<< Back

Oratory and debate at DePauw is founded upon a long forensic tradition reaching back into the Indiana Asbury period, with its emphasis on public speaking in the literary societies and its graduates' inclination toward such vocations as the ministry, law, and teaching. As early as 1875 a branch of the Indiana Oratorical Association was founded at Asbury, and in 1881 Charles Coffin won both the state and interstate oratorical contests.

The next student to achieve that same double honor was Albert J. Beveridge, later the distinguished U.S. Senator and historian. His victory in 1885 set off an explosion of excitement on the DePauw campus. On his return from the contest held in Columbus, Ohio, he received an artillery salute at the railroad station and was escorted to Meharry Hall by a brass band and military company. The faculty declared a holiday from classes. During the next several years DePauw won many state and a few interstate contests, all celebrated in similar fashion, the victors accorded honors usually granted only to heroes of the gridiron or baseball diamond. Few women participated, but there was a special celebration when coed Jean Nelson won both the state and interstate in 1892, defeating in the latter contest the representatives of 62 colleges from 10 states.

By 1918 DePauw had won 19 out of 37 oratorical contests but only five interstate contests, the last in 1905. David E. Lilienthal won the last state contest in 1918 with a speech on "The Mission of the Jew." There were other oratorical victories as well: DePauw won 10 of 15 contests sponsored by the State Prohibition League and four of seven in the state Peace oratorical contests and two interstate contests.




DePauw also took an active part in intercollegiate debate in this period, beginning with three consecutive victories over Indiana University in 1894, 1895 and 1896. Student interest remained high in this form of public speaking throughout the period, when DePauw teams debated Earlham, Butler, Wabash, Notre Dame, and other colleges to the accompaniment of campus enthusiasm similar to that shown for intercollegiate sports.

Back to Top

<< Back

Depauw University e-history | E-mail comments to: archives@depauw.edu