Skip to content

MSU Debate Alumni

MSU Debate enjoys a long history of success on campus and our alumni have taken what they learned on the team to fuel their future pursuits once they graduate. Some featured alumni include:

It’s not every day you’re in a police stand-off, but alumnus Dave Marvin (’72) found being a member of the Michigan State University Debate Team helped him get out of just such a pickle.

It was driving back from a debate tournament at Butler University that Marvin and other members of the team were chatting when they passed by an Indiana state trooper.

Believing the debate trophies in their hands were actually rifle barrels and that Assistant Coach Bonnie Perry was a victim of some would-be kidnappers, the trooper quickly set up a road block.

“We were greeted by a host of shouting officers with their guns drawn,” Marvin recalls. “Thanks to our superior debating skills, and the true nature of our ‘rifles’, we were quickly released.”

Marvin was a member of the MSU team from 1968-1970, graduating with his bachelor’s degree in social science/pre-law in 1972.

Originally from East Lansing, Marvin said he was torn between Marching Band and Debate after participating in both during high school.

“Debating was more consistent with my plan to pursue a career as a lawyer,” he said. “Debate provided me with unique opportunities to develop and enhance important skills including critical thinking, effective communication, extemporaneous speech, personal confidence, research, and time management. In my case, debate has truly had a profound and beneficial impact on my life and my career.”

The Debate program, which at the time resided under the College of Communication Arts and Sciences, was regrettably scrapped while Marvin was still a student at MSU.

When the program was later revived and Marvin reflected on the camaraderie, teamwork and competition, he decided to create the MSU Debate Endowment.

Twenty years after that, he and his wife endowed a new scholarship for members of the team and over the years, Marvin has also hosted receptions, created marketing materials and met with other potential donors to boost the Debate program.

“I would encourage all alumni and any others who recognized the immense value of intercollegiate debate to get involved with our team,” Marvin said. “Debate offers numerous opportunities for synergistic interaction with diverse academic programs, including philosophy, communications, business, pre-law and others. Intercollegiate debate is unquestionably the premier competitive academic activity.”

Marvin’s law career spans more than 30 years. He’s won cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and was selected as one of the “Best Lawyers in America.”

He works for mid-Michigan’s oldest law firm, Fraser Trebilcock Davis & Dunlap, P.C. in downtown Lansing.

Teresa Sullivan received her undergraduate degree from Michigan State University’s James Madison College, where she was a member of the debate team. She completed her Ph.D. at the University of Chicago.

She joined the faculty of the University of Texas as an instructor in sociology. At Texas, she held a variety of academic and administrative posts, including the chair of the sociology department, vice provost, and vice president and dean of graduate studies. She then served as the Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at the University of Michigan.

Sullivan was unanimously elected as President of the University of Virginia in 2010 and became the University’s first female president. She also previously served as the Interim Provost and Executive Vice President for Academic Affairs at Michigan State Unversity

Douglas Laycock is a Professor at the University of Virginia School of Law, and a leading scholar in the areas of religious liberty and the law of remedies. He also currently serves as the 2nd Vice President of the American Law Institute.

Douglas received his bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University, where he was a member of the debate team.

He was a professor at the University of Chicago Law School, the University of Texas School of Law, and the University of Michigan Law School, before he joined the faculty of the University of Virginia School of Law in the fall of 2010.

He has represented parties in four Supreme Court cases on religious liberty.

Joan Deppa is Professor Emerita at Syracuse University where she taught courses in news writing, reporting, critical perspective on news, communicating with computers (interactive multimedia), electronic publishing (print and web) and computer-assisted investigative reporting. She is the principal author of “The Media and Disasters: Pan Am 103,” and has a strong interest in ethical issues relating to journalism including international media ethics.

She debated at Michigan State and was MSU Class of 1960.

Michigan State University alum Kaavya Ramesh competed on the university’s debate team from 2010 to 2014.

Ramesh received a bachelor’s degree in international relations and Chinese with an additional major in comparative cultures and politics.

Now, Ramesh is a franchise strategy manager at Disney Princess, Frozen, & Walt Disney Animation at The Walt Disney Company.

She said her most memorable moment on the team was winning the 2011 Kentucky Round Robin with an undefeated record and being an octofinalist at the 2014 NDT. During her time on the team, Ramesh said her favorite affirmative was nuclear fusion on the 2012-2013 energy topic.

Read more about Ramesh here.

Michigan State University alum Greta Stahl competed on the university’s debate team from 2000-2004. Stahl later served as an occasional judge for the team and worked at the Spartan Debate Institute from 2004-2006. She was also the team’s Director of Debate from 2006-2011.

Stahl dual-majored in international relations in the James Madison College and history in the College of Social Science.

Stahl, a then-student in the Honors College, was awarded the Marshall Scholarship during her senior year at the university. She received a master’s degree from the University of Oxford through the scholarship.

The most memorable moment of her time on the team was, Stahl said, was when her and her partner, David Strauss, won MSU’s first National Debate Tournament or NDT in 2004.

In addition, she served as a judge on the team when Ryan Burke and Casey Harrigan won the NDT in 2006. Stahl was also the Director of Debate when Carly Watson and Eric Lanning won the NDT in 2010.

Today, Stahl leads a learning and development organization at a large software company based out of the Bay Area in California.

Read more about Stahl here.

If you are an alumnus of the MSU debate team and would like to contribute information for our website, please email us at

Back To Top