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Author Topic: Ken Strange  (Read 3758 times)
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« Reply #210 on: April 18, 2019, 08:55:08 PM »

The Dartmouth, April 18, 2019

Former debate coach remembered for hard work, intelligence

by Lorraine Liu | 4/18/19 2:05am

Strange, center, helped lead the Dartmouth Forensics Union to three National Debate Tournament championships.
Source: Courtesy of John Turner

A legendary figure in the field of debate coaching, Ken Strange not only inspired many students with his hard work and strategic thinking, but also shaped college debate coaching.

“There are probably three or four debate coaches in the history of college debate in the United States who kind of stand in the similar competitive and influential point today,” said Dartmouth Forensics Union director John Turner ’03. “He was a part of a generation of coaches that really made the activity what it was.”

A former director of the Dartmouth Forensics Union for 35 years and founder of the Debate Institute at Dartmouth, Strange passed away on April 4, 2019 at the age of 69, according to his sister Kay Strange. He was interred yesterday at a private family gathering in Oklahoma City. He is survived by his sister and stepdaughter Lindsey Gideon.

“He showed me what hard work was,” Gideon said. “He was always there, he was reliable, he was kind [and] humble.”

Born and raised in Oklahoma, Strange demonstrated his intelligence at an early age, recalled Kay Strange.

“He was a precocious child, from what others have told me,” she said. “He was always a very bright student, he enjoyed school.”

Strange participated in debate throughout high school and continued to pursue this activity while he studied political science at Northwestern University. During his years of pursuing an undergraduate and master’s degree at Northwestern, he coached debate at local high schools. He taught debate at the University of Iowa before becoming the director of Dartmouth Forensics Union in 1980.

While coaching debate with DFU, Strange churned out teams of Dartmouth debaters who succeeded at debate tournaments across the country. Under his directorship, DFU won three National Debate Tournament championships, placed second five times and placed third nine times, according to a Facebook post by DFU.

Beyond that, under Strange’s leadership, Dartmouth consistently ranked as one of the top college debate teams in the country, according to Turner. He said that Strange had at least one team win an elimination round at the NDT for 30 years.

“That’s a competitive streak that is unlikely [to] ever be equaled in college debate,” Turner said.

According to Mark Koulogeorge ’85, Strange was known for his “unique level of engagement” with the debate team, as he helped students with research and argumentative strategies in addition to simply providing them with instructions. Koulogeorge and his teammate Leonard Gail ’85 were the 1984 National Debate Tournament champions with Strange as their coach.

“A lot of the coaches just provided advice, [but] he also helped us do research and worked aggressively with us on particular arguments.” Koulogeorge said. “As a result, he really inspired the rest of us to also work hard. He was a coach who was working with us, not just instructing us.”

Turner, who also trained with Strange while he was an undergraduate student at Dartmouth, echoed Koulogeorge’s sentiment about Strange’s strategic coaching style.

“Ken was someone who was very good at taking a set of information and turning it into a coherent strategy.” Turner said. “Not just knowing something about the topic, but knowing this is exactly where we want to aim our argument.”

Turner recalled that when he joined the team as a first-year without too much debate experience, he felt immediately welcomed because Strange assigned him to do research that later contributed to the work of advanced debaters.

“For him, the team was his family,” Koulogeorge said.

In 1986, Strange established the Debate Institutes at Dartmouth, which features premier summer debate workshops that train high school students for different types of debates, according to lifelong friend David Baker. Baker, who worked with him for 16 years, said that Ken started the Institutes because of his passion for bringing quality debate education to more students.

“I think Ken started the Institute because he really wanted to provide a high-quality program for exceptional students,” Baker said.

Apart from producing nationally successful policy debaters for more than 30 years, the Debate Institutes also attracts students to apply to Dartmouth. Steven Sklaver ’94, who attended two summer debate workshops at the institute before coming to Dartmouth and was a 1993 National Debate Tournament champion alongside Ara Lovitt ’94, said he applied to Dartmouth because of his high school debate experience with Strange.

“Ken is my Dartmouth experience,” Sklaver said. “He is the reason I went to Dartmouth and the reason I chose my roommate, and I am extremely grateful for it.”

After his directorship at Dartmouth ended in 2015, Strange worked as the assistant head coach at the Wake Forest University debate team for two years.

Strange inspired his students in many different aspects that are not limited to simply college debate. Craig Budner ’87, a member of the second-place team at the NDT in 1987, said that Strange taught him how to “work, research, and frame arguments in a way that someone else could understand.”

“I would say that he was probably the teacher who played the most influential role in my life,” Budner said. “He made me who I was, and I think about him every day.”

Correction appended (April 18, 2019): The original version of this article misspelled Kay Strange's last name. The article has been updated to reflect this change.
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« Reply #211 on: April 27, 2019, 08:46:31 AM »



The Budner family has made arrangements with Bent Tree Country Club in Dallas for Ken’s memorial service.  The service will start at 4:00 p.m. on Saturday, June 8.  The club is located north of I-635 near the North Dallas Tollway.  The address is:  5201 Westgrove Drive Dallas, TX 75248.  The service will be followed by a buffet reception (with a full bar) at the club.  Please feel free to post/forward this information.  For those traveling to Dallas, there are a wide range of hotel options—three properties convenient to Bent Tree are listed and linked below.


Westin Galleria Dallas

Renaissance Dallas

Dallas Marriott Quorum


If you are planning to attend, please follow this link:
 and fill out the requested information.  Please feel free to share the RSVP link with others.  For planning/catering purposes, we need accurate attendance numbers.  Please complete the RSVP form by May 15, 2019.


A separate bank account has been established for memorial service expenses.  The suggested donation (dinner/full bar) is $50 per person.  Several Dartmouth alumni have generously pledged funds to ensure everyone who wants to attend may do so regardless of ability to contribute.  You may donate to the memorial services expense account through Zelle or by sending a check to me.  You may donate through Zelle from your bank or the Zelle app to David Baker, and write “Ken Strange Memorial Service” on the memo line.  If you do not have a Zelle account or would rather donate by check, then please make checks payable to David Baker and send to:


David Baker

St. Mark’s School of Texas

10600 Preston Road

Dallas, Texas 75230


Any remaining funds in the memorial service account will be donated to the Dartmouth Forensic Union “In memory of Ken Strange” fund.


Thank you for your patience.  I look forward to seeing all of you in Dallas.  Godspeed, and safe travels.

« Last Edit: April 27, 2019, 08:51:34 AM by SherryHall » Logged
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« Reply #212 on: May 06, 2019, 02:33:38 PM »

Kevin Kuswa
May 6 at 3:12 PM
Ken Strange was a major force (of Yoda levels) in the debate community for a long time and I was lucky to work for him for a few years in the 90s. Unfortunately, it looks like I will have to miss the gathering in June to celebrate his life so I want to share a story or two here. It’s hard to choose—there are so many great stories about his many stellar teams, about rounds he’s judged, about tournaments we attended, about the Dartmouth debate institute, or just about hanging around Hanover. The one I’d like to relate includes a little lesson about teaching that might be interesting to many of you, even if you did not know Ken.

It was the mid-90s and I was an excited young coach working for a great Dartmouth program with lots of motivated and talented debaters. In preparation for the Kentucky tournament that year, we all pitched in and tried to produce a viable case file against most of the big teams. My assignment was Michigan’s Afghanistan aff and I was asked to work with a few of the first-years to broaden our research base and give them a sense of what a decent case file should look like. Ken was optimistic about what we would produce, giving some key pointers on how to dismantle the aff and what the overall file should include. He was always really good at cutting to the core of an affirmative and isolating its weaknesses and what evidence was needed to really take a dent out of it.

We moved forward and the file started to take shape—all the bells and whistles: links to our big off-case DAs, a couple of advantage CPs that avoided the links to politics and a China influence DA (that Ken wrote—it was awesome), recent and nuanced case answers, including unique offense (Hekmatyar backlash, Paki border crossing, tribal moderation, etc.). It was a pretty sick file, well-organized, evidence highlighted, extensions written, copies made, and I even remember Steven Sklaver chipping in with some solid uniqueness cards for the case turns and Bill Russell found links to our BJP DA. So we head to Kentucky and, lo and behold, the round 5 pairings come out—posted on a wall at the time—and one of Dartmouth’s younger teams is debating one of the top teams from Michigan...and we were negative!

The round takes place, I forget who was judging, but the Dartmouth team ends up winning on a risk of the China DA and very little left on case. It was a huge win and we were all very excited. At the end of the day, Ken gathers all of us together before dinner and we’re going over the results from the day to allocate assignments for the elims. Ken tells the team how proud he is of everyone and how we still have work to do for the morning. Then, in a moment I will never forget, he stops for a second until he has everyone’s attention. In his deep voice he says, “You all, we had a really big win in round 5 against Michigan and I think we need to give props to the folks who put together our Afghanistan file, especially...,” (at this point I’m thinking he’s going to thank me for the work on the file and how useful it was, but, instead, he continued), “...especially young Jonathan for all his great work!”

Everyone started clapping for Jonathan and I was somewhat surprised. The young debater Ken was praising had been in the research group, but he hadn’t really turned anything in and was not a big part of the effort that went into the file...what was going on here? I thought about it a little more and it began to dawn on me—the coaches and experienced debaters did not really need recognition for their work on the file, but the young debater who received Ken’s praise really did. The more I thought about it the more it not only made sense to me, it became a microcosm of Ken Strange’s pedagogy: encouragement is currency and a team must use its currency wisely. Sometimes the best recipient of accolades is not necessarily the person who put in the most effort. Sometimes a little nod to someone learning the ropes can go a long way. What a lesson to learn! Recognition and encouragement can happen in many ways, making the craft of coaching about extending support to those at the bottom of the totem pole, not just a race to cut more cards. It was a profound moment and the lesson about the role of teaching was not lost on me.

A few weeks later the team was preparing for a regional tournament prior to Wake (probably West Point or Liberty) and we were getting together some new case files. The DUF was in Robinson Hall at the time and we would usually gather around the copy machine in order to make copies of the new assignments before leaving town. I was standing at the machine, double checking some of the files and stuffing manila folders with the fresh copies of our new material. As I was about to leave the office after most of the teams had collected their files and headed off to pack, I heard a voice from the hallway, “Wait, Coach, don’t turn off the machine yet, I have my file!” It was Jonathan. He had been given some of the new environmental cases to work on and handed me a thick folder of evidence. It could have used a bit more organization, but overall was really impressive—new research, recent cards, lots of case defense, and even some links to a few of our generics. Exactly what you would want—and he had done it all on his own. Would he have put that file together without Ken’s encouragement from Kentucky? Maybe—but maybe not. The point was that he felt connected to the team and wanted to put together a good file—he was invested. That’s something I always felt Ken was so good at—encouraging people to give 100%, to care what they were doing, to work together for a common objective. I owe Ken a lot for that message among many other things. RIP my friend.
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