues Jan 14, 8pm - Stew 2 Lounge
Atwater Commons Championship
Thurs Jan 16, 8pm - Atwater B Library
Wonnacott Commons Championship
Tues Jan 21, 8pm - Gifford Annex Lounge
Ross Commons Championship
Thurs Jan 23, 8pm - Ross Fireplace Lounge
Cook Commons Championship
Sun Jan 26, 8pm - Pearsons Lounge
The Six Finalists deliver 6-minute presentations
with a 1-min. "Lightning Q&A"
Topic: Connect something you learned in a Middlebury class to something you care about. Get an audience of faculty and staff, fellow students, and townspeople to care too!
Tues, Feb 18, 2020 7:30pm
Mahaney Center, Robison Concert Hall
"Writing, rehearsing and ultimately presenting my speech were worthwhile experiences I would definitely do again. The audiences at the presentations were supportive and attentive to the point that it almost felt like a big group of friends getting together to swap stories about life. I consider the platform the Spencer Prize has given me a prize in and of itself."
-Treasure Brooks, 2018 Spencer Prize Grand Champion
Read the 2018 Spencer Prize Grand Championship Middlebury Newsroom story
The Spencer Prize in Oratory honors the memory of African Studies Emeritus Professor of History and former trustee, John Spencer.
John Spencer devoted more than 35 years of service to Middlebury College.
After earning a bachelor’s degree from Princeton in 1953, John served for two years in the U.S. Marine Corps. He then worked at the National Sugar Refining Company, with the Institute of Current World Affairs in East Africa, at the Ford Foundation for Eastern, Northern, and Southern Africa, and as a Peace Corps evaluator for Gambia, Mauritania, and Senegal. His work with the Peace Corps eventually led him to earn his MA and PhD from Columbia University.
“Many current faculty will remember him as a mentor, offering sage advice about how to survive and be exceptional at Middlebury,” said Ted Perry, Fletcher Professor of the Arts Emeritus. "Many students will remember his extraordinarily helpful role in emphasizing oral presentations, a practice he made central to success in his classes. He knew it was a skill they would need in whatever life’s work they chose.”
Former Middlebury President John McCardell Jr. reflected on his many years working with John Spencer: “John was a model administrator, a masterful teacher, a true student and mentor in the field of public speaking (keep your jacket buttoned, never say ‘uh,’ don’t breathe through your mouth). He truly made the field of African History at Middlebury -- students flocked to his courses.”
The 2020 Spencer Prize Team
Director: Ben Powers, Oratory Now Associate
Exec Producers: Ellie Thompson '22 and Christian Kummer '22
Advisors: Steph Miller '20 & Sean Rhee '21
Promotion Team: Kayla Lichtman '21, Maya Fray-Witzer '22, Brittney Azubuike '22, Yasmine Signey '22,
Sophie Hochman '22, Alex Demoly '22, Lucy Townend '22, Ciara Carlson-Healy '22, Justin Celebi '22
Social Media Team: