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Class of 1879 Prize for Outstanding Projects in the Humanities

Awarded by

The Class of 1879 Prize is awarded by the Humanities & Arts department yearly for excellent work in the culminating project for the Humanities & Arts Requirement. These projects must demonstrate exceptional creativity and skill in conceiving, developing, and expressing a theme within any discipline in the humanities and arts.  

History of the Prize

WPI has recognized exemplary work in the humanities and arts since 1872, when the department of English and Modern Languages established an award for the best paper in composition classes. At its reunion in 1900, the Class of 1879 endowed this prize for a paper "on a topic of general interest." The endowment was continued by Spencer Miller 1879, who wanted “to encourage graduates of the Institute to develop the art of clear and lucid English in the discussion of engineering subjects.”  The Class of 1879 Prize was then awarded annually to the best term paper in the departments of English, History, and Languages until the adoption of the WPI Plan in 1970. In 1983, the department of Humanities & Arts began to award the Class of 1879 Prize to the best Humanities Requirement Projects.  

The Class of 1879 Prize has evolved alongside WPI.  Today’s prize-winning projects rarely concern engineering subjects, and some aren’t even traditional essays.  But we still honor the spirit of Mr. Miller’s prize, to encourage and reward the highest achievements of human expression. 

Details for each year's competition are announced in November/December, with a deadline for submission in January. For information on the competition and how to submit your project for consideration, please contact the HUA office at ext. 5246 or at

Note: Prizes awarded for projects completed the previous year.

Browse Class of 1879 Prize for Outstanding Projects in the Humanities awardees

Year Recipient Award level Type Details
2010 Mark Hayden Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"Transmarginal Inhibition in Gravity’s Rainbow,” advisor: Lance Schachterle

2010 Xiaoyun Wang & Chang Liu Honorable Mention Undergraduate

“The Saint Archer” (animated short film), advisor: Joshua Rosenstock

2009 Jeffrey Marrion Winner Undergraduate

"Philosophy and Film: Existentialism and Place," advisor: J. Sanbonmatsu

2009 Michael Szkutak Winner Undergraduate

"Presidential Electioneering in the Television Age," advisor: J. Hanlan

2009 Sarah Albrecht Winner Undergraduate

"Motives for Change: Signac's Stylistic Shift," advisor: D. Samson

2009 Don Havener Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"The Encyclopedia and the Third Estate," advisor B. Addison

2009 Everett Tripp Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"Why They Fought: The Working Class in Empire," advisor: P. Hansen

2009 Heather Bell Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"Celtic Music Throughout the UK," advisor: J. Delorey

2008 Andrew Marchese Winner Undergraduate

"Origins of Emergent Order: The Inadequacy of Reductionism and the Complexity of Light Phenomena," advisor: David Spanagel

2008 Maggie Allard Winner Undergraduate

"The Butterfly (animated short)," advisor: Joshua Rosenstock

2008 Richard Pampuro Winner Undergraduate

"Right within Anarchism," advisor: John Sanbonmatsu

2008 Kirk Lanciani Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"Soaring on the Ground: The Flight Simulator," advisor: E. Malcom Parkinson

2008 Rui Dai Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"Red and the Rest (a memoir)," advisor: Lorraine Higgins

2008 Ryan Whetstone Honorable Mention Undergraduate

"Jazz Saxophone Performance; From Swing to Fusion," advisor: Richad Falco

2007 Craig D. DiGiovanni Winner Undergraduate

“The Planning and Implementation of Denazification in Post War Germany,” advisor David Dollenmayer

2007 Lucas Samuel Lincoln Winner Undergraduate

“An Analysis of Pat Metheny as a Jazz Composer,” advisor Richard Falco

2007 Rebecca C. Baron Winner Undergraduate

“A Change in Expectations: Staging of Dueling in Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet and Hamlet,” advisor Michelle Ephraim

2006 Amanda J. Tarbet Winner Undergraduate

"Multimodal Tensions in the Graphic Novel," advisor: Ruth Smith

2006 Benjamin W. Dwyer Winner Undergraduate

"Spirits of the Dead: a Musical Composition," advisor: Richard Falco

2006 Eric G. Wilusz Winner Undergraduate

"Competing Visions for Technical Education: the Founding of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Worcester Polytechnic Institute," advisor: David Spanagel

2005 Charles A. Gammal III Winner Undergraduate

"John Boynton: Farmer to Founder," advisor: David Rawson

2005 Hilal Tetik Winner Undergraduate

"Robert Fludd's 'De Musica Mundana' and the Ideals of the Rasicrucian Brotherhood," advisor: Lee Fontanella

2005 Karim G. Makram Winner Undergraduate

"Breaking Out," advisor: Lorraine Higgins

2004 Laura E. Baldassari Winner Undergraduate

"Flute Music of the Classical Period," advisor: Douglas G. Weeks

2004 Patrick A. Hogan Winner Undergraduate

"Dying by Inches: Imperialism and Asian Famines," advisor: Peter H. Hansen

2004 Steven J. Tufo Winner Undergraduate

"Considering the Absurd, Judgment, and Love: Albert Camus' Revolt Against Death," advisor: John Sanbonmatsu

2003 Gregory I. Ratner Winner Undergraduate

"The Outcomes of the 'Record War': History of the Record Industry, 1930-1955," advisor: Michael M. Sokal

2003 Griffin R. Bryant Winner Undergraduate

"Torment: a Story," advisor: Michelle K. Ephraim

2003 Ryan Patrick Jones Winner Undergraduate

"Ministry: a Screenplay," advisor: Dean O'Donnell

2002 Amanda A. Roberts Winner Undergraduate

"Sequencing within the Short Story Collection: An Experiment in Design and Practice," advisor: John Trimbur

2002 Benjamin K. Sandofsky Winner Undergraduate

"The Shawl: The Study and Application of David Mamet's Filmmaking Theories," advisor: Dean O'Donnell

2002 Kimberly Johnstone Winner Undergraduate

"The United States Supreme Court: The 2000 Presidential Election," advisor: JoAnn Manfra

2001 Brendan Morris Winner Undergraduate

"Rastro: The Essence of Madrid," advisor: Lee Fontanella

2001 Jennifer Persico Winner Undergraduate

"The Jump From Resentment to Revolution," advisor: Deborah Gray

2001 Lauren Wojtkun Winner Undergraduate

"Like the World of Dreams Itself': An Analysis of William Shakespeare's Use of the Green World in A Midsummer Night's Dream and As You Like It," advisor: Michelle Ephraim

2000 Emily Reynolds Winner Undergraduate

"Becoming a Woman: A Look at the Influences of Patriarchy, Materialism and Relationships in The Great Gatsby and The Color Purple," advisor: Lisa Lebduska

2000 Florentin Groeli Winner Undergraduate

"British Jazz, or Jazz in Britain?," advisor: Douglas G. Weeks

2000 Janaki Kirloskar Winner Undergraduate

"A Glimpse of Reality in the Hindu Temple," advisor: Ruth Smith

1999 Amelia A. Gilbreath Winner Undergraduate

"Flute Recital," advisor: Douglas G. Weeks

1999 Corbin T. Hodder Winner Undergraduate

"Toothpaste and Orange Juice: a Play," advisor: Dean O'Donnell

1999 Richard E. Harang Winner Undergraduate

"Mind and Materialism," advisor: Marianne Janack

1998 Ian E. Parmenter Winner Undergraduate

"A Work in Progress: a Screenplay," advisor: Dean M. O'Donnell

1998 Quach B. Hai Winner Undergraduate

"Self-Sponsoring Writing at WPI," advisor: John M. Trimbur

1998 Siu L. Ng Winner Undergraduate

"Interwar Progress in Aerial Photographic Mapping," advisor: E. Malcolm Parkinson

1997 Daniel Murphy Winner Undergraduate

"The American Dream: Has it Become Unreachable," advisor: William A. Baller

1997 Janet L. Brennan Winner Undergraduate

"A Consideration of Consciousness Explained," advisor: Roger S. Gottlieb

1997 Jeffrey L. Bayko Winner Undergraduate

"The Road to Jensenism (1923-1969)," advisor: Michael M. Sokal

1996 Andrea Kodys Winner Undergraduate

"Promises, Policies and Goals: The U.S. Occupation of Haiti, 1915-1934," advisor: James Watters

1996 Greg Amiro Winner Undergraduate

"The Rock n' Roll Renaissance," advisor: Douglas G. Weeks

1996 Mickey Lacroix Winner Undergraduate

"A Critique of Husserlian Phenomenology," advisor: Bettina Bergo