Dr. Howard F. Beckley Writing Competition

Local High School students are invited to submit entries based on a theme. Entries are judged by University professors, High School teachers, and professional writers. Winning students receive cash prizes. For their support, teachers and schools of the winners also receive recognition.

Dr. Howard F. Beckley was a part-time college instructor who served on the Denver Branch Board. He was concerned about the quality of writing from his students and wanted the Branch to add a program to help high school students improve their writing skills. After his sudden death, other Board members took the initiative to develop a Writing Competition to honor Dr. Beckley’s memory.

We launched the competition in 2010, when the Denver Branch hosted the ESU National Conference. The topic was our conference theme: Westward Ho! The Continental Expansion of the English Language. Every year since its inception, we have expanded our reach to involve more schools, teachers and students. The Covid-19 pandemic presented new challenges but the program continues.

Each year, one or two teachers coordinate the Writing Competition. They choose a topic and advertise it with a standard rubric so students know how they will be judged. We advertise the competition in the fall, with a deadline around Thanksgiving. A committee of Board members and interested Branch members reads the submissions, discusses and ranks them, choosing the top five. We give cash prizes: first place $500, second place $250, third place $100; some years we award $50 honorable mention prizes for fourth and fifth places. We present awards for the competition at our December holiday party, where winning students read their submissions.

2010-2011 Westward Ho! The Continental Expansion of the English Language
2011-2012 The Language of Freedom: How the Written Word Advances the Struggle for Freedom
2012-2013 American Authors of Excellence: Saluting American Masters of English Composition
2013-2014 Focus on Fiction: Compose a short story on a topic/theme of your choice
2014-2015 Fiction with a Twist: Narrative prose with a clear plot twist
2015-2016 What is Genius?
2016-2017 How is Shakespeare Relevant Today?
2017-2018 How does the language of protest incite action?
2018-2019 What are the implications of technology on the English language?
2019-2020 Symbols: how they unite or divide us, marginalize or include us, motivate or demoralize us
2020-2021 What is your opinion on the effectiveness of “virtual” schooling versus “in-person” schooling?
2021-2022 What author or social influencer should be required reading/viewing in high school and why?
2022-2023 Discuss the impact of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED Talk “The Danger of a Single Story”
2023-2024 Analyze Native American author Leslie Marmon Silko’s prediction in The Turquoise Lodge