Forensics team works to reconnect with generations of trophy winners

Generations of forensics team trophies are on display in the Library and Academic Resources Center. | Photo by Ben Hultman
Generations of forensics team trophies are on display in the Library and Academic Resources Center. | Photo by Ben Hultman

A Colorado State University-Pueblo professor has been working since the spring to return forgotten debate team trophies to generations of CSU-Pueblo alumni.

Last spring, the team’s director, English professor Kathryn Starkey, found 160 unclaimed forensics team trophies, all scattered around a room at CSU-Pueblo. Her goal, after discovering the trophies, was to return them to their rightful owners in a plan she called The Trophy Project.

Since she started The Trophy Project, she has narrowed that number down to 12 unclaimed trophies.

The debate team has had a long and important history for CSU-Pueblo, going all the way back to 1939. However, in 1996, the team was cut from the university due to budget problems. It returned to CSU-Pueblo last year, with Starkey at the helm.

Since her discovery, Starkey has worked more than 200 hours and has scanned over 1,000 documents “to find the history of alumni students who have debated on the team,” she said in September.

The group created Excel work sheets to document the information she received, including team history, archives, travel schedules, team accomplishments and coaches to pin down every alum.

Throughout the years, the team “brought even national debates form Japan, Ireland, and British,” Starkey said. Starkey also found newspaper articles dating back from 1939 through 1996 about the team’s history and alumni involved.

“I have two goals: one give back all the trophies to the owners, and if not I would like to have display case for unclaimed” Starkey said. “We take trophies to recruiting events, Discover Day (and) Debate Events to show off our history.”

Since the school has drastically changed over the years, “we want to have display cases for the alumni event to display the trophies through every name change,” she said. The university has previously been called Southern Colorado Junior College, Pueblo Junior College, Southern Colorado State College and the University of Southern Colorado.

During homecoming weekend, the team brought together alumni and current students to debate in an event called “Tailgate and Debate.” The team hosted the event in part to try to return trophies back to alumni.

The event, which took place in the Occhiato University Center, featured local lawyer Steve Croshal and Steven Henson, managing editor of The Pueblo Chieftain. Croshal graduated in 1973 and Henson graduated in 1976, when the school was named University of Southern Colorado.

“Each of the alumni who attended were very successful during their time as a competitor,” Starkey said. “There were tons of awards and newspaper articles about each of them.”

Current debate students Gene Wilson and Nalene Ayala debated on the negative side about whether or not Pueblo City Schools should abandon standardized testing.

“The debate was the focus of the event. The team put together an exhibit now located in the LARC called, ‘A legacy through the ages,’” Starkey said. “Part of the research highlighted each name change.”

“After the debate concluded, we watched the video, and the audience voted for the winner. At the end of the event, the alumni team won by 15 votes,” Starkey said.

Starkey said around 50 people, including alumni, the team, community members, faculty, staff and their families attended the event. She also said she hopes to host the event every year.

“This would be a future goal and aspiration for our team, as we are prioritizing reconnecting with the alumnus to, learn their stories and receive advice for currents students,” she said.

None of the trophies were claimed at the event, but some alumni gave their trophies back to the team so that they could be put on display. The team does not currently have a case of their own to display the trophies. Some of them are on display in a case on the first level of the Library and Academic Resources Center.

“Hopefully one day we can get a trophy case and show all the success,” Starkey said.

“I’m grateful for everyone involved to help make the event possible: the sponsor and students who helped, the Department of Foreign Languages, Alumni Association,” she said.

For more information about the forensics team contact Kathryn Starkey at or visit PSY 106.