Academic Awards

The Wells community has, over the years, developed special academic awards granted to students who show dedication and profound achievement in their studies.
Each academic division has a number of associated awards, each given in recognition of a specific type of scholarship. Below is a listing of these awards, most of which are granted annually at a special dinner and ceremony.

Honors Awards

Prizes in the Arts and Humanities

HELEN GERTRUDE DEAN '25 PRIZE FOR DRAMATIC EXPRESSION
Established in 1925 by Helen Gertrude Dean '25. Awarded to that member of the senior class who has exhibited the best efforts in dramatics, represented by characterization and expression.

MARGARET SCHWARTZ MUSIC PRIZE
Awarded to a member of the graduating class for outstanding performance work in music. Established and endowed by Margaret Schwartz.

CAROL STULL PRIZE FOR DANCE PERFORMANCE
Established in 2004 in honor of Carol Stull. Awarded to a graduating senior who has excelled in dance performance, both in technical accomplishment and expressive range.

THEATRE/DANCE PRIZE IN CHOREOGRAPHY
Awarded to that senior who has distinguished himself or herself in the creative, teaching and performing facets of choreography.

KATE CLUGSTON CLASS OF 1914 PRIZE IN THEATRE
Awarded annually to a member of the senior class who, apart from on-stage performance, has made an outstanding contribution to Wells theatre, either by one striking achievement or through continuous dedication. Kate Clugston '14 was a playwright, poet, and English teacher who established the Office of Public Relations at Wells, serving as its director from 1944 to 1947.

KATHRYN WALKER '64 PRIZE IN ACTING
The Kathryn Walker '64 Prize in Acting was established in 2018 by G. Alan Clugston, professor emeritus of English. It recognizes a student of any class ranking who, in the judgement of the panel, has in the preceding year done the best job of acting in a play on campus or in an off-campus play in which a committee member is involved. The recipient will be announced at the annual student awards ceremony/convocation in the spring.

EDWIN B. MORGAN PRIZE
Awarded to the student who has acquired the greatest knowledge of the Spanish language in at least two years of college work in Spanish.

M. HELENA ZACHOS 1875 PRIZE
Established in 1900 by the Alumnae Association. Awarded to the student who has submitted the best English prose written during the year; in honor of M. Helena Zachos, honorary member of the class of 1875.

CLASS OF 1905 POETRY PRIZE
Established in 1930. Awarded for the best poem or poems written by an undergraduate during the year.

CATHERINE B. DEPAU '24 PRIZE
Established at Wells in 1983 by the Academy of American Poets in honor of Catherine Boyer DePau '24. Awarded for the best poem or group of poems submitted by a student.

JULIA TAYLOR MARTIN PRIZE IN AMERICAN HISTORY
Established and endowed in 1953 by Julia Taylor Martin 1898. Awarded to the student who, during the College year, has submitted a superior essay within the field of American History.

THE HISTORY/POLITICAL SCIENCE PRIZE
Awarded to that student of high standing in history or political science who has shown the greatest ability to use her/his training in promoting the intellectual and social life of the College, as well as the greatest promise of usefulness in the future.

ROSE HILL ’98 PRIZE IN CREATIVE NONFICTION
Established in 2009 in memory of Rose Hill '98. Awarded to the student whose creative nonfiction best reflects Rose Hill’s honesty and artistry. Judged this year by faculty in English.

PRIZE FOR EXCELLENCE IN BOOK ARTS
Established in 2006 by the faculty and staff of the Book Arts Center, the prize is awarded to a graduating senior who has completed the minor in the Book Arts; has developed outstanding skills in at least one area of the Book Arts; and has shown creativity and aesthetic sensitivity as well as excellent craftsmanship in the projects for each class.

JJ LANKES PRIZE IN BOOK ARTS 
The JJ Lankes Book Arts Award will be presented to an outstanding graduating student in the book arts at the end of the academic year. The award is named in honor of JJ Lankes, who taught at Wells from 1932 to 1939 and who is credited with reviving the art of the woodcut in America in the 1930s. There is no application for this award, which is presented based on a consensus of faculty based on the cumulative work of the student. Preference for the award is given to book arts majors and minors, but any Wells student who has taken book arts classes is eligible.

THE CHRONICLE PRIZE
Established in 1906, this prize is awarded to the student who has been the most valuable contributor to the Chronicle magazine throughout the year. Classroom work in English is also considered.

Prizes in the Social Sciences

WALL STREET JOURNAL AWARD
Awarded each year for excellence in work in economics and the Corporate Affiliates Investment Fund.

JEAN SCOBIE DAVIS PRIZE
Established in 1966 by Elizabeth W. Walter '33. Awarded to that member of the graduating class, majoring in either economics or sociology, who has shown both the fine understanding of facts and the social implication of the subject involved—so characteristic of Miss Davis, professor of sociology and economics, 1928–57.

CARTER A. WOODS PRIZE
Established in 1972 by Patricia Woods Reed ’54 and Barbara Woods Hillman ’58 in honor of the retirement of their father, Carter A. Woods, Professor of Sociology, 1931–72. Awarded to the student graduating with a major in sociology and anthropology, whose actions most typify the ideals and scholarship of Dr. Woods in his 41 years at Wells.

MARGARET SCHWARTZ PSYCHOLOGY PRIZE
Award to that member of the graduating class who has demonstrated consistent excellence in their work in psychology. Established and endowed by Margaret Schwartz.

PSYCHOLOGY SERVICE AWARD
The Psychology Service Award recognizes a student who has used hir education in psychology to contribute to the greater good of the Psychology Major, Wells College, and/or the community at large.

EXCELLENCE IN PSYCHOLOGY AWARD
This award recognizes a student who has demonstrated outstanding leadership, service and contribution to the life of the psychology major.

THE DOROTHY ALLISON RAZOR’S EDGE PRIZE IN WOMEN’S STUDIES
Awarded annually to a graduating women’s and gender studies major or minor who has demonstrated a commitment to and understanding of the political, social, intellectual, and transformative goals of women’s studies and/or feminism.

EXCELLENCE IN TEACHER EDUCATION AWARD
This award is given to a student who has a passion for teaching. The recipient understands the complex decision-making skills teachers use every day and has shown the ability to apply them during student teaching. This student has internalized the tenets of inclusive education and equity pedagogy and has demonstrated their commitment to providing rich educational experiences for all students in line with the Wells College mission to think critically, reason wisely, and act humanely.

IDA B. WELLS–BARNETT PRIZE IN CRIMINAL JUSTICE
Established in 2018 and awarded to that member of the graduating class who has demonstrated a deep understanding of the criminal justice system and a commitment to the pursuit of justice for all peoples.

SUSTAINABILITY PRIZE
Awarded to a graduating senior majoring in Sustainability. The prize is given to the student who has demonstrated consistent excellence in the knowledge and skills necessary to understand the multifaceted origins and solutions to environmental problems.

OUTSTANDING BUSINESS MAJOR AWARD
Awarded to a graduating senior who demonstrates high academic achievement, leadership and outstanding performance in the major. 

SUSAN W. AND PIKE SULLIVAN ENTREPRENEUR AWARD
Established in 2018, the prize is awarded to the member of the graduating class who demonstrated a deep interest and understanding of entrepreneurship and/or social entrepreneurship. The award criteria includes GPA, participation and achievement in the annual business idea competition, excellence in experiential learning activities such as internships or off-campus study, and a demonstrated interest in entrepreneurship and in starting a business.

THOMAS KNUTH INTERNATIONAL PRIZE
Established and endowed in 1979 by Thomas Knuth, the prize is awarded to that member of the graduating class who has demonstrated both academic excellence in the area of international studies and a commitment to the improvement of international understanding.

Prizes in the Natural and Mathematical Sciences

ELEANOR C. MCMULLEN BIOLOGY PRIZE
Awarded to a graduating senior for exceptional performance in biology, in honor of Eleanor C. McMullen, professor of biology, 1935–61.

RUTH M. DUNLAP PRIZE IN CHEMISTRY
Awarded to the student who, at the end of her/his senior year has established the best record in her/his class in chemistry courses.

NANCY ANN REED CHEMISTRY PRIZE
Established in 1951 by the class of 1950 and friends in honor of Nancy Reed '50. Awarded to a member of the graduating class for excellence in chemistry.

CRC PRESS FRESHMAN CHEMISTRY ACHIEVEMENT AWARD
Recognition for outstanding achievement by a freshman in the introductory chemistry courses.

WELLS WOMEN IN SCIENCE PRIZE
Awarded to the member of the graduating class who has done outstanding work in at least two of the sciences, and who has demonstrated an interest in and an ability for a career in graduate work and research, and/or teaching, together with a commitment to the advancement of women in science.

WOOD PRIZE IN PHYSICS AND ITS APPLICATION
Established in 2004 in memory of Wells Seminarians Cornelia Louis Wood Conger 1873 and her sister Mary Della Wood Dey 1873. Awarded to the member of the graduating class who has shown outstanding interest and ability in physics or its application to closely related disciplines, particularly engineering.

JOHN PERRY PRIZE IN MATHEMATICS AND COMPUTER SCIENCE
Awarded to a member of the graduating class for excellence in either mathematics or computer science.

CAYUGA WATERSHED PRIZE IN ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCE
Awarded to a member of the graduating class with an outstanding academic record in environmental studies who has engaged in significant professional activities during their undergraduate years, and who shows promise for future professional development in the field.

DISTINGUISHED HEALTH SCIENCES STUDENT AWARD
Presented annually to an outstanding senior in health sciences on the basis of scholarship, service and notable experiential learning accomplishments. 

EARLY-CAREER HEALTH SCIENCES STUDENT AWARD
This award is for a health sciences major who has demonstrated exceptional commitment to the field through service to the community, experiential learning and academic excellence. This award is open to all health sciences students, but priority for consideration will be given to a first-, second- or third-year student. 

General Prizes

STUDENT LIBRARY PRIZES: GENERAL AND SPECIAL INTEREST
Established in 1937 by the Chicago Wells Club, and endowed in 1943 by Ruth Chamberlain Koch, class of 1907. Awarded to the seniors who have the best, not the largest, collections of books. There are separate prizes for the categories of “general collection” and “special interest collection.” Each collection will be judged on its value as a practical working library in relation to the major interest of the owner; as a nucleus for a permanent personal library; as an indication of discriminating judgment in collecting books, and of growing interest in books through the College years. Rare editions and fine bindings are of secondary importance in this contest. 

ARIEL LAWSON '08 MEMORIAL PRIZE
Awarded to a student in good academic standing who has been an active servant in the governance of Wells College and in student life. First preference will be given to a female student. Their dedication to the College must be expressed with the purpose of maintaining and perpetuating the Wells “Sisterhood.” This must be a student who fights “no-holds-barred” for what they believe is right, even in the face of opposition, while maintaining a commitment to building the Wells and Aurora communities. They should also be committed to solving larger issues of economic and social justice.

WILLIAM LIBERI ’05 MEMORIAL PRIZE FOR TLGBQ ACTIVISM AND SCHOLARSHIP
Awarded annually to a current student in good academic standing who has demonstrated a commitment to transgender and queer issues, especially through their service as an ally to the Transgender, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Questioning and Allies (TLGBQA) community via activism, visibility, literary or artistic endeavors. 

ANNE J. RUSS PRIZE FOR SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY
This prize is awarded to a member of the Wells Community who in the course of the year has made the most significant social, political or ethical contribution, especially involving matters of human diversity and inclusiveness.

Commencement Awards

Several distinct awards, granted to members of the senior class, are announced annually during Wells' Commencement ceremonies:

GERTRUDE H. FREIERT PRIZE IN FINE ARTS
This prize was established in 1961 and endowed in 1987 by Charlotte Dalton Boline ’61, in honor of her mother, Gertrude H. Freiert and is awarded to a member of the graduating class who, in the opinion of the art faculty, has produced a body of creative work of high quality during her or his college career.

KOCH PRIZE FOR BEST SENIOR RESEARCH PAPER
This prize was established and endowed in 1953 by Albert and Ruth Koch, parents of Elizabeth Koch Darlington ’35. The Koch Prize Committee reads senior essays representing fields across the curriculum in each of the College’s majors.

ALBERTO J. VARONA PRIZE IN HISPANIC CULTURE
Established in 2002 in memory of Professor Alberto J. Varona, a community leader, teacher and scholar who was a member of the Wells community from 1966 to 1979. The prize is awarded to that member of the graduating class who submits the best senior essay related to the Hispanic culture.

FRANCES TARELTON FARENTHOLD LEADERSHIP AWARD
Presented to a senior who has consistently demonstrated qualities of commitment and activism in the Wells community and the wider world. 

PRESIDENTIAL LEADERSHIP AWARD
This award honors a student who has demonstrated particular initiative and responsibility in the service to the community. 

Faculty Awards

EXCELLENCE IN ADVISING AWARD
Academic advising is a vitally important responsibility of the faculty at Wells College. The purpose of this award is to recognize the fundamental importance of academic advising to the students of Wells College as they choose their courses and major field, and plan activities to support their academic and career goals. Students nominate faculty members for this prestigious award, and a committee convened by the provost and dean of the College—and comprised of former advising award recipients, students and alumni—choose the recipient. 

EXCELLENCE IN TEACHING AWARD
This award recognizes the fundamental importance of the quality of teaching to the mission of Wells College and the importance of supporting faculty in their pursuit of excellence in teaching. A committee convened by the provost and dean of the college—and comprised of former teaching award recipients, students and alumni—choose the recipient.


Page last updated on April 2, 2021.

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