Imagine if the Oregon football program had five National Championships in its history, with a legendary coach bringing in four of them in just ten years. The program would be elite, among the bluest of blue-bloods, and the coach — while not a god, would be worshiped by fans nearly as much.
The Ducks actually do have this track record and such a legendary coach. Not on the gridiron, but in an area that would be an unlikely guess for most Oregon alumni. Oregon competes with the best in academics, with a championship program in the UO Speech and Debate team, referred to as Oregon Forensics, built by Dr. David Frank in the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon.
Dr. David Frank: “He’s One of Us!”
As a professor who has published six books, won numerous awards from his peers and the university, and received his Ph.D. in Rhetoric from Oregon in 1981, it turns out that he is not just friendly to the football team at Oregon, but a fan as well. In an interview with Bob Welch of the Register-Guard, it was revealed that Frank is actually an athlete who was a starter on a State Championship football team at South Salem High. He attended games at Oregon before he was even 10 years old, and has been a long-time Oregon football season ticket holder.
“I’m a proponent of football,” says Dr. Frank.
It is evident that the competitive nature of football instilled a fire within Dr. Frank that manifested in his building and coaching of winning forensic teams at Oregon. ”He built the empire that is the UO Forensics Department,” says Brent Northup, president of the Northwest Forensics Conference. “He’s been a national leader.”
David Frank tells me that University of Oregon debate coaches Peter Mohn, Ben Dodds, and Tom Schally worked closely with the national champion debate students, and deserve much of the credit for the program’s success. Whether football or forensics, great coaches surround themselves with other great coaches as Dr. Frank has done.
“Winning is important,” Dr. Frank explains, “but the function of debate is to promote the ethical and human treatment of other people.”
Forensics at the University of Oregon Is Older Than Football
The University of Oregon Forensics Program was founded in 1876, at the same time as the University itself. There were two forensic societies in the 1890s that competed in rival dormitory debates. The university had its first intercollegiate forensic competition in 1891 against Willamette University, debating the labor issues of the day.
The forensics program grew into such a part of the university’s identity and pride that by 1911 the team was able to charge admission to debates. Money raised during these events was often donated to the fledgling University of Oregon football program.
Forensics, from the Latin forensis meaning “in open court, public,” and closely related to the term forum, is the practice of argumentation and public speaking. At the University of Oregon, the forensics program includes individual and team speech and debate events, as well as the rapidly growing Mock Trial program.
A Full Disclosure: Bias Alert
The author is a bit partial on this subject, since he competed in the Expository category for the University of Oregon Forensics Team in 1982-83, and even has one of his old trophies displayed in his office at home. Knowing that he would be doing extensive public speaking in his career, he joined the program and under the direction of Dr. Frank had a tremendous growth experience from his time on the team. He will tell you that “it was the most important part of my college education.”
A New Generation of Oregon Leaders Being Formed…
Dr. Frank has had a distinguished 36-year career as a professor, including his service as the Dean of the Clark Honors College at the University of Oregon. (2008-2013) He has handed the Forensic Football to the next quarterback, Dr. Trond Jacobsen, who was one of the most decorated debaters in the program’s history while a student at Oregon. Dr. Jacobsen has continued the success of the program as the current Director of Forensics at the UO. Under his tutelage, our beloved Ducks have already moved into the elite (Top 10 percent) among universities nationally in the Mock Trial event, the new form of forensic competition.
Former students in all professions can attest to the program such as Rick Peacor, who owns a software company now, and refers to the impact of the Forensic program on his life as a student at Oregon…
“Working with Dr. David Frank, and interacting with brilliant, intellectually curious colleagues in the forensics program was the best part of my experience at the University of Oregon. It would be impossible to overstate the affect my participation in forensics, and especially in intercollegiate debate, has had on my life. The research, communication skills, and self-confidence that I developed in forensics made everything I have accomplished in my professional life possible.”
If you would like to help forensics students represent the University of Oregon in national tournaments and develop their skills as tomorrow’s leaders–consider a donation to the Oregon Forensics fund. UO Advancement made it incredibly easy to donate directly to Oregon Forensics, as donations are managed by the UO Foundation, but exclusively available to Oregon Forensics. (Click here)
Exceptional high school forensic students in the state of Oregon are often attracted to attend college out of state, due to the lack of scholarships offered by the Oregon Forensics team. One such promising student in Portland accepted a forensic scholarship to attend Georgetown University. Our beloved Ducks need an endowment to fund our own scholarships for talented young men and women.
If you would like to learn about setting up a Planned Gift to help fund scholarships after your passing through your investments, insurance vehicles and IRAs, please use the email address in the announcements below and information will be directed to you. Let’s help this proud legacy of achievement at Oregon continue to flourish!
The spirited academic competition over the last 141 years has evolved into the genetic code, the DNA of the university; it is quite literally a part of who we are at University of Oregon. This experience of rigorous research, unending practice, and the development of poise under pressure in a fiercely competitive setting is as formative for the forensic team members as are student experiences in the disciplines of athletics.
You cannot be among the best in any endeavor without such sacrifice and passion. This website will continue to report the successes of the nationally respected and elite Oregon Forensics team — a team that all Ducks can be very proud of.
Charles Fischer (FishDuck)
The top Photo of Dr. David Frank and members of a National Championship being honored during an Oregon football game is from the Clark Honors College