Undergraduate Prizes

Submission Guidelines

Prize entries are due by 11:59 p.m. on March 31, 2024, and should be submitted electronically in PDF format at the link following the appropriate prize below. Please be sure to indicate:

  • Name
  • PUID#
  • Class Year
  • Email
  • ENG courses (if applicable)
  • Prize Category

If you have questions, please contact Director of Undergraduate Studies Russ Leo.

Senior Prizes

Alan S. Downer Prize

Alan S. Downer was a Professor of English and a Shakespearean scholar who taught at Princeton from 1945 until his death in 1970. He was the first chair of the faculty committee at McCarter Theater beginning in 1960 and played a major role in the development of Princeton’s Center for the Performing Arts. Awarded to a senior in the theater and performance track of the Department of English who writes a thesis of exceptional merit. 

Charles William Kennedy Prize

The prize was established with the unrestricted monies bequeathed to the University for the English department by John E. Annan, Class of 1855. Charles W. Kennedy was a member of the Princeton faculty from 1906-44. He was also the athletic director from 1922-32 while simultaneously teaching full-time. In addition, he was the president of the National Collegiate Athletic Association for two terms (1930-34) as well as vice president of the U.S. Olympic Committee. Kennedy was known as the “eminent scholar who happens to be the most gifted translator of Anglo-Saxon poetry who has ever practiced that difficult art.” Awarded to a senior in the Department of English who writes a thesis of exceptional merit. 

Class of 1859 Prize

The Class of 1859 established the prize in 1869 on the occasion of their tenth reunion. The prize was determined that it "shall be publicly awarded to a member of the Senior Class who shall be adjudged to be worthy thereof after an examination in English Literature and Essay writing." A list of all award winners was to be published in the Triennial Catalogues of the College. Awarded to a senior who excels in the thesis and in the departmental examination. 

Class of 1870 Old English Prize

Awarded to the best scholar(s) of the year in the fields of Old English, medieval and early modern studies. 

Earl R. Miner Thesis Prize

The prize is named for Earl Roy Miner, a distinguished long-term member of the department who died in 2004. Miner was the author of books on literary theory, on Milton, Dryden, and the 17th century. He was also a very well-known expert on Japanese literature. Awarded to a senior who writes a thesis of outstanding merit. 

Edward H. Tumin Memorial Prize

This prize was established in 1981 by Princeton anthropology and sociology professor Melvin M. Tumin and his wife for Tumin’s brother, Edward H. Tumin. The intent of the donors is to honor and keep fresh the lifelong interest of Edward H. Tumin in the study of the English language, and to recognize achievement in and draw attention to the continuing importance of the fundamental skills of literacy in the liberal arts. Awarded to a student in the Department of English who has demonstrated the best appreciation of the English language and its effective use in written composition. 

Isadore and Helen Sacks Memorial Prize

The prize, awarded for the best senior thesis in American literature, is to honor is quality of self-motivation and drive for excellence in the humanities. 

Lee M. Elman Class of 1958 Hemingway Prize

Lee Elman, President of Elman Investors Inc., graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude from Princeton in 1958, with a degree from the University of Bologna in 1959 and degrees in law from Yale in 1962 and 1965. Although his principal interests were in international and public affairs at the Woodrow Wilson School, the courses he took in the English department initiated a series of life-changing encounters with Ernest Hemingway, the writer and the man, and inspired him with a passion for writers and writing. The Elman Prize is awarded to the senior that best explores the powers of literary style in prose fiction or non-fiction.

Senior Comprehensive Award

Awarded to the senior or seniors who have excelled in the departmental examination.

Thomas H. Maren Thesis Prize

Born in New York City in 1918, Maren earned his undergraduate degree in chemistry at Princeton University in 1938. He worked as a research chemist for many years before entering the Johns Hopkins University medical school, where he earned his medical degree in 1951. He also held a masters degree in English from Princeton and an honorary medical doctorate from Uppsala University in Sweden. Awarded to a senior in the Department of English who writes a thesis of exceptional merit. 

Thomas B. Wanamaker English Language Prize

This prize was set up by Thomas Wanamaker in 1889. Thomas Wanamaker ‘83 was the son of John Wanamaker, the founder of the Wanamaker chain of department stores. Awarded to the undergraduate who writes the best essay on some aspect of the history of our language.

Walter C. Hughes Memorial Prize

This award is dedicated to the memory of Walter C. Hughes, a gifted scholar and teacher of early American literature who was beloved by many during his brief time at Princeton. His patience with students appeared to be infinite, his knowledge of literature prodigious, his mimicry of colleagues frighteningly and hilariously on the mark, and his spirit sturdy and courageous. Awarded to a senior for a thesis of exceptional merit and originality.

First Year and Sophomore Essay Submissions

First- and second-year students who complete essays between the March prize submission due date and the May Dean's Date will be allowed to submit an essay for consideration for that year's first- or second-year prize in the following academic year.

To be considered, they will need to submit their essays by the end of the current academic year, while they are still first- or second-years. Essays will be accepted for consideration up to the day of the last department business meeting, usually the Tuesday before the Monday of Class Day — this year May 21 — by 5 p.m. to the links for first year or sophomore prizes below. Please advise students to put in the subject line (all caps): [YEAR] ESSAY PRIZE.

Other English Department Prizes

McCosh Teaching Award

Awarded for distinguished teaching by a graduate student. 

Bain-Swiggett Poetry Prize

Awarded to a student for one or more poems “in the best tradition of English verse.” 

Class of 1870 Junior Prize

Given to a student for being the best scholar in English literature. 

Class of 1870 Sophomore English Prize

Given to a sophomore candidate for the degree of Bachelor of Arts who writes the best essay or examination in English studies for the year. 

Class of 1883 English Prize for Academic Freshmen

Given to the freshman candidate for the Bachelor of Arts degree who writes the best essay or examination in English Studies for the academic year

Class of 1883 English Prize for Academic Freshmen in the School of Engineering

Open to all freshmen candidates for the BSE degree who have done superior academic work in any course in the Department of English: A prize for the best essay on any topic in English or American literature. 

The E.E. Cummings Academy of American Poets Prize

This prize was established to honor the memory of Morris W. Croll, a distinguished scholar of the Renaissance and a member of the Department of English. Awarded to a student for one or more unpublished poems. 

Emily Ebert Junior Prize

For a junior who has written an outstanding junior paper. 

Francis Biddle Sophomore Prize

Given to a sophomore who writes the best English essay of the year

Morris W. Croll Poetry Prize

This prize was established to honor the memory of Morris W. Croll, a distinguished scholar of the Renaissance and a member of the Department of English. Awarded to a student for the best poem, with no restrictions on subject or form. 

Ward Mathis Prize

U.S. merchant who introduced the mail-order method of selling general merchandise and who founded the great mail-order house of Montgomery Ward & Company, Inc. This prize is the gift of an anonymous donor and is awarded to a student for the best short story.