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Lutzie 43

Behind the Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award

As I write this post I’m reflecting on the date. Today is June 1. It would have been Philip’s 30th birthday. I can’t help but think about all the things he hasn’t been here for these last seven years. Most of all, I think of those he left behind and the hole in their hearts on a day like today.

I was one of the lucky ones. I knew Philip well from his time at Auburn. I teach in the School of Communication and Journalism, and Philip was a student in multiple courses I taught over a two-year timespan. I often tell people he was my all-time favorite student. His death hit me hard, and it’s something that has always stayed with me. He will forever be one of mine, and when something happens to “one of yours” it leaves a scar. Scars don’t ever fully heal. They fade in time, but they are always there.

One of the courses I taught Philip in was titled “Speaking Before Audiences.” When I started brainstorming ways to honor Philip in our school through some type of scholarship or award bearing his name, I eventually settled on a public speaking competition I was trying to create in 2016. I reached out to the Lutzenkirchens with the idea, and once they were on board we worked together to create The Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award.

We began the competition in the spring of 2017. Since that time, eight Auburn students have been the recipient of The Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award. What began as a $1,000 prize quickly turned into a $4,300 award given to the first place finalist every fall and spring semester. It is through the generous financial support of the Lutzie 43 Foundation as well as the W. James Samford Junior Foundation that this award is possible.

This speaking event is my favorite part of every semester. It is a chance to highlight the outstanding work of Auburn students that we see in the classroom every day. It’s also a chance to remember and reflect on Philip’s life and legacy. It’s always with a mixture of delight and sadness that I go into the evening. Each time I speak at the event about Philip and the origins of the award I tell myself that I won’t cry. Yet every time I do. I’m proud of this award, but I wish it didn’t have to exist. Because that would mean Philip was still with us.

To find out more about the public speaking competition and the students who have participated, visit https://www.cla.auburn.edu/cmjn/communication/comm-1000/#award