Philip Whitcomb Essay Contest

$500 is awarded for the winning essay that addresses "the relationship of knowledge, thought, and action in public affairs and public policy." As well, the author's name is added to a plaque of past winners in Nunemaker Center, the home of the University Honors Program. Submissions are due by April 19, 2024.

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All current undergraduates at the University of Kansas are invited to enter the annual Philip Whitcomb Essay Contest. Essays should be no longer than 5,000 words. Uploaded essay should contain student initials on the top right hand corner of every page and title on the top center of the first page. Do not put your name on the essay.

Essays should address "the relationship of knowledge, thought, and action in public affairs and public policy." The faculty committee that judges the contest interprets this broadly. Topics may be political, for example, but they may just as well be intellectual, artistic, literary, scientific, or technological. What is important is that submitted essays make plain the importance of their topic, that they be written for a wide public, and that they deal, in one fashion or another, with knowledge, thought, and action. Essays on an appropriate topic, and derived from an honors essay, a term paper, a research project, would be welcome. Whitcomb-winning essays can be read below.

About Philip Whitcomb

Philip Wright Whitcomb, born in Topeka in 1891, received his B.A. from Washburn College in 1910. He went on to study at Oxford University as a Rhodes Scholar from 1911-1914, eventually receiving an M.A. From 1914 until 1978 he served as European correspondent for several major U.S. newspapers and wire services. In 1978 he returned to Kansas to study philosophy, which had long been an interest of his. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Kansas in 1981.

Throughout his life, Philip Whitcomb demonstrated a deep commitment to intellectual honesty and accomplishment, to the integration of diverse fields of knowledge, and to the task of relating fundamental knowledge to problems of broad human concern. The purpose of the Whitcomb Essay Contest is to commemorate his life and to promote the values he held dear.