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Three men molded the speech department in the modern period, Harry B. Gough and his two protégés, Robert E. Williams and Herold T. Ross. The Kentucky-born Gough, who earned both an A.B. and A.M. from Northwestern University before serving as a Methodist pastor in Illinois and as president of Hedding College, was named DePauw's first professor of public speaking and debate in 1907. He soon became a popular figure on campus, known among other things for his booming voice and his unusual locutions. "By the great horned spoon" was one of his favorite expressions.

In addition to training outstanding orators and debaters, Gough had a large part in introducing theatre to DePauw in an era when its Methodist constituency still tended to frown on stage performances. In 1914 he founded the dramatic society Duzer Du, which survives to the present. The author of two books on public speaking, Gough was elected president of the National Association of Speech Teachers in 1923. After 29 years as head of the speech department at DePauw he retired in 1935 but lived on in Greencastle until his death 10 years later.

In 1921 Gough brought one of his students, Robert E. Williams, back to DePauw as the second member of the speech department. Williams, who graduated in the class of 1916, enlisted in the American Ambulance Service and saw action on the North Italian front in World War 1. After teaching briefly at Knox College and the University of California, he earned an A.M. at the University of Wisconsin in 1921. His forte was oral interpretation and dramatics, and he became director of the Little Theatre. He organized a chapter of the National Collegiate Players at DePauw and was elected its first national treasurer. Like his mentor, Gough, he was a popular chapel speaker, known especially for his entertaining dialect stories. Retiring in 1957, he taught part-time for another decade. He died in Greencastle in 1982 at the age of 91.


The third man to join the department was another of Gough's students, Herold T. Ross, who came to DePauw as a freshman in 1914 from his hometown of Rochester, Ind. He later recalled how he was met at the railroad station by a group of Sigma Nus, who transported him by horse and buggy to their house and immediately pledged him to the fraternity. Near the end of his senior year he joined the Army and saw active service in France in the Argonne. After the war, he taught briefly in high schools and at Iowa State University, was English master at Cutler Preparatory in New York for a year, and earned an M.A. at Columbia University.

Ross began teaching at DePauw in 1927 and five years later completed his Ph.D. from the State University of Iowa with a dissertation on DePauw graduate Senator Albert J. Beveridge. He was active in the university's program in oratory, debate and drama and became head of the speech department on Gough's retirement in 1935. He was chiefly responsible for inaugurating DePauw's radio station WGRE-FM and also introduced work in television programming. He served a term as national president of the speech honorary society Delta Sigma Rho. After his retirement in 1961 he served one year as assistant dean of the university and taught at Butler, Hanover, Wabash, and Central Missouri. In 1986 the Indianapolis Star granted him the Jefferson Award for community service, especially in his leadership role in the American Association of Retired People. At present he is a vigorous 91 and rarely misses a university function.

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