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Grand Championship 
January 30, 7:30PM
on Hall
Photo by Todd Balfour

2024 Grand Championship

Jan 30, 2024        7:30pm  ET

MAC Robison Hall   

with special guests, the Mamajamas!

Screen Shot 2022-01-27 at 6.32.56 PM.png

The 6 finalists will each deliver a 5 min speech to a general audience. Three judges will select the Spencer Prize 2024 Grand Champion

Qualifying Rounds

Nominees from the class of '27 and '26.5 will each deliver a 3 minute speech in response to the Spencer Prize Prompt. Faculty/Staff judges will select 6 Finalists from three qualifying events. 

All Qualifier Events are held at Coltrane Lounge, Adirondack House

Red Night: Thurs Jan 11, 7:30pm

Blue Night: Sun Jan 14, 7:30pm

Green Night: Tues Jan 16, 7:30pm

Congrats to Sarina Chitkara,
2023 Grand Champ!

digital program

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.

Spencer Prize video by Zack Einhorn '21

To compete in the Spencer Prize, first-year students from the class of '27 and '26.5 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.

Nominators must be Middlebury College faculty or staff


The 2023 Spencer Prize Team


Exec Producers:


Graphic Design:


Promotion Team:


Music Directors:

Photos and Video:




Judge Liaisons:

Contestant Liaisons:





Event Greeters: 

Ben Powers, Assoc Dir., Oratory Now 


Sade Awodesu '25 and Sam Medina '25

Seth Brown '24, Daleelah Saleh '23


Youness Cheboubi '24, Joneldina Bazou '25,

Max Gibson '25, Miya Flores '25, 

Sascha Leidecker '24, Sophia Giliberto '24

Henry Friedman '24, Lukka Wolff '25


Daleelah Saleh '23, Max Gibson '25

GiGi Hogan '23, Ben Wagner '25, Matt Smith '23, Casandra Dormeus '25, Miya Flores '25,

Gillian Skidmore '25

Vera Rousseff '23, Joneldina Bazou '25

Casandra Dormeus '25, Cleo Baldoumas '24.5, GiGi Hogan '23, Gillian Skidmore '25,

Matt Smith '23, Maya Teiman '25,

Sascha Leidecker '24


Ben Wagner '25, GiGi Hogan '23,

Gillian Skidmore '25, Jared Ahern '25,

Owen McCarthy '25, Jordyn Johnson '23

"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.”

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