2022 Grand Championship

Feb 1, 2022        7:30pm  ET

MAC Robison Hall   /  Streaming Video Here

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with special guests, the Mamajamas!

The 7 finalists each delivered 5 min speeches to a general audience. Three judges will selected the Spencer Prize 2022 Grand Champion: Ben Wagner!

Congrats to the 2022 Finalists!

Gillian Skidmore

Sascha Leidecker

Ben Wagner

Firdaus Shallo

Rostyk Yarovyk

Sade Awodesu

Tatiana Bennett

2022 Qualifying Rounds

Nominees from the class of '25 and '24.5 each delivered 3-minute speeches in response to the Spencer Prize Prompt. Faculty/Staff judges selected 7 Finalists from three qualifying events. The audience also selected a Peoples' Choice prize winner at each events.

First-year scholars

step to the mic


Grand Champion: $500

Finalist: $100

People's Choice: $50

All participants: water bottle and sticker


“Connect something you’ve discovered in a Middlebury class to something you care about. Can you get your audience to care too?”

Judging Critera

Compelling Connection:

Speaker captured the imagination by connecting something learned in class to something they care about.

Persuasive Argument:

Speaker used an efficient progression of thoughts to develop the central concept and establish its significance.

Engaging Delivery:

Speaker maintained a strong connection to the audience using body and voice to clarify and amplify their intent.

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Congrats to Ben Wagner,
2022 Grand Champ!
Photo by Todd Balfour

Nomination Process

To compete in the Spencer Prize, first-year students from the class of '25 (including Sophomore Febs, class of '24.5) must be nominated by a Middlebury College faculty- or staff-member.


Nominators are asked to recognize students for public speaking potential as well as current ability, or for their eloquence and engagement in classroom discussions.

Spencer Prize video by Zack Einhorn '21
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Congratulations to Bre Moitt, Spencer '21 Grand Champion!
. . . and congrats to finalists Meg Farley, Kent Canonigo, Sarah Miller, and Andrew Grossman


The 2022 Spencer Prize Team


Exec Producers:



Graphic Design:


Promotion Team:


Music Directors:

Photos and Video:



Judge Liaisons:

Contestant Liaisons:




Event Greeters: 

Ben Powers, Oratory Now Associate


Mary Moore '22.5 and Seth Brown '24


Ellie Thompson '22


Seth Brown '24


Mary Moore '22.5, Sascha Leidecker '24.5

Vlera Hasani '24.5, Celeste Levy '22,

Hugh Easton '23


Manuel Morillo '23, Amelia Seepersaud '24

Soph Charron '22

Marlow Saucier '24, Youness Cheboubi '24, Catherine Kish '24, Erin Chouinard '24

Maya Fray-Witzer '22, Liza Toll '24


Michael Eller '24, Nick Jaccaci '22,

Hugh Easton '23

Tanzim Ahmed '22, Nick Jaccaci '22,

Henry Friedman '24

The 2020 Finalists

"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

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The Spencer Prize in Oratory Honors the memory of African Studies Emeritus Professor of History and former trustee, John Spencer


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.”