The Clark Prize

This prize was originally established through a gift from Aaron Clark in 1859. It was later reestablished in 1892 through a gift from the Fayerweather estate.


Open to the class of 2016, the Clark Prize is open to all senior students in all disciplines. 


The Clark competition requires both an essay and a speech that address the assigned topic. The essay, of not more than 1500 words, must be submitted to pubspeak@hamilton.edu. A group of three faculty judges will conduct a blind review of the essays. Based on that review and the performance of all entrants in the preliminary speaking round, three seniors will be chosen to speak in the final round of the competition. The prize will be awarded to the senior who, through both content and delivery, most effectively addresses the assigned topic.

2016 Clark Prize Topic: Optimism

It’s easy to review the past year, even the past several years, and see just a lot of bad news. For the 2016 Clark Prize, however, you are asked to write an essay in which you make a case for optimism on one or more of the issues facing us. Feel free to propose a solution and to call for action from your audience.

Your essay must be submitted to pubspeak@hamilton.edu by 9 a.m. Monday, February 8, 2016.

Your essay will be evaluated on the extent to which it demonstrates the following qualities:

  • Appropriateness and interest for the Hamilton audience
  • Effectiveness of development and support
  • Unity and coherence
  • Clarity
  • Originality

Preliminary Round

A group of three faculty members will provide a blind review of the essays submitted. Based on that review, up to six semi-finalists will be selected for the preliminary competition round. In this round, each competitor will present a three to five minute speech based on their essay. Speeches should not be read from a script. Each judge will assign a score for each competitor's presentation. The three competitors with the highest scores will advance to the final round of the competition.

Final Round

Each final round competitor will present a six to eight minute speech based on their essay. Speeches should not be read from a script. Each judge will assign a score for each competitor's presentation. The competitor receiving the highest final score will be determined to be the Clark Prize recipient.


$1,800. The Clark Prize winner will be recognized at the Class and Charter Day ceremony.