Our Railroad Stock and Richard T. Merrick

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“I, Richard T. Merrick, desirous of promoting the pursuit of oratory and encouraging the practice of debate among the students of Georgetown…transfer to Patrick Healy and his successors in office 18 shares of Capitol stock in the Metropolitan Railroad Company…to have and hold in trust for the purpose of purchase of a suitable gold medal to be presented to that member of the Philodemic Society who shall be deemed to be the best and most competent speaker of the Society…”  

These were the words written in a letter by Mr. Richard T. Merrick to the Philodemic Society in September of 1874 when he gifted shares in a railroad company to the Society. What happened to those shares…well…this amanuensis is unsure, but they did purchase dozens of gold medals for the Philodemic! More importantly, the shares initiated our most spectacular and prestigious events of the year: Merrick Debate and Dinner.

Attendees of Philodemic throughout the year gradually notice the subtle change from casual and extemporaneous speeches to more carefully planned and concise speeches from fall to spring. It’s the signal for the beginning of Merrick season. The Merrick Debate is the last Philodemic event of the spring semester. It is keynoted by the four best speakers of the Society, who are nominated by a point system. Points are voted on at the end of most spring semester debates. The Merrick Debate is always on a Saturday and is marked by lengthier (but amazing) keynotes with less floor time. A panel of outside judges-generally important people from the local and national community-are invited to gauge which of the four speakers is the most eloquent and the Merrick winner receives a gold medal that he or she can then wear during graduation. Note that the Merrick Medal is the only non-academic medal allowed to be worn during graduation.

In addition, the evening of Merrick, the Philodemic Society holds a formal dinner off campus. Last year it was in a glamorous mansion-turned-yoga-studio in Adams Morgan, Stroga. Dinner is served and there can be dancing! And, of course, there are endless toasts. It’s definitely an event not to miss (and ladies, you can reuse your prom gowns!).

The most recent winner, Amanda Wynter, was a Government major and Philosophy minor in the College who is now embarking on a fellowship with The Atlantic here in DC! I had the privilege of having her as my mentor for my route to membership, and can attest that she is not only a phenomenal speaker, but a fantastic person—a prime example of the type of person a Philodemician tries to be.  

Last year’s Merrick keynoters, panel of judges, and two members of the Officer Corps

ELD as always,

Rosa Cuppari

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