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A century of tradition in debate

Students and alumni who participated in Carson-Newman University’s Forensics team under the direction of current Director Chip Hall gather for a photo during a May reunion.

(June 14, 2019) JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — Alumni and current students of Carson-Newman University’s Forensics team are celebrating a century of traditions and shared experiences as they mark the 100-year anniversary for the University’s speech and debate team.

Celebrations included a recent reunion that brought 35 forensics graduates back to campus.

Harry Brooks, former state representative and chair of the C-N Board of Trustees, was a 1968 graduate and former debater for the University. As one of the event speakers, Brooks shared tales of classmates who became national debate champions.

“It was a great celebration, connecting men and women from many different years of Carson-Newman Forensics,” he said following the May 11 event.

The event reunited Carson-Newman Forensics team members, some of whom had not been together in 30 years.

This event marks a significant milestone in the history of forensics at Carson-Newman,” said Mark Borchert, chair and professor of C-N’s Communication Department. “We have a history of speech and debate at the school that now enters its second century.”

With the reunion came the return of former college forensics competitors now coaching speech and debate teams across the country and serving in leadership roles in the field.

Among those in attendance were:

  • Jay Bourne, director of Forensics and associate professor at the University of the Cumberlands in Kentucky and past president of the National Christian College Forensics Association,
  • Mike Ingram, professor and director of Forensics at Whitworth University in Washington and past executive secretary for the National Parliamentary Debate Association, and
  • Drew Stewart, assistant director of Forensics and lecturer at Marian University in Indiana.

“For the past 100 years, Carson-Newman has had a great history of forensics,” said C-N Forensics Director and Associate Professor Chip Hall, whose Carson-Newman teams have earned three national championship titles. “Our graduates are impacting the field of forensics and the world in very significant ways.

The C-N Forensics team remembers several directors and members who helped shape the award-winning program throughout its history with annual awards. Those include awards in honor of Dr. Elmer Sydnor, the “father of Carson-Newman forensics” who began the program in 1918; Forrest Conklin, who brought the team to win the 1965 national championship; and Eddie Myers, who became tournament director of the National Forensics Association for several years — an organization that went on to name their service award after him.

Founded in 1851, Carson-Newman is a Christian liberal arts university located in Jefferson City, Tennessee, among the foothills of the Great Smoky Mountains. The University has over 2,500 students and offers 50 undergraduate majors, as well as associate, bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.

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