Wayne State University Speech & Debate Teams

A Motor City Tradition Since 1918

Several alumni and other supports have generously given to our program in the way of providing endowed awards and other similar gifts. At our annual DSR-TKA Awards banquet, we give out the following financial awards to students on our teams. 

Donald Ritzenhein Award

Don Ritzenhein was the 1965 recipient of the David A. Goldman Award for outstanding first year debater. In 1967, he was a finalist at the National Debate Tournament and a Quarterfinalist the following year. He has tirelessly rooted for the program and was crucial in finishing the George W. Ziegelmueller $1 million endowment goal. We have renamed the Goldman award in Don’s honor based on his commitment and contribution to the program over the years. This award recognizes the top first year debate students of the year.

Picture: Don (right back) with CFPCA Dean Matt Seeger (center back), Dr. Edward Pappas, former Com Department Chair and Professor (left back), and Dr. George Ziegelmueller, former Director of Forensics and Distinguished Professor (center front).

Raymond & Alice Hayes Award

First awarded in 1977, this award recognizes the best second year students on the debate team. Raymond joined the team as a freshman in 1935 and by ’37-38, he was one of the best debaters on the team. In 1938, he served as the coach of the freshman team.

Pictured: Kristen Messina receiving the Hayes Award from Dr. Kelly Young, Director of Forensics, at the 2010 DSR-TKA Award banquet.

Jane Greco Memorial Award

This award recognizes the most improved debater on the team. This award is given in tribute to Jane, who was the premier debate coach in Michigan at Royal Oak Kimball High School. Many Wayne students came from her program or were judged and instructed by her at summer institutes.

Pictured: Dr. Ronald Stevenson, Director of Debate, one of many people enriched by Jane's instruction, presenting the Greco Memorial Award in 2010.

Richard Bernstein Award

Several years ago, prominent local attorney and WSU Board of Governor’s member Richard Bernstein attended the WSU DSR-TKA Banquet and was so moved by the students and alumni stories that he established an award to recognize excellence in speech and debate.This award recognizes the team member who is considered the best overall debate teammate.

Jim and Millie Irwin Award

Both from Detroit, Jim and Millie attended WSU in the late '50s, early '60s and participated on the speech and debate teams. After graduating with his BA, Jim taught at the secondary level and then was a faculty member in the communication department at U of M-Ann Arbor. He was also the manager of the Michigan high school forensics association. Millie began her debate career debating at Pershing HS under coach Dr. Ed Pappas. Like her husband, Millie also had a strong interest in music and played clarinet in bands. In recent years, Millie has been extremely successful running a temp staffing business in Ann Arbor. Like several team members, Jim and Millie met while on the WSU debate team. Both of them are highly engaged in community outreach and service. This award recognizes excellence in community engagement by a team member.

Pictured to the right: CFPCA Dean Matt Seeger (right) presents Jim and Millie Irwin with the Distinguished Alumni Award.

Alfonso Rodriquez Award

Alfonso was an earlier member of the team, obtaining both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Wayne State. He later went on to serve in the elite Office of Special Services (OSS) (the early CIA) during World War II and eventually became Director of Training in the CIA. Alfonso always spoke with fondness of his experiences as a debater and speaker at Wayne State. We give this award to recognize students who excel in academics despite the heavy workload of being a debate team member.

Angela Cowan Memorial Award

Angela walked onto the debate team in 1993 with no previous experience. She thought the activity would be good for her resume. She immediately became an integral member of the squad winning top speaker in the novice division at her very first tournament. During her tenure at Wayne State she maintained a near perfect grade point average, worked multiple internships including one at the White House, and continued to thrive in debate. Her senior year she reached the elimination rounds of the NDT. That same year she scored in the 98th percentile on the LSAT and earned acceptance into all 12 of the top law schools in the country. 

Angela asked George which school he thought she should attend and George said he thought it was better to be a big fish in a small pond rather than a small fish in a big pond. Angela pondered this advice and came back to George a few days later telling him, “I’ve decided to be a big fish in a big pond. I’m going to Harvard.”

Tragically, just weeks before she was to leave for law school she passed away unexpectedly. We give this award to the student who best exemplifies Angela’s spirit. Someone who we think,  despite a lack of experience in the activity, will be a big fish in a big pond.

Paul Nine Award

Paul Nine was a highly successful debater for Wayne State and is a prominent local attorney and remains a substantial supporter of our program. He was on the second team that WSU qualified to the National Debate Tournament in 1961, the first to reach elimination rounds at the NDT and he was the 9th speaker in the nation. An award in his name is given to recognize the top overall debaters for the season.

Pictured: Paul receiving an award from General Westmoreland at the National Debate Tournament when it used to be hosted by the U.S. Military Academy.

Jack Kay Public Address Award

Dr. Kay was an undergraduate competitor and later coach of both the speech and debate team. He later directed forensics at University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In recent years, Dr. Kay held a number of high level administrative positions at Wayne State, Michigan-Flint and Eastern Michigan University. Sadly, Dr. Kay passed away in 2015. In recognition of Dr. Kay’s work in public address and support of the program, we present an award for the best public address competitor.

Shawn McGee Kahle Award

Shawn is the Vice President of Corporate Communications at Assurant Inc. Prior to this Shawn has worked at a number of corporate and non-profit organizations in public relations, management and speech writing and consulting. Additionally, she has held more than 20 civic, non-profit and professional board posts. We recognize her outstanding work as a competitor, coach, and long supporter of the program by recognizing the top first year student performance.

Dr. Neil Mansharamani Limited Prep Award

For the last 13 years, Dr. Mansharamani has served as a speechwriter for the Federal Aviation Administration. As an undergraduate at WSU, he competed in both NDT debate and Individual Events. During his senior year, he was finalist in both extemporaneous and impromptu speaking, taking 4th place in both categories. Later, he coached the IE team from 1999 to 2001. We recognize his outstanding work as a competitor and coach by recognizing the top limited preparation student performance.