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Lutzie 43
Lutzie 43

Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award Winner

The Lutzie 43 Foundation awarded the first Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award to Maddie Sullivan, a sophomore in Auburn University’s School of Communication & Journalism, on November 6, 2017.

In March 2017, the Lutzie 43 Foundation announced that $20,000 had been raised to endow a scholarship in conjunction with Auburn University and bestowed by the W. James Samford, Jr. Foundation in Opelika. Jennifer Johnson, a lecturer in the School of Communication and Journalism in the College of Liberal Arts, worked with the Lutzie 43 Foundation and Auburn University to create the award. The W. James Samford Jr. Foundation donated $37,000, and a generous $10,000 donation match by Gus and Kristi Malzahn from the Malzahn Family Foundation helped endow the first scholarship.

A total of 1,026 students applied for the award. The students were narrowed to 50 semi-finalists, with the top six finalists presenting on stage in front of 450 students, teachers, family and friends on Monday, November 6, 2017. Congratulations to Maddie and a special thank you for providing this post!

The first time I heard about Philip Lutzenkirchen was long before I ever knew I was going to be an Auburn student or was even an Auburn fan. I was a junior in high school, attending a summer camp in North Carolina with a friend who was an Auburn local. While we were there, we heard about Philip’s accident; my friend was distraught upon hearing the news. I remember asking if she had known Philip personally. She had not, but she told me all about Philip’s character, his impact on the Auburn community, and his important role at Auburn University. Although I knew so little myself about Philip Lutzenkirchen at the time, I remember being amazed that one man could impact so many people, even those he didn’t have personal connections with. Although I knew so little about him, I was instantly inspired by his legacy.

Fast forward three years:  I am a sophomore at Auburn University and am studying Marketing. During my two years on campus, I had heard various things about the Lutzie 43 Foundation but still didn’t have any sort of personal connection. This fall, I enrolled in COMM 1000, a required class for business majors, and at the beginning of the semester was told about the Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award Competition. I remember thinking how thrilling it would be to get to compete in the competition. I’ve always really enjoyed public speaking and once I learned the competition was sponsored by the Lutzie 43 Foundation, I was further intrigued. However, I did not think I would have the chance to compete due to a large number of participants vying for the award.

Philip Lutzenkirchen

Peyton Parra, Cory Blackmon, Maddie Sullivan, James Luppino, Zahra Hooda, Jacob Sparks.

Surprisingly, I advanced to the finals for the competition. Leading up to the competition, I did some more research on the Lutzie 43 Foundation and the remarkable life of Philip Lutzenkirchen; I wanted to better understand the heart behind the Foundation and the greater scope of impact Philip had on Auburn and its community. As I read about Philip’s kind-hearted nature, his excellence in athletics, his heart for others, and his incredible public speaking skills, I was not only impacted but also humbled to have the chance to use my own passion for public speaking to honor the memory of an Auburn legend.

The night of the competition was a bit of a blur. I was the last participant to speak in the competition and while I was definitely nervous by the time it came for me to speak, I found comfort in the fact that my speech was for a greater purpose: honoring a lost member of the Auburn family and celebrating the amazing life he lived. As I looked out at the audience full of Auburn students, many of whom are friends of mine, I realized how grateful I was to belong to a community that was so kind, supportive, and strong. Philip Lutzenkirchen was an essential member of that Auburn community; he lived the life of a true Auburn man, living with humility, boldness, and intentionality. Although I never had the opportunity to meet Philip personally, I felt connected to him and his legacy that night as I spoke.

As the first recipient of the Philip Lutzenkirchen Excellence in Public Speaking Award, I am humbled to be able to use a God-given passion for communication to help further highlight the life of Philip Lutzenkirchen and the ongoing work and impact of the Lutzie 43 Foundation. Whenever I look at the award, I will remember the life of Philip Lutzenkirchen and will be reminded to strive for excellence in all I do, to love others with a genuine heart, and to live with a spirit that is not afraid.