Debate Role Models

Debate Role Models

We all know people who touched our lives as a debater, coach, judge and friend.  Here’s our chance to thank them and pass on their legacy to a new generation of debaters. Who inspired you?  Why? What do you want to tell them?


Becky Galentine
inspired people throughout the debate community with her keen intellect, talent, caring spirit, sense of humor and courage. Becky was the perfect mix of skilled debater, passionate coach, trusted friend and community leader. That’s why she was — and is — a fitting role model for such a wide array of people.

My first role model in debate was Susan Dun. Susan isn’t someone that I knew well, but at my first college debate tournament I watched her debate in an elimination round where all the other competitors were men and all three of the judges were men. There was so much ego in the room it was overpowering, but Susan just took it in stride, did her thing, and didn’t buy into the posturing and strutting going on around her. It was truly an inspirational moment for me, as I decided in that round that I wanted to be like her. I wanted to demonstrate my argumentative power through the strength of my words without playing games and buying into the war of egos. I wasn’t always successful, but it was something that I took with me into every debate round I ever competed in and for that I am deeply thankful.

My first debate hero was Kate Shuster. Kate won the national championship with her top-notch skills, but that’s not the only reason. Kate’s commitment to education and truly progressive social change is — and has constantly been — an inspiration.  Later in my career, my debate partner

Leah Castella became a hero as well. Leah’s intellect, talent, and persistent sense of humor (which can be an asset in dealing with me) were just a few of the reasons that happened. Since then, Leah’s work with WDI and Urban Debate Leagues have made me even more in awe of her.

Claire Mckinney is my debate hero. I found her to be an all-around badass, an absurdly nice person but one with a no-nonsense attitude that helped me take debate a little bit more and less seriously.  Claire debated at The Kinkaid School in Texas.

Adrienne Brovero. It is hard to imagine that one could create any list of powerful women in debate that would not include Adri. She was an amazing debater and partner, and a pretty good roommate. She has demonstrated how to have a great career in debate, including being a graduate assistant, a highly respected judge, a coach, and a director of debate. She was in the semi-finals of the NDT two years in a row and has coached numerous teams to great success there, and at tournaments throughout their careers. Every program that she has worked at has been better for the experience of having her, and I have no doubt that will continue to educate debaters for years to come.

I would like to honor Priyanka Krishnamurthy, an undergraduate at Emory University and former student of mine. While Priyanka was an all-world debater, qualifying twice for the TOC, she decided to devote her time in college to the service of other women, serving as President of Feminists in Action at Emory University. In her role there she has done everything from starting awareness campaigns over school issues to attracting national attention for a fantastic production of the Vagina Monologues. Priyanka has already done so much to make the world better, and a world led by her and other talented, intelligent young women is one I feel lucky to be a part of.