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History of the Award

Wendell Phillips was a nineteenth-century attorney, orator, abolitionist, and advocate for women's and Native People's rights. The Wendell Phillips Address is intended to deliver a message to inspire the graduating class and all who are gathered to reflect on how a Tufts education, and specifically the experiences of the graduating senior class, might help make the world a better place through constructive civic engagement.

The Wendell Phillips Award was established in 1896. The award is given annually to a senior who demonstrates both marked ability as a speaker and a high sense of public responsibility. Selected by the Committee on Student Life, the winner is the one graduating senior invited to offer a speech as part of Commencement, and the speech takes place during the Baccalaureate Ceremony. The speech is intended to deliver a message about civic engagement in our time.

Congratulations to Saffiyah Coker, our 2024 Wendell Phillips Award winner!

Saffiyah Coker hails from Dorchester, Massachusetts. At Tufts University, Saffiyah double majors in Economics & International Relations. Saffiyah has been involved heavily in the Africana Center, in the Office for Campus Life, the Tisch Scholar program, and other organizations across campus. She is passionate about Black joy, community, and space-making.

Saffiyah smiles at the camera

2023-2024 Nomination Process

Faculty, staff, and students may nominate seniors to apply to be the Wendell Phillips Speaker, and seniors many self-nominate. All nominated students will be invited to submit an application, including a letter of application, a resume of leadership and service activities, and a recorded speech.

Applications are reviewed by the Committee on Student Life (CSL), and the CSL will invite finalists to present brief speeches at an open forum during the spring semester in Goddard Chapel on the Medford campus. The CSL will then select the winner. This award also carries a cash prize.

The University Chaplaincy assists the CSL in the administration of the award. For more information, please contact the University Chaplain, Reverend Elyse Nelson Winger at or 617-627-3427.

Timeline for the 2023-2024 nomination and selection process
Monday, November, 6, 2023 Nomination form opens
Monday, December 11, 2023 Nomination form closes at 11:59 p.m. ET
Thursday, December 14, 2023 University Chaplaincy notifies all nominees
Monday, January 29, 2024 Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET
Friday, February 23, 2024 University Chaplaincy notifies all finalists and non-finalists
Wednesday, March 13, 2024 Finalist auditions. All friends and family of the finalists, and anyone in the Tufts community is welcome
Friday, March 15, 2024 Committee on Student Life votes, and the Wendell Phillips Speaker is chosen and notified by 5 p.m. ET
Saturday, May 18, 2024 The selected finalist will speak at the 2022 Baccalaureate Ceremony

four people smile at camera

2024 Wendell Phillips nominees at their audition, Wednesday, March 13, 2024 at Goddard Chapel. Left to right: Saffiyah Coker, Wanci Nana, Arielle Galinsky, and Justin Hong. 


Group of people smiling at the camera

2023 Wendell Phillips Finalists at their audition on Wednesday, March 29, 2023 at Goddard Chapel 

Previous Wendell Phillips Award recipients:

2023 - Isabelle Charles

2022 - René LaPointe Jameson

2021 - Atrey Bhargava

2020 - Leticia Priebe Rocha

2019 - Ria Mazumdar

2018 -  Anna Del Castillo

2017 - Isabella Kahhale

2016 - Sharad Sagar

2015 - Michael Maskin

2014 - Jessica Wilson

2013 - Kristen Ford

2012 - Allister Chang

2011 - Brian Agler

2010 - David Mok

2009 - Anjali Nirmalan

2008 - Alexandra Pryor

2007 - Casey Beck

2006 - Mauricia Artinano A06

2005 - Eitan Hersh A05

2004 - Candace J. Gomez A04

2003 - Elaine P. Wang A03

2002 - Michael W. Ferenczy E02

2001 - Thea Lavin A01

2000 - Keshia Pollack J00

1999 - Alexander R. Shalom A99

1998 - Andrea D. Friedman A98

1997 - Eric A. Pliner A97

1996 - Ancy Verdier A96

1995 - Sarah L. McGinley A95

1994 - Adam Tratt A94

1993 - Randy Ravitz A93

1992 - Sharon Wachsler J92

1991 - Jonathan C. Cutler A91

1990 - Myra M. Frazier J90

1989 - Daniel A. Feldman A89

1988 - Michael D. Epstein A88