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Remembering Dr. Ken Strange, Director of Darmouth College Debate Team for 35 Years and Debate Coach, Judge & Role Model to all.

by Erik Fogel | Apr 07, 2019 | |
Ken strange


"I'm a crazy, old man. You are strongly advised to strike me.  If that didn't convince you, I hope the following will…” - first sentence of Dr. Ken Strange's judging paradigm, former Director of Debate of Dartmouth College. The Debate Community lost one of the most incredible debaters, coaches, judges, teachers, advocates, and human beings last week. Ken directed the debate program at Dartmouth College for an astonishing 35 years (1980-2015). And did not simply direct the program but created a legendary debate program. His accomplishments include eight National Debate Tournament (NDT) finalists, three NDT champions, about a dozen NDT semi-finalists, three CEDA Nationals finalists, five Copeland Award winners, and a number of top NDT speaker awards. For almost 30 straight years Ken had teams winning at least one elimination round at the NDT. But even more importantly his impact on hundreds of thousands of debaters over the years including so many NYC debaters, alumni, teachers, and myself. Ken is the model of a Great Debater, Great Coach, Great Judge, Great Educator and Great Person and while missed, his life, impact, lessons continue forever in so many of his students, friends, family and entire debate community. 


For those who did not or did know Ken, sharing several of the many Facebook memories of Ken to learn more about the incredible impact he had on so many. You can also view more on College Policy Debate Forums (click here)


"To friends of mine not in the debate community, or very young debate friends: one of the most generous, most successful, most ethical debate teachers has passed. Ken was brilliant in many ways, but never more brilliant than as an explicator. He was a grand eminence in the debate world, and he knew what he was worth, but he never behaved as though he were better than anyone else. God knows he proved that kindness and "education" are quite consistent with overpowering competitive success. I was very lucky to work with him, however peripherally, for ten Dartmouth summers. If we in debate tried a little harder to be like Ken, we would make our professional community (and the world) a better place."  – Les Philips, Director of Debate at Nueva Upper School


“He has been such a force not only in my life, but throughout the activity as well. He was voted as one of the top five judges of the 1970s (4), the 1980s (2), the 1990s (2), and the 2000's (2). He was voted as a top five coach in the 1980s (1), the 1990s (4) and the 2000's (5). Under Ken's direction Dartmouth had a streak of earning at least one first round at large bid and qualifying at least one team for the octafinals of the NDT every year from 1980 through 2009, thirty years. In addition to his tremendous coaching success, he was a great friend, colleague and boss.” - Sherry Hall, Debate Coach at Harvard University


"Ken Strange was a legend in academic debate. For those that do not know this long-time director of Dartmouth Debate passed away a couple days ago. I heard him lecture at the Wake Workshop in the 1980s and was blown away. Ken was one of the most brilliant thinkers I have ever met who understood strategy in debate rounds better than most in the last 50 years. Plus, he always had a kind word. On a personal note, he believed in my when I didn't deserve it. I worked with/for him for many summers. I remember visiting with him at Darrel Wanzer-Serrano and Nicole Wanzer-Serrano's wedding. I treasured the opportunity. I will never forget how he would lean in an almost whisper the punchline to stories, as if he were telling you a well-kept secret amongst friends. Ken was generous and created opportunities for others, made you feel a part, and all the while was a fierce competitor. As a judge, coach, and teacher, he influenced hundreds of thousands over the lifetime of his career. An incredible model of a debate scholar."  RIP – Brian Lain, University of North Texas


"It is with a heavy heart that I write to mourn the passing of Ken Strange, the Director of the DFU from 1980-2015. For hundreds of DFU alumni, thousands of students at the DDI, and the entire college debate community, Ken left an indelible legacy as a legendary coach, unparalleled teacher, and dear friend.  We invite you to share reflections and stories of Ken’s life and legacy. Ken dedicated his life to improving the arguments and character of all those around him. His wisdom, passion, and dedication inspired countless people, yet he remained humble and self-effacing to a fault. Ken’s coaching achievements with the DFU included winning three National Debate Tournament Championships, five NDT 2nd places, and nine NDT 3rd places. His peers selected him the coach of the decade for the 1980s. In a coaching feat that may never be equaled, Dartmouth won at least one elimination round at the NDT every year from 1980-2009. Ken also cared deeply about students on other teams. He gave his utmost to judging thoughtfully and thoroughly. He was selected as a one of the top five judges in the nation for the 70s, 80s, and 90s.  Ken’s research was consummate and exemplary in every way. He had a process for every step of constructing an argument. Even more than teaching his debaters what they needed to win, he taught all of us how to think. If the third hour of a pre-NDT meeting on a single argument could make a difference, it was worth everyone’s attention. Nearly every DFU alum has, at some point, attempted a Ken impression. Even Ken had an impression of everyone else’s Ken impression – reserved for observing “You all [even deeper than usual intonation] make me sound ridiculous.” He was right that we were all imitating someone who was, ultimately, inimitable. Perhaps we all know that any part of emulating Ken we can get right adds to the wisdom, joy, and excellence that stand as his legacy. I showed up to Dartmouth as a student in 1999 without a clue about college debate and a couple years of experience on a local circuit. I thought there would be try-outs that might prevent me from debating at Dartmouth. Instead, Ken welcomed me to the team, listened to terrible practice debates, and helped me work on small assignments to get a handle on an unfamiliar world. As long as you cared, Ken cared about you. I came to college hoping to become a teacher. It was Ken who taught me how to teach and what to teach."  – Dartmouth Forensics Union


"Colleges are especially interested in students who devote themselves to an activity and show excellence in that area. Debate is one activity that serves these purposes if a student can show devotion to it. A number of colleges also know that outstanding debaters are likely to perform academically above the level predicted by their test scores. Debaters benefit from superior research, organizational, and communication skills.– Dr. Ken Strange, Dartmouth College, Former Director of Debate (https://www.montgomerybell.edu/at-school--new/debate-and-forensics/debating-in-college)

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