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English professor aims to return forgotten trophies to speech and debate alumni

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file photo from csupueblo.edu
file photo from csupueblo.edu

Last year, CSU-Pueblo became widely known as the home of the champions when the school’s football team won the Division II national championship. Since then, the focus has been on the school’s football program.

But a room full of unclaimed trophies shows that the school is home to another dominating team.

Also known as speech and debate, CSU-Pueblo’s Forensic Team was once a force to be reckoned with until the program shut down in 1996. Since then, the legacy of the team has seemingly been forgotten.

CSU-Pueblo’s director of forensics and coach of the newly reinstated speech and debate team Kathryn Starkey uncovered a room full of forensic trophies highlighting the team’s impressive career.

After this discovery, Starkey began The Trophy Project in an effort to return these forgotten achievements to their rightful owners. Not only does she aim to aid the speech and debate program in reclaiming their former legacy, but she’s also determined to uncover and expose the long rooted history of the program at CSU-Pueblo.

“When I started, I was told that there was a bunch of speech and debate trophies in storage somewhere in the art building. What I found was a myriad of artifacts that depicted a legacy of success,” Starkey said.

Starkey’s discovery consisted of 165 trophies, which were scattered in various boxes and shelves.

“These trophies help tell a story, and it’s one I am determined to discover. One thing about speech and debate that makes me sad is that we have no institutional memory. We have no idea where we came from. We don’t know who debated prior to us,” Starkey said.

“I made it a goal to show our students that this is why our team is back,” she said. “The team was once a powerhouse and I want to reestablish that legacy.”

After discovering the trophies, Starkey said she began to catalog them.

“I made it a mission to complete the puzzle of our team’s history. I cataloged all of the trophies so I knew all of the tournaments they came from. Separated by their dates and years, these trophies range from 1963 to 1996,” she said.

Determined to return these trophies back to CSU-Pueblo’s forensic alumni, Starkey began the process of tracking the former teammates down.

“I went and talked to all of the directors of the programs that still existed to see if they could tell me anything about the team or if they had records they could share with me,” she said.

“However, after everything started to get digitized through the Internet, these records became impossible to find. It eventually lead to a dead end. We’ve also tried to go through the college’s yearbooks, but there wasn’t a lot of information in there about the speech and debate team.”

Despite the setbacks, Starkey has had some luck in tracking down some of these former team members.

“Some of the trophies had the names of the forensic teammates inscribed on them, so that really was the first step in building our alumni network. We are working on taking these names, tracing their history, and gathering their contact information,” she said.

Starkey said that Jim Hanson, a former mentor of hers, told her that a Chi Kappa Delta tournament published a magazine which featured tournament winners and the trophies they won.

“I also found out that someone took it upon themselves to publish all the results of the individual events of a tournament at Minnesota State University. Having scans of those documents has helped form part our team’s history and legacy,” she said.

“Using this, I hope to get the opportunity to call an alumni one day and say here is both your trophy and an article of you that you never knew was published. I hope it will bring back some great memories for them and their time on the forensic team, as well as piece together another part of our department’s history” she said.

Starkey currently has most of the trophies on display in her office as she continues to piece together the program’s past. Anyone who wants to assist in tracking down these alumni can contact Starkey in the English department on campus.