Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching

Then President John Chandler started this award in 1984 after a conversation with Frances Olmsted about how the college might best use an unrestricted bequest from her late husband, George Olmsted, Jr., Class of 1924.

Each October the President invites members of the senior class to nominate a secondary school teacher who had contributed significantly to their intellectual and personal growth.  (See nomination guidelines.)

Approximately 25 and 50 seniors submit nominations by the early January deadline. A faculty/student committee reads the nominations and decides on a smaller group of teachers to review further, narrowing the group down to around 15-25.  The committee is made up of a faculty chair, three additional faculty/staff, and the secretary to the committee.

We then write to the teachers we have chosen to move forward informing them of their nomination and asking that they submit an up-to-date resume or summary of their work in another form and a few paragraphs on their philosophy of education. At this time, we also write to each teacher’s principal, or head of school, inviting any comments about the teacher that would help us make our decision; we also request they send a copy of their school profile.  We allow the principal to pass this request on to an assistant principal, department chair, or someone who has supervised the teacher and knows them well.  The deadline to submit these materials is usually late February.

The committee reads the materials submitted from the teachers/principals and then meets one last time in mid-March to choose the four finalists.  At the last meeting we try to pay attention to gender, race/ethnicity of the teachers when known, public and private, rural and urban, and geographic location hoping that the final group reflects the diversity of our student body.  At least one teacher is chosen from each of our three academic divisions, as noted above.  International teachers are also considered in this group.

Each teacher receives a $3,000 prize and the school $5,000, to use as they wish. (We ask that the teacher be allowed to have some input as to how the school chooses to use this prize.) We invite each teacher to campus for Commencement weekend, along with one guest, all expenses paid.

Commencement Weekend:  The recipients are invited to campus on Friday evening.  On Saturday we hold a special luncheon in their honor along with the student nominators and their families, and the Olmsted Committee.

The recipients march in the procession with the dean, followed by the senior class, and sit on stage for the remainder of the program.  The dean calls each recipient and their student nominator

forward to the podium and reads a citation written about them by the chair of the committee. The recipients also receive a formal certificate.

On Saturday evening the recipients are invited, along with honorary degree recipients, to a dinner with the President and Trustees.

At the main Commencement ceremony on Sunday, the recipients sit in the President’s reserved section in the audience.  Just before the granting of the honorary degrees, the President recognizes the recipients and asks them to stand.  They are also invited to the President’s luncheon, immediately following Commencement.

Following Commencement weekend, all other nominees receive a letter acknowledging their nomination as well as a certificate from the President.

In the 37 years (1984-2020) of the Olmsted Prize for Excellence in Secondary School Teaching, Williams has recognized 154 men and women from around the United States as well as internationally.