It seems like Almost Yesterday that intercollegiate debate began on the campus of Southeast Missouri Normal School. A turning point in that process was the arrival on campus of Professor Arthur Winn Vaughn, who served as the motivation for the expansion of debate from an on-campus activity to competition with other colleges.
The first intercollegiate debate occurred in 1911 when Southeast students Rush Limbaugh and Edward Roberts debated a team from Southwest Missouri State College and Russell Dearmont and Chester Peck debated a team from Marvin College.
In his first year at Southeast, Professor Vaughn organized the Missouri Inter-Normal League made up of teams from Southeast, Southwest (in Springfield), and Northeast (in Kirksville). Southeast's success in these early events quickly led to an expansion that included a freshman team and agirls or women’s team.
Some of the early and successful debaters included Earl Abernathy, Clyde Harbison, Rush Limbaugh, Alison Reppy, Robert Howard, Harvey Cox, Joe Mathews, Roy Thornburgh, and Walter Schlueter. In 1915, Robert Howard was the winner of the state contest, going on to represent Missouri at the Inter-State Oratorical Contest in La Crosse, Wisconsin.
Continued success on the state and national level led to Professor Vaughn having the 1924 yearbook, “The Sagamore” dedicated to him as “A man of ability, energy and enthusiasm, whose earnestness and sincerity has brought this department its success.”
When Professor Vaughn retired, a former student, Bower Aly, followed as the debate coach until he moved to the University of Missouri. In 1930, Professor Forrest Rose assumed direction of the program, and in 1932 Southeast became a member of Pi Kappa Delta, The National Collegiate Public Speaking Society. Rose became the National President of the society, and Southeast achieved a National Reputation in Debate and Public Speaking.
It seems like Almost Yesterday.