FFRF awards $10,450 to 2018 graduate students essay contest winners


The Freedom From Religion Foundation is proud to announce the 15 winners of the 2018 Brian Bolton Graduate/“Older” Student Essay Contest.

Graduate students were asked to write a personal persuasive essay about “The dangers of bibliolatry in the United States.”  

FFRF has paid out a total of $10,450 in award money for this contest this year. This is the last of the 2018 essay competitions. FFRF awarded a record total of $46,750 to the student essayists this year among the four different competitions. 

The graduate/“older” student contest is generously and singlehandedly endowed by Life Member Brian Bolton, a retired psychologist, humanist minister and professor emeritus at the University of Arkansas. The contest was open to graduate students up to age 30 or undergraduates ages 25-30. (One honorable mention winner is 31, but the essay was received when he was still 30.)

Winners are listed below and include the award amount and the college or university they will be attending.

First place
Clayborne Cook,  26, University of Pittsburgh ($3,000)
Second place
Kelly Chen, 22, University of Alabama School of Medicine ($2,000)
Third place
Samuel Davidson, 22, California Institute of Technology ($1,000) 
Fourth place
Tricity Andrew, 27, North Carolina State University ($750)
Fifth place
Jarred McCleese, 26, University of Kentucky ($600) 
Sixth place
Garrett Dare, 28,  University of Oregon ($500)
Seventh place 
Nat Rogers, 24, Johns Hopkins University ($400)

Honorable mentions ($200 each)

  • Shelby Burton, 26, Touro University Nevada
  • Elizabeth Cullen, 29, Michigan State University
  • Meghan Fuller, 26, Purdue University Global
  • Andrew Haws, 31, University of Missouri-Kansas City
  • Richard Lyda, 30, Winthrop University
  • Ethan Morrow, 21, University of Missouri-Columbia
  • Ashley Podplesky, 28, University of Washington
  • Elizabeth Ruelle, 28, College of Creative Studies

FFRF also thanks Dean and Dorea Schramm of Florida for providing a $100 bonus to students who are members of a secular student club or the Secular Student Alliance. The total reflects those bonuses.

FFRF has offered essay competitions to college students since 1979, high school students since 1994, and graduate students since 2010 and since 2017 a contest geared directly specifically to students of color.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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