MSU Debate Alumni

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

Some featured alumni include:

Dave Marvin

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

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.

Douglas Laycock

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

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.