Friday, June 21, 2024

Three LSUS debate members inducted into IPDA Hall of Fame

by BPT Staff
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“We no longer need Orion to know you’re near.”

That’s the message on Trey Gibson’s plaque to recognize his induction into the International Public Debate Association Hall of Fame.

It’s a saying that Gibson said to his son Alex when Alex would ask when his dad was coming home.

Gibson was often coaching his teams at debate tournaments in seasons that run from September to April, and phone calls would end with, “When you look up and see Orion’s Belt, know that I’m near.”

Alex called the trophy company to have the message inscribed on his father’s hall of fame plaque, except the company put that message on all four inductees’ plaques.

Three of those inductees this year have LSUS ties as Gibson coached A.J. Edwards and Keith Milstead before the latter pair made names for themselves as coaches and IPDA governing officials.

Gibson was inducted as a coach with Edwards and Milstead inducted as debaters.

“I can honestly say this organization might not be what it is today without the input and impact of these three dynamic members,” said Mary Jarzabek, a national champion LSUS Debate coach, an early adopter of the IPDA format, and a 2023 hall of fame inductee. “They have taken the time and energy to help students, coaches, and the leaders of IPDA to grow, while remaining true to the founding principles of education and professionalism that were part of the IPDA legacy.

“I have seen all three give their time, energy and spirit to the IPDA. They give with their hearts and always have.”

The induction ceremony took place at the IPDA National Championships at Mississippi State University, where the LSUS squad finished fourth in the tournament and third in the final season standings.

Edwards coached that LSUS bunch to the fifth top-five finish in his tenure as this year’s Pilots traversed a field with nearly 50 teams and more than 300 debaters.

Debate paved his professional and collegiate path.

“(Jarzabek) recruited me out of (Southwood High), and the only reason I even came to college was because I was told I could debate,” said Edwards, who earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree from LSUS. “Debate completely changed the trajectory of my life.

“I would have been working menial labor somewhere and hating my job. But (Jarzabek) showed up, said I could debate in college, and I asked if I could start the next day.”

Edwards touts six national championships as an LSUS debater – three tournament titles, one first-place speaker title and two season-long national championships. He was a team captain on LSUS’s first national championship tournament team in 2002 and then on the season-long national title squad in 2017-18.

Edwards and Milstead started at LSUS together and were key figures for the program in the late 1990s and early 2000s.

Milstead, the head coach at Southern Methodist University and current IPDA president, won three-season-long national championships, two national tournament titles and was part of the 2002 national title squad with Edwards.

Gibson coached both in their first year in 1997-98.

“I knew they were brilliant and had so much potential from the very beginning,” Gibson said. “Watching them grow from being 18-year-old freshmen and then seeing how they’ve navigated the world, I couldn’t be more proud of who they’ve become.”

Gibson added it’s debaters like Edwards who provided the most joy from his coaching days, which ended in 2019.

“You have your uber-talented kids who are going to be successful, but sometimes they don’t always put in the work that they could,” Gibson said. “Then you have those kids that maybe didn’t come from the best place or have the best teachers and resources growing up, but sometimes those kids are the hardest workers.

“When you see them succeed, that’s the greatest feeling as a coach. It’s like you gave them a Ferrari, and they accelerated their capabilities in life and their future potential.”

With LSUS Debate largely recruiting students already on campus, the program has made a name for itself by cultivating students they find in communication classes.

It’s the basis for Gibson’s success and Edwards’ continued success.

Gibson led LSUS to six overall season-long national championships and three tournament championships in 12 seasons after winning three season-long and three tournament national championships at Louisiana Tech University.

But he almost never found debate in the first place.

A golfer at Northwestern State University before the team was disbanded, Gibson came back to Shreveport as an LSUS golfer and was convinced by Jarzabek to try debate after he took one of her classes.

The three LSUS inductees this year – Gibson, Edwards and Milstead – join Jarzabek as four of the eight members of the IPDA Hall of Fame.

“LSUS was enchanted with this form of debate when it was being formed … and Trey and I were there at one of the founders’ meetings,” Jarzabek said of the more audience-friendly debate style. “When Trey took over the LSUS program after I stepped down, he continued to promote and develop this format.

“And since A.J. and Keith were the star debaters, it’s a testament to the commitment of all of us to promote and continue our engagement with the IPDA. We all agree that this is the most educational, inclusive and professional format of debate in the U.S., and we all want to see it flourish.”

Added Edwards, “To know that all of our names are in the organization’s history book together, it can’t be any more fitting for me. I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

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