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 on: April 08, 2019, 06:43:43 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Barry Ragsdale

 I debated for a small commuter school that nobody had ever heard of. Whenever Ken judged me he would always take the time to also coach me a little, even though we obviously competed (poorly) against his teams. He obviously didn’t have to do that, but he loved teaching and coaching so much, that it was just in his nature. Debate has lost one of its true legends.

 on: April 08, 2019, 06:41:08 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Mike Carlotti

Sad day for the debate community. Ken had an enormous impact on my debate career (so many of our careers...), and thus really everything in my life that has occurred since I joined debate. I was a nobody before the summer I spent with him (and Nicole ❤), and it’s just incredible to reflect on just how big of an impact some people have on your life when the roots run so deeply throughout it all. To Ken and all of my debate mentors (you know who you are): thank you, and I love you. Rest easy, friend.

 on: April 08, 2019, 06:40:30 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Pedro Segura

The summer I spent at the DDI with Ken Strange and Nicole Wanzer-Serrano was the summer debate finally clicked for me and maybe my favorite summer ever. Ken knew when to be blunt (telling me and Andrew Barron "you sound like bad high school debaters" in like our first camp debate) and when to be patient and encouraging (like when he coaxed me into finishing a 2AR that was collapsing out of nerves). He transformed the way I spoke and taught me things during those 8 weeks that I used every debate until my career ended. RIP Ken

 on: April 08, 2019, 06:39:21 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Travis Cram

I believe my vocabulary at the time said something to the effect of Ken RFD was akin to "a wise old grizzly who descends from the high mountain to briefly live among the humans, every so often roaring a new truth into the heavens, forever inscribing it among the star

 on: April 08, 2019, 06:38:37 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Chris Crowe

Ken Strange was an enigmatic force for the early and mid-2000s Wyoming Debate team. Matt, sometime later in our junior year, asked us to start ranking all of the “old-timers” highly on our pref sheets. It wasn’t until late in our senior year, in the doubles at the University of Texas tournament, that Ken finally judged us, in an unremarkable 3-0 defeat. Before that, my knowledge of Ken was relegated to Travis Cram's description of his judging as essentially some sort of pre-Game of Thrones High Septon who would only periodically descend from a misty mountaintop to grace us with his wisdom. Ken was actually far less mysterious than that it turns out, but even more legendary.

Brian and I snuck in a few pretty good wins over the years with some wily Wyoming trickery, and we were well-defended against similar trickery from other ragtag styles of debating. Not much really ever caught us off guard strategically, but we could not beat a top-tier Dartmouth team for the life of us. In the fall of 2005, Dartmouth debuted the season with an affirmative case that seemed facially nontopical to the rest of the debate community. Dartmouth knew this, of course, but I think underestimated the type of in-round investment it would take early on to defeat a big topicality push. By the end of that tournament, they were reading topicality cards in the 1AC to get ahead of it, and Brian and I lost going for topicality against them in round 8 (a debate in which Dartmouth went for “conditionality is worse than being nontopical,” something for which I hope Ken ribbed them a little).

Importantly, we knew from that moment that the way we needed to beat Dartmouth was head-on and to work at least as hard as they did.

Fast-forward to the Wake tournament in 2005, and we got our second chance. Kathryn and I have had some playful banter about this debate for a long time and hell, maybe we actually should have lost, I don’t know at this point. But I can tell you this with confidence: that debate was the hardest the Wyoming squad had worked to win a single debate up to that point in our generation’s history. Eric Forslund produced hundreds of pages of evidence turning every angle of the case. Forslund probably spent 100+ hours preparing us to be negative for this exact debate, including several strategy meetings while he was definitely on the third level of the dream about Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense in Taiwan. I retroactively like to think this emulated Ken’s argument strategy conversations that everyone is talking about since his passing.

In a sense of cosmic topicality justice, and because Dartmouth made us rise to the challenge, we started reading their case the opposite way as our affirmative. Years later, recounting this narrative to Charles and Kade, I learned that Dartmouth was unsure which way to read the case in the pre-season and spent an unreasonable amount of time figuring it out. It now feels like we replicated their pre-season just a few months later. One of the reasons Dartmouth was so difficult to defeat was that they always appeared to have one of the truly great pre-season preparations, and at Wyoming we were awful at pre-season work. I don’t mean we didn’t do a lot of work, I mean that we never had a good angle on the topic or a good prediction of how other teams were going to treat the topic. It took essentially replicating a Dartmouth summer of work midseason to get one measly victory. That is how hardworking Ken and his debaters were.

I worked tirelessly at several smaller debate camps for years before I could break into working at Dartmouth. I finally showed up to the Dartmouth Debate Insitute in the summer of 2011 with luggage full of imposter syndrome. Debate is funny like that. I was an accomplished-enough debater and coach with confidence in my teaching, but Dartmouth impressed me in a way no other program does. I was not afraid, I just wanted to prove I belonged on the teaching staff.

I quickly shed that syndrome thanks entirely to Ken Strange. Ken somehow took a liking to me, and that felt like an immediate free pass to all of his debaters and colleagues at Dartmouth. I have lifelong friends that only took that initial 4 weeks in Hanover to obtain. I spent 6 more years working with and around Ken at the DDI, a fraction of what his closest friends got to spend with him, and yet I consider Ken and the Dartmouth family my extended family. It was that easy to fall in love with Ken.

At the DDI, we had a lot of inside jokes and stories. I will not reveal the progenitor of the following, but we used to have fairly long conversations about how if there was one person in the debate community that you could punch without repercussion, who would it be? It sounds vicious, but it really wasn’t. It was one of those silly things that just comes up after several years of being cooped up in the Choates. We even had an entire list of conditions and clarifications trying to prove how innocent it was. Well, anyway – we would have this conversation in front of Ken from time to time and prod him to answer. It feels like it took several years of massaging the thought experiment to make it sound more nonviolent, less like it was talking shit about another debater, asking ken again and again – before he even considered answering. My memory of wearing him down on this question is probably clouded. It felt like it took years, but maybe it only took a couple days. It was probably most of the summer. Ken Strange - the consummate professional, the High Septon, the most influential debate coach of the last half-century -- never answered.

Or did he?

Rest easy, Ken. I can’t imagine what my life would be like without you.

 on: April 08, 2019, 06:37:10 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Jeff Richardson

Alex Lennon thanks for tagging me in this post to alert me to Ken's passing. He was truly a legend in the debate world and I learned so much from him -- especially, as you say, during our debate lab in Summer 1986 at Dartmouth. As I look back upon my life at the key moments that helped to craft me into who I am today as a critical thinker, that was definitely a highlight. I'm attaching a picture that I came across at some point from the DDI 1986. What a fantastic summer. And what a great leader, who will be missed by so many.

 on: April 08, 2019, 06:36:35 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Alex Lennon

I've been traveling over the weekend so, although I heard about Ken Strange's passing on Friday (thanks Caitlin Talmadge) am only now finding time to write. Maybe it's unfair to say he's 1 of 4 people (Shane Stafford, Scott Deatherage RIP, Paul Newman RIP) who had more influence on me than anyone in debate who didn't coach or teach with me since Ken was my lab leader before my senior year in HS. It's no exaggeration that was the smartest group of people I've ever encountered in one place at one time in my life--no class at Harvard, no professional setting with future and past cabinet members, none. If I remember right, this is one of the groups Ouita Michel taught and included TA McKinney from MBA, David Coleman (future College Board president), Hannah Rosin (Superstar Atlantic author and editor) and Steve Shaw & Emily Fries from Stuyvesant; @Neal Kumar Katyal from Loyola (IL); Marc Rubinstein Jason Bergman & Scott Grossman from St Marks; Zach Lieber from Manchester; Chris Landgraff and Mark Malaspina from Westminster; Joe Thompson and Andy Edison from Kinkaid; Jeff Richardson & Ashok Nayak from Isidore Newman, the Dowling boys (and had to deal with Josh Sharfstein—the giant killer who almost slayed us all) and so many other great minds I'm overlooking and have forgotten 30 years later. It was a time when everyone (and I mean everyone) at the top of the HS game flocked to DDI if they could get into his lab because Ken and his reputation (which was well deserved) were at its peak. The brightest people being taught by the brightest, most passionate strategic mind.

Ken introduced me to forbidden fruit theory (in a debate context) and taught by example how to strategize and prepare for debates at a time when I just winged it when every round started in HS. He thought about issues more deeply than I could imagine and at no benefit to himself other than the joy of the game and teaching others how to play it. It was way beyond recruiting. It was passion. And he led by example.

I remember at UNI four years later--the first tourney my senior year in college (the year after debating with David Coale who had graduated when I was resetting my career with a frosh) having lost to TA McKinney (now at Kentucky) and Rocky with Ken voting for them on a 2-1 in octos on a neg argument I had written over the summer (I remember more meaningful losses than wins oddly)--now after I had learned how to research in college, and taking a dictionary into the room when he was judging a quarters debate hours later and showing him that he was wrong about the word a key card used because I cared so much about his assessment of that debate (the other judge's decision didn't matter to me). He was the strategic mind I wanted to convince. And, as others have mentioned, the enduring thing I remember was that high-pitched cackle as I walked into the room at a suitable time cuz he knew I hadn't let it go. His patience was endless as he listened and nodded and smiled. How could he get mad at anyone who loved the game and cared as much as he did?

He was the first step in showing me what it took at that young age to develop the research skills I needed to win in the top college level years later (beating his own team in the semis in what Tim Alderete nearly 30 years later in FB called the best debate he had ever seen -- because Ken had dug HARD into the aff we had run all year. And I'm pretty sure, as good as the Dartmouth team was, that if Ken was debating, we would have lost. That's how good he was when he set his mind to solving the puzzle that you laid out in your arguments). Those skills benefited me personally well beyond debate--they were the foundation for a career in research and analysis.

I was able to see Ken so many years later at the Wake Forest HS tourney a couple years ago (after he retired for the 3rd time) and we talked (passionately of course) about how the activity had changed since those days. He still clearly loved it but it was, in his mind, harder to dig so deep into arguments because there were so many more and different types now...and the politics of our country had split so badly and how it affected the game he loved...But if there was an argument that he knew his teams had to beat--whether at HS summer camp or to win the NDT--I don't know anyone that would have been more obsessed with researching and figuring out how to win. He dove DEEP, and showed anyone else he coached how to do the same...even if you couldn't come close to doing it as well as he did.

I knew Ken wasn't in the best of health before he passed, but he still loved this game. And he passed on so much to so many, as my Facebook feed shows in the past few days. I hope this finds others willing to read this far that also have such great love for Ken and the difference he made in so many lives. Because he cared.

I could never thank him enough for the difference he made in his life for the rest of mine, but he knew....I can only imagine what the debaters that debated for him in college are feeling. Neal Andre Hylton Marc Wilson Christine Mahoney Erik Steven Lehotsky David Hung Sonja Starr and so many more.

Miss you, Ken. Love you. And thank you. Forever.

 on: April 07, 2019, 07:52:58 AM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by Hester
Years before Ken had retired from Dartmouth and started working at Wake, he would attend D6 meetings held at Kentucky or Wake or whenever we were meeting at tournaments he was attending. He enjoyed our anarchy admnd we loved having Ken Strange double the brain power of the room with his presence.

I will remember his smile and laugh the most. His intellect and devotion to the best of what our activity has to offer is surpassed only by his kindness.

 on: April 06, 2019, 09:40:43 PM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Edmund Zagorin


 on: April 06, 2019, 09:35:48 PM 
Started by SherryHall - Last post by SherryHall
Natalia Mari Espejo

I am 34 years old and one of my proudest accomplishments is STILL the Ken Strange ballot my partner and I earned at DDI. I am so sorry for your loss.

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