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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.


Izzy smiles at the camera

Isabelle Charles, A23, the 2023 Wendell Phillips Award Winner

Isabelle Charles is a senior from Milton, MA, majoring in English and Africana studies. Her family hails from Haiti, Jamaica, and Panama. During her tenure at Tufts, she was President of the Tufts English Society, Co-President of The Ladies of Essence Acapella Group, Poetry and Prose Editor of The Tufts Observer, Editor-in-Chief of Onyx magazine, an Editorial Intern for Harvard's Transition Magazine, and a production intern for Basic Black, a show on GBH, Boston's PBS member station. Isabelle has mentored and tutored elementary to high school level students in English literature, language, and writing. In her free time, she enjoys cycling with friends, planting, cooking, and posting her creations to her food Instagram.


Group of people smiling at the camera

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

2022-2023 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 nomination and selection process
Monday, January 9, 2023 Nomination form opens
Monday, January 23, 2023 Update: Extended to January 30, 2023 Nomination form closes at 5 p.m. ET
Tuesday, January 31, 2023 University Chaplaincy notifies all nominees
Tuesday, February 21, 2023 Applications are due by 11:59 p.m. ET
Tuesday, February 28, 2023 University Chaplaincy notifies all finalists and non-finalists
Wednesday, March 29, 2023 Finalist auditions. All friends and family of the finalists, and anyone in the Tufts community is welcome
Friday, March 31, 2023 Committee on Student Life votes, and the Wendell Phillips Speaker is chosen and notified by 5 p.m. ET
Saturday, May 20, 2023 The selected finalist will speak at the 2022 Baccalaureate Ceremony

Previous Wendell Phillips Award recipients:

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