The Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize is awarded for the best essays of 500 words or fewer on a topic chosen by the Committee on Prizes. The contest is open to students, faculty, and staff of the UC Berkeley campus of the University of California. Prizes awarded to faculty and staff are paid through the Berkeley payroll system and taxes are taken out of the disbursement.
Please review the General Rules for Competitive Prizes.
Contest deadlines vary. Please check the Prizes and Honors home page for this prize's deadline.
2019-20 Essay Topic
History of the Prize
In a letter dated April 13, 1970, Eric Hoffer wrote to the Regents of the University of California: "I intend to give to the Berkeley campus of the University of California at least $10,000 in July 1970. The income of the fund shall be devoted to providing an annual prize or prizes for 500-word essays written by students, faculty, or staff at the Berkeley campus of the University. The sole criteria for the prizes shall be originality of thought and excellence in writing. This fund shall be known as the Lili Fabilli and Eric Hoffer Essay Prize." Hoffer felt very strongly that every idea could be expressed in a few words. Hoffer's own remarks follow:
2018-19: 1st prize: Elliott Lewis ($1000 each); Sourabh Harihar, Justin Hudak, Tara Madhav, Max Stevenson, Charlie Tidmarsh ($600 each); 3rd prize: Lily Call, Evan Cui, Rudraveer Vinay Reddy ($200 each)
Topic: The End of Civil Discourse? [Winning essays (PDF)]
2017-18: 1st prize: Katherine Beniger, Alexandra Maloney, JaVonte Morris-Wilson, David Olin, Jack Sadler ($700 each); 2nd prize: Maggie Mead, Ishani Joshi ($300 each); 3rd prize: Evan Bauer, Irina Popescu, Hideyasu Kurose, Rudraveer Reddy ($225 each)
Topic: Is Free Speech Free? [Winning essays (PDF)]
2016-17: 1st prize: Maura Nolan, Evan Bauer, Luis Edward Tenorio, Noah Whiteman ($650 each); 2nd prize: Kristina Chan, Ariana Lightner, Brit Moller, Irina Popescu, Michele Rabkin ($250 each); 3rd prize: Bryan Jones, William McGregor, Carter Keeling ($100 each)
Topic: Advice to the new Chancellor [Winning essays (PDF)]
2015-16: Evan Bauer, Eric Dasmalchi, Natya Dharmosetio, Paige M. Johnson, Mihir Joshi, Pawanjot Kaur, Peiting Carrie Li, William McGregor (staff), Phillip Merlo, and Sharada Narayan ($500)
Topic: A Public University [Winning essays (PDF)]
2014-15: Alexandra Kopel, Bruno Mikanowski, and Carolyn Winter/ Staff ($1,500 each)
Topic: Carillon Ringing [Winning essays (PDF)]
2013-14: Andrew David King and Ramona del Pozo ($1,000 each)
Topic: What I Don't Know [Winning essays (PDF)]
2012-13: 51 entries; Lindsay Bergstrom (staff), Timothy Borjian, Pierre Bourbonnais, Kelly Clancy, Gail Ford (staff), and Leah Romm ($800 each)
Topic: Gravity [Winning essays (PDF)]
2011-12: Kathy Bradley (staff), Joe Homer, Alex Setzepfandt (staff), and Sara Thoi ($1,000 each)
Topic: Persuade Me [Winning essays (PDF)]
2010-11: 1st prize: Shareena Samson (staff) ($1,200); 2nd prize: Patricia Argueza, Jing "Jonathan" Wong, and Alina Xu ($600 each)
Topic: The End of Civility [Winning essays (PDF)]
2009-10: Bryan Jones (staff), Salman Qasim, and Viola Tang ($1,650 each)
Topic: Whose University? [Winning essays (PDF)]
2008-09: Linda Finch-Hicks (staff), Jacob Mikanowski, Kofi Boakye, and Jeremy Suizo ($750 each)
Topic: Rock, Paper, Scissors
2007-08: Joseph Cadora, Jacob Mikanowski, and Xialou Ning ($1,000 each)
Topic: In Defense of Sloth
2006-07: Samuel E. Pittman ($1,500) and Xiaolu Ning ($1,500)
Topic: Whatever You Say, Say Nothing
2005-06: Karen Sullivan, Jacqueline Palhegyi, and Zachary Gordon ($1,000 each)
Topic: Looking Forward to Looking Back
2004-05: Erin Cooper, Lawrence Ruth (staff), and Sandra Wulff (staff) ($1,000 each)
Topic: What I'd Really Like to Do Is...
2003-04: 1st prize: Casey Dominguez ($1,000); 2nd prize: Ken Prola ($750); 3rd prize: Ana Martinez ($500); 4th prize: Sarang Dalal and Michele Rabkin ($375 each)
Topic: What Were They Thinking?
2002-03: 1st prize: Ana Martinez and Michael Rancer (staff) ($750 each); 2nd prize: Julie Rodriguez (staff) and Carol Wood (staff) ($500 each)
Topic: Self-Deception: Benefits and Consequences
2001-02: Eric Walton, Joanne Sandstrom (staff), Joseph Kim, Nellie Haddad (staff) ($750 each); Honorable Mentions: Jimmy Tran, Carol Wood (staff), Lynley Lys, and Karen Lam
Topic: If Only
2000-01: Zack Rogow ($1,000); Ken Chen, Cassandra Dunn, Zachary Gordon, and Pat Soberanis ($800 each)
Topic: Are Books Dead?
1999-00: Casey Knudsen ($1,000); Amanda Cundiff, Eric McGhee, Serban Nacu, and Sissel Waage ($500 each)
1998-99: 1st prize: Kathryn Renee Albe, Paul Klein, Joanne Palamountain, Sissel Waage, and Zack Rogow ($500 each)
1997-98: 1st prize: Virginia Matzek ($1,250); 2nd prize: Dominic Ang ($750)
Topic: Where There Is Light . . .
1996-97: Kathy Gether
Topic: Hello 2000
1995-96: 1st prize: Anna Moore (staff) and Maureen Morley (staff) ($1,000 each)
Topic: Fired With Enthusiasm
1994-95: 1st prize: Chris Haight (staff) and Reed Evans ($1,000 each)
Topics: A Moment's Notice and How Beautiful
1993-94: 1st prize: Roberto Landazuri ($1,000); 2nd prize: Ingrid Zommers and Jim Lake (staff) ($500 each)
Topic: What's Next?
1992-93: 1st prize: Steve Tillis, Letitia Carper (staff), David Krogh (staff), and David Schweidel (staff) ($250 each)
Topic: What an Original Idea!
1991-92: 1st prize: Christopher Galvin and Steve Tillis ($700 each); 2nd place: Celia Carlson and William Corley ($300 each)
Topic: What a Century!
1990-91: 1st prize: Michael Ditmore; 2nd prize: Daniel Lee; 3rd prize: Shirley Hodgkinson and Ramah Commanday
Topic: The Sin of Cain
1989-90: 1st prize: Tim Edwards; 2nd prize: Paul Jaminet, David Krogh, and Joanne Sandstrom
Topic: The Thankful/The Thankless
1988-89: 1st prize: Ramah Commanday; 2nd prize: Kathy Newman and George Huang
Topic: Smoldering Embers
1987-88: 1st prize: John Nebrhass, Kathy Newman, Anthony Robinson-While, and William Webber
Topic: Presidential Campaigns
1986-87: 1st prize: John Hatton; 2nd prize: Dave Erickson and Stuart Wald
Topic: Hair Shirts
1985-86: 1st prize: Charlotte Redemann; 2nd prize: Doris Lynch
1984-85: 1st prize: Kirin Narayan; 2nd prize: Benjamin Watson; Honorable Mention: Christie McCarthy (staff), Carol Pitts, and Helen Workman (staff)
Topic: Pets and Animals
1983-84: 1st prize: Debra Cooper; 2nd prize: Donald Green; Honorable Mention: Elizabeth Anderson, Ann Elliott, Christine Feldhorn, Andrew Lunt, Ellen Nakashima, Thomas Simmons, Alan Stephen, and Monica Zorovich
1982-83: 1st prize: Richard Reinhardt; 2nd prize: Susan E. Bailey
1981-82: 1st prize: Lizbeth L. Hasse; 2nd prize: Barry Taxman. Essay prizes without a topic awarded to: 1st prize: Professor David Littlejohn; 2nd prize: Matthew M. Neal; Honorable Mention: Joanne Sandstrom and Jeffrey Norris Klink
Topic: Our Most Over-Valued Institution
1980-81: Christopher Rayner and Jennifer L. Walden ($250 each)
Topic: Should California Be Split into Two States?
1979-80: Richard Ogar ($500)
Topic: Should Public Laws Regulate Private Vice?
1978-79: No award given
Topic: Where Should Humankind Go Next?
1977-78: Paul Chernoff ($500)
Topic: In What Additional Field Should a Nobel Prize Be Awarded?
1976-77: S.M. Blair ($500)
Topic: Should There Be Olympic Games in the Future?
1975-76: Jeffrey Lewis Gold ($500)
Topic: What Image or Figure Redefining and Symbolizing the American Dream Can We Offer in 1976?
1974-75: S.M. Blair ($500)
Topic: What Is the Place of Grade Winning in an Education?
1973-74: Ingrid Maidel Krohn ($500)
Topic: How Do We Change Our Attitudes in the Face of Diminishing Natural Resources?
1972-73: John Thomas Gage ($500)
Topic: Is Zero Population Growth an Invasion of Privacy or a Collective Necessity?
1971-72: Leslie Morris Golden ($500)
Topics: F.S.M., People's Park, and Cambodia: Whither the Direction and What Are the Functions of the Contemporary University?
1970-71: Bryan Louis Pfaffenberger ($500)
Topic: The Modern City: Survival or Suicide?