The winners of the annual M.M. Neely Persuasive Speaking Contest at Fairmont State have been announced.
Sandra Ramirez won first place and $500. She is a senior majoring in speech communication and criminal justice and a former member of the U.S. Armed Forces. Ramirez lives in Fairmont and is a former resident of Colombia and Queens, N.Y. Alicia Crites won second place and $300. She is a junior majoring in education from Dille, W.Va. Ashley Stevens, a senior majoring in speech communication from Grafton, W.Va., won third place and $200. Ramirez' topic was depression; Crites' topic was school uniforms; and Stevens' topic was a hydrogen-based economy.
The contest was begun in the 1930s at Fairmont State and Salem College by the former U.S. senator and governor of West Virginia, Mathew Mansfield Neely. As a politician, he fought for cancer research, child labor regulation and other reforms. A most celebrated and controversial politician, Neely, who was also quite adept at public speaking, saw the contest as a way to encourage students to speak up for their beliefs as he had in support of his deeply-held convictions.
Now, almost 70 years later, Neely's heir, specifically his daughter, Corrine Neely Pettit, have endowed the contest in perpetuity. In addition to this contest, the Neely family has shown its commitment to speech education at Fairmont State by providing money for numerous scholarships to students who major or minor in speech communication.
The contest is open to all full-time Fairmont State students who meet the contest's requirements. Participants presented an 8 to 10 minute persuasive problem analysis based upon extensive research. The students were judged on composition (quality of script) and the delivery or effectiveness of the presentation.