The Department of Writing and Rhetoric honors students who demonstrate excellence in expository writing with the Trimmer Award.


Students enrolled in at least one writing and rhetoric course in the current academic year may submit a piece of expository writing for consideration. There is a limit of one piece of writing per writing and rhetoric course taken.

Make your submission

About the Award

When I attended Colgate University no one taught writing. Faculty members assumed that their students knew how to write before they arrived on campus even though the writing assignments they were asked to complete were very different from the writing assignments they were given in secondary school. Faculty members assigned writing in every class, but did not explain the rhetorical strategies embedded in their assignments, schedule writing conferences or suggest ways an essay might be revised. They simply graded our papers and returned them.

The creation of the Department of Writing and Rhetoric at Colgate demonstrates that faculty members are beginning to realize that each writing assignment presents a new rhetorical challenge. And writers must learn to assess the purpose, audience, and genre required in every writing situation.

The Trimmer Prize — sponsored by me and my wife, Carol (who writes for a variety of professional audiences) — is an attempt to acknowledge the challenges students must overcome every time they face a new assignment. Our correspondence with the winners and, in particular, our pleasure in reading their prize-winning essays in different disciplines has been a most rewarding educational experience. It also convinces us that all writers must learn to write anew every time they write. For that reason, we are extremely pleased that the Department of Writing and Rhetoric teaches the strategies writers will need when they encounter the next assignment and the next blank page.

— Joseph Trimmer ’63

About Joseph F. Trimmer ’63

Joseph F. Trimmer is professor of English and director of the Virginia B. Ball Center for Creative Inquiry at Ball State University in Muncie, Ind. The author of numerous articles on literature, culture, and literacy, Professor Trimmer’s books include The National Book Award for Fiction: An Index to the First Twenty-five Years [1978]; Understanding Others: Cultural and Cross-Cultural Studies and the Teaching of Literature [1992]; and Narration As Knowledge: Tales of the Teaching Life [1997].

His textbooks include Writing With a Purpose, 14th edition [2004]; The Riverside Reader, 9th edition [2007]; eFICTIONS [2002]; and Sundance Introduction to Literature [2007].

Professor Trimmer has also worked on 20 documentary films for PBS — including the six-part series, Middletown [1982], which was nominated for 10 Emmys and won first prize at the Sundance Film Festival.