Applications open for new humanities prize

Undergraduate students interested in the intersection of religion and politics or society can now apply for a new prize, to be given out next spring.

The Joseph E. Connolly ’72 Memorial Prizes were established by Jay Branegan ’72, a close friend of Connolly, as well as other friends and family around the world.  Connolly majored in government and history and wrote his thesis on the role of conservative Christians in U.S. politics. He passed away in 2020.

“I’m convinced that Joe’s enduring interest in politics and religion led him years later to become, as he put it, ‘the only Irish Catholic in the world lecturing about Quranic banking,’ ” Branegan said in a story announcing the prizes. “Because the role of religion in our politics and society has become more apparent — and more controversial — in the years since he wrote his thesis, I thought it would be great to have a prize at Cornell in his memory to encourage undergrads to study it.”

Two $500 prizes will be given to freshmen, sophomores or juniors who write essays in any area of the humanities that relate to the way religious practice and ideology interweave themselves in the political and social fabric of human life. In addition, up to two prizes of $1,500 each will be awarded to seniors for a senior honors thesis or capstone project. December 2021 graduates are also eligible.

Applications are now being accepted, with a final deadline of April 15, 2022.

The prizes are administered by Cornell’s Society for the Humanities and open to undergraduates from all colleges. More information about applying is available at the Society’s website.

To contribute to the Connolly prize fund, contact Staci Kirkland of the College’s Alumni Affairs and Development office at

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