Celebrating 70 Years of FSU Debate

written by Mafé Brooks, Director of Development

On April 12-14, we celebrated the 70th Year Anniversary of FSU’s modern debate program. The reunion weekend activities included a kick-off reception hosted by FSU President John Thrasher on Friday, followed by a celebration dinner on Saturday and capped off with a reunion breakfast on Sunday, hosted by debate alumnus John Rains III and his wife Karan.

Debate is a university-sponsored intercollegiate competitive program open to students from all majors across the academic landscape. Our College is the home of this long-standing tradition of excellence in providing opportunities for students across the university to hone their skills in developing writing and critical thinking skills as well as presentation skills, including the ability to collect evidence and organize constructive arguments. Its rich history of competitive success and scholastic achievement continues to this day. There is an important and consistent link between participation in debate and professional success. Research indicated that debate participants go on to excel in many fields, including law, politics and business.

More than 45 debate alumni returned to campus for the festivities, with representations from debate teams from the ‘50’s to the present decade. The celebration dinner highlighted remarks from past debaters and coaches who reminisced about their time in the program. Jeannette Meister, from the 1956 debate squad team shared that one of her happiest memories on the team was when she and her debate team partner went to the All Southern Debate Tournament in Agnes Scott College and winning the top prize! Their debate topic was “resolve that there should be a guaranteed annual wage.” She can never forget how they had to carry the almost four foot tall trophy on the Greyhound bus ride back home to campus.  Several others shared their memories about how debate shaped their professions and why debate continues to be an important aspect of the student experience. Current sophomore student, Josh Schulster expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to be on the debate squad.  He has learned that debate is a tool that teaches students on how to engage in their own biases, how to interrogate their own beliefs which is the first step to understanding different perspectives and have deep conversations civilly across party lines, across different beliefs and ideologies so we can have productive discussions that lead to real solutions. While he hasn’t made a final decision on what profession he would like to pursue after college, he is sure about one thing – he definitely wants to become an advocate and use the skills that he learned from debate to be the voice for those whose voices are not as powerful.

It is evident that participation in intercollegiate debate is integral to student success and to their career paths. In order to secure the future of the debate program, the Dr. Marilyn J. Young Endowment for Intercollegiate Debate was established. We have currently raised in pledges and commitments, almost $350K through the generosity of former debaters and from the leadership gift made by Dr. Marilyn Young and her husband, Dr. Michael Launer. The endowment’s immediate goal is to raise the first $1M in the next year that would provide funding support for a permanent faculty coach. A consistent faculty presence is vital to the long-term future of the program by providing a vision and a voice for the value of competitive debate in the modern world. To fully endow the program, we will need to secure an additional $1.5M to support a graduate assistant, provide scholarships, provide travel expenses for the coach and team members, and secure resources to host annual events and provide team technology updates.

I hope that you will help us build on this auspicious beginning, showing your support by making a gift to the campaign for Debate, through the Dr. Marilyn J. Young Endowment for Intercollegiate Debate.

To learn more about the history of FSU Debate, please visit https://floridastatedebate.com/. A special thank you to Dr. Ann “Carrie” Crenshaw, debate alumna who created this incredible website.  Watch the special video created for the 70th Year Anniversary Reunion here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FQfOhnhDzds&t=420s