Quick Facts About Wake Debate
“Long before we played football, edited publications, acted, or sang—in fact, almost before we studied, we of Wake Forest talked. ”
(Yearbook) 1943 - Ed Wilson

Wake And Debate Go Together

Wake Forest Debate has shaped a long and strong tradition. The contemporary program ranks among the top programs nationally, based on tournament results, but is more than winning trophies. The program is “full service” with workshops, handbooks, HS outreach, professional involvement, public events all aimed at an educational mission.

Everyone knows a few items making up the “Wake Debate Tradition,” But Did you know?

Debate started in 1835, only the second year when Wake was still the Manual Labor School. The Euzelian and Philomathesian societies dominated campus intellectual and social life for nearly a century.
• The first intercollegiate debate took place on Thanksgiving in 1897. The opponent was Trinity College (Duke) who withdrew from the series blaming the judging after losing 3 out of 5 holiday debates. Coach K did not get all the calls in those days.
• Wake won the National Debate Tournament in 1997, 100 years after the first contest against Trinity. Duke did not qualify for the NDT in 1997. (Wake also won the Pi Kappa Delta National Tournament in 1947); Wake was in the NDT finals in 2006 and had four semi-final teams, 1955, 1993, 1994, 1995, and won a second National Championship in 2008 and another final round appearance in 2009.
• Debate has been suspended only once, during the Civil War when the school closed. During WWII, Coach Lewis Aycock declared that debate travel would be suspended but travel continued.
• “Although we have not yet been able to produce an All-American football player,” Dr. Kitchin remarked, “we can claim the one champion inter-collegiate orator of America.” In 1940 President Kitchin was referring to none other than Gene Worrell.
• Frank Shirley, Wake’s 6th coach, served as Director of Debate from 1948 to 1967, now the second longest tenure. Wake’s 4th coach Zon Robinson 1936-1941, disappeared while in the service in WWII, never to be heard from again.
• Wake enjoyed a top ten ranking in the NDT national tournament results since 1988-2002, longest streak in the nation. Wake has cleared more teams to the eliminations rounds at the NDT than any other school the last fifteen years.
• Wake won the Novice Nationals Championship at Northwestern in 2004. The only other “Novie Nats” championship for Wake was recorded in 1996.
• Wake's Collegiate Tournament, The Franklin R. Shirley Dixie Classic, was fifty in 2006. It has had four names with Dixie Classic being the most remembered. It is the premier collegiate tournament, selected by poll of national coaches as the "Tournament of the Decade" for the 80s & 90s.
• Wake has had two runner ups for the Copeland (nation’s top team) award (Hughes & Prestes, 1997, Lotz & Atchison 2000), the 1995 team of Adrienne Brovero & John Hughes won the Copeland.
• Wake has had at least one "first round bid" (top 16) in all but three years since the late 80s: 1st rounds in 1988-1993, 1995-1997, 1999-2006, 2009-2010
• Only two women have been top speaker at the NDT. The first was Patricia Stallings, University of Houston in 1957, the second was Wake’s Gloria Cabada in 1985. Wake also had the first all female team in semis of the NDT in 1994 (Marsha Tiersky & Adrienne Brovero), Michigan was the second in 1998.
• Wake Debate has hundreds of distinguished alumni including former president of Colorado State Univ. (Larry Penley), US Regulatory Czar in DC (John Graham), medical researchers (Frank Wood at WFU Medical School), business and military leaders, national status lawyers, and educators at the university and secondary level.
• In the last ten years former Wake Debaters have been law review editors at NYU, Duke, Chicago, Baylor, Stanford, Emory, Arizona, and others. . John Hughes clerked on the US Supreme Court.
• Thrity-eight of the former Debate Graduate Assistants have gone on for the Ph.D. (including Mike Hazen). Other assistant coaches have become lawyers, business persons, and careers with service organizations. Scores remain in education with many still active in debate instruction at the secondary and university levels. Wake has 75 former graduate coaches since the MA program began.
• Ross Smith and Al Louden have both been named "National Coach of the Year," 1997 and 1988 respectively.