Whitman Forensics Newsletter

Vol. 6, No. 2, May, 2000




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Natalie, Valbona, and Jessica have contributed to the team’s NFC first place finish this year

Whitman wins the NFC

     After a particularly strong start in the first semester, Whitman forensics pushed ahead to capture the Northwestern Forensics Conference title. 

     The team was led by impressive individual events performances by first year students Denice Kelley and Mario Cava, sophomore Gabe McGuire, and junior Brian Danielson.  Not to be outdone, Scott Daniel, Brian Simmonds, and Brant Olson brought home awards in extemp LD.

     The team’s conference win was topped off by excellent debating by the policy and parli squads who both brought home top awards at the last two NFC tournaments at Western Washington University and Whitman College.

     Whitman finished the year with 255 points, well ahead of second place Pacific Lutheran University and their 214 points. 

     With Whitman’s strong depth, incoming recruits, and the loss of only one competing senior, the team is well poised to repeat as champions again next season.

Public address gets a boost

     Public speaking appears to be a skill that interests more than just debaters.  Whitman College was recently awarded a Rockefeller grant to increase skills in public address on campus.  Some of the grant money went into purchasing two brand new computers and an assortment of audio/visual equipment for a public address room in the Hunter building.  Money was also provided to hire an intern to assist student, faculty and staff with their public address needs.

     This semester’s intern was assistant director of forensics, Geof Brodak.  Team member Brian Simmonds also helped.  Together they assisted many students with their undergraduate conference presentations.  Geof and Brian were also available to help seniors prepare for their oral examinations and thesis defenses.  So far, the program has been an incredible success; and in combination with the IM debate program and the Dovell-Gose contest, the Rockefeller grant has promoted public address on the Whitman campus.

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Geof Brodak has been hard at work coaching team members and helping students throughout the campus with their speaking skills.

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The team at Bob’s house for the end-of-the-year party.  

End of the Year Bash

     This year the team was lucky to have its end of the year party at former director Bob Withycombe’s house.  He was even gracious enough to let the team picture be taken on his stairs. 

     In typical team style, the event started casually late; but once everyone arrived, they made sure that this would be an end of the year party to remember.  Prawns, scallops, fresh bread, bean dip, and other goodies were made by Jim, Bob, and Abby.

     The highlight of the event was the traditional fun awards that the coaching staff gave to the students.  Every year the coaching staff brainstorms for hours to find the perfect award that summarizes each person’s contribution to the team that year.  Among the most memorable were Scott Daniel’s “I debated with Nikki and lived to tell the tale” and Thad Blank’s “Quote Man” awards (we won’t repeat these quotations here!).

     All the awards were given in good fun and there were laughs all around as the team reminisced about the year’s events.  Even Jim’s contributions were recognized—the rest of the staff gave him two brand new shirts.  There was, however, one caveat: he had to dispose of two older shirts that had long since seen their better days.

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JP Lacy smiles as he readies himself for a fourth year as assistant.


The 1999-2000 Staff

Director of Forensics, James Hanson; Assistant Director of Forensics, J.P. Lacy; Assistant Director of Forensics, Geof Brodak; Assistant, Policy Debate, Adam Symonds; Assistant, Interpretation Events, Kevin Loomer; Student Assistant and Intramural Debate Coordinator, Abby St. Lawrence; Chair, Department of Rhetoric and Public Address, Robert M. Withycombe; President, Whitman College, Thomas E. Cronin

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Jim Hanson is pleased with the team’s successes.

33 Competitors

Jim noted: “We had 33 participate on the team this year. That’s big but what was really stunning was the number of people who traveled to most tournaments. We had 9 teams at the nationals tournaments and they all did well.”

Competitors, Whitman Forensics, Spring 2000; Brant Olson, Brian Danielson, Brian Simmonds, Brian Ward, Charles Olney, Denice Kelley, Emily Cordo, Erin Brey, Gabe McGuire, Gary VanDenBerg, Heather Fife, Jessica Clarke, Keola Whittaker, Lauren Ritter, Mario Cava, Mark Lanning, Natalie Havlina, Nicholas Thomas, Nolan Brewer, Paul Charlton, Scott Daniel, Thad Blank, Todd Borden, Valbona Sherifi.


Coaching staff, continuity and change

            Jim remains to begin his ninth year as Director, almost as long as it took him to get his Ph.D. Jim is looking forward to the coming season and to teaching Political Campaign Rhetoric in the fall, a course analyzing the ads, speeches, and strategies of the 2000 campaign.

            JP Lacy will be continuing for a fourth year as assistant director for CEDA/NDT debate and as a mastermind in the newly released Quake III! His keen insights and remarkable strategies have been a critical advantage and we’re very glad to have him back.

            Geof Brodak (assistant director for Parliamentary Debate and Individual Events) on the other hand will be leaving us to be with his self-described “sexy girlfriend,” Sandy Stoneman, back in Colorado. We will miss Geof’s aggressive style and sense of humor.

            Abby St. Lawrence (student assistant and intramural debate director) will be graduating. Abby received a very generous package from Lewis and Clark College where she will attend law school. She’ll be missed especially by Jim who has depended on her so much. Julie Miller, ’02, will be stepping in to serve in Abby’s position.


Whitman hosts some of the nation’s best

     Whitman hosted two college forensics tournaments during the February 25-27 weekend.  The Dean McSloy tournament occurred on Friday at Whitman but is managed by Brent Northup, ’68, and the Carroll College team. The Northwest Forensic Conference’s final designated tournament is managed by Jim and NFC coaches. The NFC results are critical in determining the yearlong sweepstakes award.

     With this knowledge in hand, the team stepped up and did what was necessary to bring the NFC title home.  Seven Whitman competitors earned top awards in individual events; and the parli team of Gabe McGuire and Todd Borden took second place.  However, the policy squad saved the day.  They closed out the senior division in the semi-finals!  This stupendous effort of four of our policy teams catapulted Whitman into the NFC lead over PLU.

     This past fall, for the second year in a row, the Whitman High School tournament was a semis qualifier for the Tournament of Champions in policy and Lincoln-Douglas debate.  This places it among the twenty best tournaments in the nation.  Over sixty high schools attended from five states in the west.

     Jim revised the schedule and set new entry limits and the tournament has never run smoother.  Even so, rooms all over campus were used.  Even the Sherwood small gym and the large gym balcony were partitioned off to make additional “rooms.”  The squad also invested in walkie-talkies to help communicate between Hunter and the ballot table in Cordiner.

     The tournament is an excellent recruiting tool for the college. Jim keeps in contact with many of the top students at the tournament in an effort to get them to join our team.  His efforts appear to be paying off as the team’s recent success and growth have shown.


Senior-staff dinner

     In another end of the year tradition (started last year), Jim took people out to eat for the senior staff dinner.  This year’s dinner was at Paisano’s; and just happened to be on the same night as Walla Walla High School’s senior prom.  Needless to say, everyone felt just a little underdressed at the Whitman table.

     After dinner, Jim took time to recognize the accomplishments and contributions of the team’s two graduating seniors—Jessica Clarke and Abby St. Lawrence.  Both are off to their respective law schools next year.  Moreover, Jim was surely correct to say that they both will do very well and will be missed.


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Scott, Emily, Todd and JP enjoy good times


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Jessica and Charles dominated the circuit, earning a first round bid to the NDT.

Whitman Struts Its Stuff

     Second semester is a very busy time in competitive debate with three national championship tournaments to attend.

     The post season started in early March with the National Parliamentary Debate Association’s championship tournament at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska.  Whitman sent five teams, advancing two to elimination rounds (Keola Whittaker and Brant Olson and Brian Danielson and Denice Kelley).  Whitman placed 10th at the tournament and 20th for the entire year.

     Next on the docket was the Cross Examination Debate Association’s national tournament at Johnson County College in Kansas City.  All of our policy teams were at least one win away from breaking (Scott Daniel and Nicholas Thomas and Brian Simmonds and Brian Ward went 4-4).  Thad Blank and Emily Cordo had a great tournament going 7-1 in prelims and taking out a first round (a “top 16”) team along the way.  Thad and Emily finished 17th place overall.  But it was Jessica Clarke and Charles Olney who led the way into the quarter final round where they lost a close 2-1 decision.

     Other awards that the team won at CEDA nationals were a 10th place finish overall for the year and 3rd as a squad at the Nationals tournament.  And Jess came home as the 6th place speaker.

     That was not the end of Whitman’s successes.  After a move to the other side of the city to the University of Missouri Kansas City, the team attended the National Debate Tournament.

     For the second year in a row, Whitman had the distinguished honor of receiving a first round bid (Clarke/Olney) and had a district bid as well (Blank/Cordo).  At the tournament, Jess and Charles finished in 17th place.

IM Debate Championship

     Whitman students took the intramural debates as an opportunity to engage in argument about whether Elian Gonzalez should return to Cuba and whether Whitman’s student government should support free speech even when it may be offensive.

     In the experienced division, Ziad Abu-Rish and Sean Collins fought it out for the championship.  In the end Ziad triumphed in a very close race. The inexperienced division was also tough this year.  Piper Foster triumphed over Diane Mount in the final round.  Close behind were Rachel Dryden and Erin Bray who tied for third place.


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The team at CEDA Nationals 2000 including Geof, Adam, Jim, Brian, Emily; and in the front row, Charles, Jessica, and Thad.

Huge Thank You

     The Salzman-Medica Fund has donated $250,000 to the team’s Salzman-Medica Forensics Scholarship fund. Jim Hanson noted that “This fund helps us recruit outstanding, talented students.  It is just exciting to have this kind of support for our program and students.” Serious forensics students are often unable to do work-study and some struggle financially in their college years. This additional money will make it possible to extend financial support to these students. Thank you very much Megan Salzman Medica and John Medica.

Dovell-Gose draws a large field

     In one of the largest fields in the contest’s recent history, eight women and 12 men competed for the coveted Dovell-Gose oratory championship.

     The women’s field was especially competitive and the critics (Jim Hanson, Bob Withycombe, and Geof Brodak) had a difficult time selecting a winner.  However, it was first year Denice Kelley with her speech on trans-racial adoption that took the cake.  Finishing second was senior Jessica Clarke with her critique of an "ex-gay" speaker who recently visited campus; and close behind was sophomore Emily Cordo with her speech entitled “New national Feminism.”

     In the men’s division, the championship went to a very strong presentation by sophomore Nicholas Thomas on feminist appropriations.  First year Thad Blank’s topic on terrorism discourse earned him second place and his former debate partner Brian Simmonds took third place with his constitutional examination of the Child On-line Protection Act.

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Denice Kelley won the  Dovell-Gose contest.


Whitman Forensics Newsletter

Vol. 6, No. 2, May 2000


Withycombe-Walker Fund Contributions

Thanks for your contributions to these speech and funds! Generous donors since December 7, 1999 include: the AT&T Foundation, Sean Harris (’98), Hexcel Foundation, Loan Lam (’96), Jared Phillips (’95), Jennifer Becker (’94), Andy Backlund (’96), R. Paul Beveridge (’83), Lysle Wilhelmi (’84), Robert Withycombe, Lloyd Danielson, and Susan Danielson.

Contributions to the Walker Fund or the Withycombe Fund should be sent to:

            Annual Fund Office

            Whitman College

            Walla Walla WA 99362

Checks should be made out to Whitman College with a note that says to place the contribution into the Walker or Withycombe Fund.


History of the team gets posted!

Jim’s been hard at work, posting the history of the team! He’s adding about one year per day. Each year includes pictures, Whitman and World news, Team awards, Speech courses, and more. Check it out here:

History Page!

Team Picture for the Yearbook, 1985-1986

Back row: (Reagan and Bonzo the chimp on the wall), John Lange, Drummond Kahn; Second row: David Johnson, Todd Brown, David Bansmer, Erik Highberg, David Hackett, Nate Johnson; Front Row: Bob Withycombe (Director), Lanora Walker, Glenn Simshaw, Leola Weimer, Cara Elston

Policy Awards

Overall 1st, Western Scrimmage; 2nd, Lewis and Clark; 1st, U. Oregon; 1st, U. So. Cal; 1st, Baylor; 1st, WWU; 1st, NFC-Whitman; 1st, NW CEDA Champs; 3rd, CEDA Nationals

Jessica Clarke and Charles Olney: 1st, Western Scrimmage; 2nd, Lewis & Clark; 1st, U. Oregon; 17th, Wake Forest; 9th, Univ. So. Cal.; 5th, Long Beach; 5th, West Georgia, 9th, Baylor; 9th, Northwestern; 1st, NFC-Whitman; 3rd, NW CEDA Champs; 5th, CEDA Nationals; 17th, NDT

Courtney Gardner and Emily Cordo: 5th, Lewis and Clark; 5th, U. Oregon

Thad Blank and Emily Cordo: 5th, Long Beach; 17th, Baylor; 1st, WWU; 1st, NFC-Whitman; 3rd, NW CEDA Champs; 17th, CEDA Nationals; NDT Qualifiers

Brian Simmonds and Thad Blank: 5th, Western Scrimmage, 5th, U. Oregon

Brian Simmonds and BrianWard: 3rd, WWU; 1st, NFC-Whitman; 5th, CEDA Champs

Keola Whittaker and Brian Ward: 5th, Lewis and Clark; 1st, U Oregon; 1st, USC; 2nd, Baylor

Nicholas Thomas and Scott Daniel: 1st, U. Oregon; 1st, USC; 5th, Baylor; 1st, NFC-Whitman

Lauren Ritter and Mario Cava: 3rd, NFC-Whitman

Parli Awards

Overall 2nd, Lewis & Clark; 3rd, NFC-Whitman; 10th, NPDA Nationals

Brant Olson and Jenni Burgess: 9th, Lewis & Clark; 9th, U. Oregon

Brant Olson and Keola Whittaker: 1st, PLU; 33rd, Parli Nationals

Gary VanDenBerg and Brian Danielson: 9th, U. Oregon

Brian Danielson and Denice Kelly: 9th, NW Parli Champs; 33rd, NPDA Nationals

Todd Borden and Gabe McGuire: 2nd, Lewis and Clark; 17th, Pt. Loma; 2nd, NFC-Whitman

Denice Kelley and Mark Lanning: 1st, U. Oregon

Denice Kelley and Natalie Havlina: 5th, WWU

Brant Olson and Maggie Malone: 9th, Air Force

Individual Events Awards

Brian Danielson: Junior Impromptu: Finalist, Lewis and Clark, 2nd, U. Oregon; Junior Extemp: Finalist, PLU; Finalist, NFC-Whitman;

Brian Simmonds: NFA LD, 2nd, Air Force; Extemp-LD, 2nd, NFC-Whitman

Brant Olson: NFA LD, 5th, Air Force; Extemp-LD, 3rd, NFC-Whitman

Courtney Gardner: Novice Extemp, 2nd, Lewis and Clark

Gabe McGuire: Junior Extemp, 3rd, Lewis and Clark; Finalist, NFC-Whitman; Junior Impromptu: 1st, Lewis and Clark

Gary VanDenBerg: Junior Extemp: 1st, Lewis & Clark; Finalist, U. Oregon

Ian Danforth: Junior Impromptu, 3rd, U. Oregon

Jenni Burgess: Senior Impromptu, 1st, U. Oregon and Lewis and Clark, and Senior Extemp, Finalist, Lewis and Clark; 1st, U. Oregon

Mark Lanning: Novice Impromptu, 1st, Lewis and Clark; 3rd, U. Oregon

Meredith Johnson: Novice Extemp, 1st, Lewis and Clark

Natalie Havlina: Novice Extemp, Finalist, U. Oregon

Denice Kelly: Junior Impromptu, Finalist, PLU; 1st, NFC-Whitman; Junior Persuasion, 2nd, WWU; Junior Extemp, 2nd, WWU; Senior Persuasion, 3rd, NFC-Whitman;

Mario Cava: Junior Extemp, 2nd, NFC-Whitman

Brian Ward: Junior Extemp-LD, 1st, NFC-Whitman

Scott Daniel: Junior Extemp-LD, 1st, NFC-Whitman