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Author Topic: Tributes to Joel Rollins as he Retires from Coaching  (Read 1056 times)
SherryHall
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« on: May 24, 2018, 11:49:44 AM »

From Kate Richey:

In a little over a week, Joel Rollins will be retiring his position as Director of Debate at the University of Texas. I want to suspend what has been a glorious and much needed Facebook hiatus to take a moment to send a tribute out there to the community of debaters (and all the folks that know and love Joel) about a giant in this activity as he makes his exit.

It wasn’t long after meeting Dr. Rollins (an honorific I’ve never once heard Joel employ or insist upon, to anyone, even then) as a young debater and camper that I recognized him as one of those adults who treated myself and my peers as young people with intelligence and something to contribute, rather than as kids who should be directed, instructed, and patronized. I’ve seen him treat hundreds of other young people similarly in the decades since that meeting - growing a small, vibrant and unorthodox summer debate institute into a behemoth - a meeting of young minds that continues to emphasize critical and original thought and empowers students to find it in themselves to speak up and speak out in informed, articulate, creative, combustible, world-changing ways.

Joel has spent his years coaching Texas students, coworkers and employees alike with (mostly) patient mentoring and an open mind to alternative perspectives. Whether he agrees with you or not, or ever will, Joel is definitely listening. The longer I’m alive the more rare I realize that is. He has a knack for delivering criticism so delicately - couched with constructive advice and deliberate displays of care - that even while delivering messages that could discourage and wound even the most thick-skinned person - it still kind of feels like you’ve just been given some small and insignificant award.

Joel has an active mind and a completely original point-of-view. He also has the ability to easily build rapport with people from all walks of life and to encourage diversity of thought and opinion - never settling for easy or comfortable answers. Instead of a judgmental and heavy-handed moral code, he has modeled for his team a strong (but quiet) intuitive sense of right and wrong. Joel has gotten both sillier and more serious since becoming a father and has given of himself generously and tirelessly to his family, friends, loved ones, and certainly his debate team when they needed it the most (and even when they didn’t know they needed it).

Joel - nobody else could do the work you’ve done here. The debate community owe Kristina, Ava and Charlie a debt of gratitude it could never repay for monopolizing you for so many years. I can’t wait to see what this next stage of your life brings for you, your beautiful family, and any of the communities that you choose to invest your time and energy in from here on out #texasforever #t4e

I encourage anyone else with something to say to Dr. Rollins to take some time to compose a note and leave it on his wall this week! Let’s send him off with the kind words and sincere appreciation that he’s given to us.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #1 on: May 24, 2018, 11:51:07 AM »

From Neill Normand:

Congratulations, Joel! I am right behind you! I can’t tell you what your support and love for Caddo Debate all these years has meant to us. Generations of Caddo debaters owe their success to the Utnif and you. Sixteen years ago I was just an English teacher that didn’t know better than to say no when they asked me to take over our debate program. You let me come to utnif and participate just like a student, and I learned so much that summer. And every year since then, the Longhorn Classic has felt like a homecoming. Your kindness and patience over all these years has been one of the greatest blessings of my career.

Enjoy this time with your family to the fullest—you earned it! ❤️🎉❤️🍾
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SherryHall
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« Reply #2 on: May 24, 2018, 11:51:38 AM »

From Scott Segal:

Joel, congrats my friend! I remember well those first couple of years at Texas. You came in with so much compassion, wisdom, intelligence and patience. Generations of Longhorns benefited as a result. What a legacy! Let me know if travels bring you up this way...I'll feed you well, and you can show me your gold watch. Cheers to you! ss/
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SherryHall
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« Reply #3 on: May 24, 2018, 11:52:18 AM »

From Omar Guevera:

thank you for being my friend and role model since we first met in the fall of 89. for 29 years you have been nothing but supportive of everything I did, dreamt, and ultimately, tried to direct in debate. my life would be devoid of so much happiness if we had never met. i am especially grateful for the professional inclusion you always extended to me, even when, at times, I wasn't entirely sure where - or how - I fit in the community. and deep gratitude as well for the decades of just adjudicatory consideration you gave to every generation of debaters i worked with in Dearborn, Bakersfield and Ogden. students from the other side of the railroad tracks don't always get a fair shake in this game, but with you I always knew they would (and did). while I must stop this post to avoid a sad cry, this is no goodbye. I can't wait to see you again, and veronica and I wish you and your beautiful family the best on the next. all our love always, Doc.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #4 on: May 24, 2018, 11:53:24 AM »

From Kevin Kuswa:

Joel, hugs and congratulations! You mean more to me and my family than you know. I would never have had the patience to earn my PhD, let alone coach debate, without your guidance and strength as a role model. From the bottom of the valleys to the glory of the peaks (and we had many of both!), you always had deep and insightful perspective and, above all, compassion for those around you. I remember the very first UTNIF when you told me that we had the opportunity to improve debate in Texas and secure support for the team, but that we had to be diligent and make sure that every single student got better—that the novices at the camp might be the most important students we ever worked with, and that instilling a love for debate was more important than file production. You taught us all many things, not just about Elimite, Castilian food intake expanders, Rod Hart’s paper preferences, the importance of a good breakfast taco, playing defense without expending too much energy, and Velveeta art, but really about teaching and living life. Among those many lessons, three in particular stand out:

1. Everyone is a human being and should be treated as such. It didn’t matter who was crashing on whose sofa, who wore shoes, who was or was not currently on the team, who needed some extra change in their pocket or in the mind, who could or could not get a first round, or who was uplifting and who was an Eyeore. Life is about offering second, third, and fourth chances because writing someone off meant writing everyone off. Caring comes first and you’ve always exemplified that, whether it meant playing silent frisbee in front of the police at 2:00am, finishing up the diseases case hit that no one else would do against Michigan’s aff, having your GAs’ backs no matter the circumstances, asking how someone was doing and really meaning it, or simply listening when someone needed a kind ear.

2. In addition to compassion, humor is the glue. It’s not just about telling a good story (ask Joel about the big garbage bags and the cows for a start), it’s about knowing when to remind folks to pack before they journey, knowing who has something hilarious to share but might need a smile for encouragement, finding a way to laugh with someone and not at them, and being willing to guffaw with abandon. You showed us that we have to be able to laugh at ourselves and that the comic is needed to smooth the tragic (even if Burke is still milk toast Smiley ). Whether the longhorns were winning or losing debates, you always brought levity and reminded us of the larger picture—I remember brody and Emerson being anxious about a big elim at the NDT one year and you getting in a tickling battle with Eric to lighten the mood and help the group focus, I remember calling you about a housing quandary at SDSU one year and you reminding me that most of the debaters had even more bizarre roommates to deal with back on campus, I remember you explaining that it’s ok to give out lots of As because some teachers won’t, and I remember you suggesting (only jokingly) that we could deal with a dispute with a baseball camp at the UTNIF by conducting midnight speed drills in the halls.

3. Pedagogy first, the rest will follow. Stapp used to say, “It’s the UNFIT because Joel is teaching us that we are all unfit in some way and we have to find ways to be flawed together.” You taught us that praxis is more important than product and that we are all students of each other—indeed, the students come first. You taught us that debate is hard work not for work’s sake, but because effort is necessary for growth. You taught us that thinking about class is not about studying for a test, but about confronting inequality on all levels. You taught us that it’s ok to cry sometimes. And you taught us that taking risks is the basis for arguments that matter, whether it was supporting some of the first radically critical positions in the community (the tightening of the gyre, the mid-90s versions of Baudrillard ((wow, that may have gone south!—we should have heeded your suggestion to use Murray Edelman instead)), the criticisms of consumption, or simply some good old Marxism), or working on a case negative that included a qualification debate and used the aff’s authors’ against the solvency. You helped us all strive for consensus in our collective pedagogy because democracy can become just an easy way to avoid the potential inherent in struggle. And, above all else, you taught us that pedagogy is love—love for the process, love for deep thinking, love for overcoming difficulties through collaboration, and love for each other.

It’s a massive understatement to say you have done incredibly outstanding work down in Austin, Joel—there is no Texas Debate without you and the huge number of students you have mentored and coached will always have you in their hearts. You have nurtured a mammoth family that will continue to thrive and impart these and other profound lessons for ages to come. More time with Kristina and Ava & Charlie is much deserved for you all (infinite thanks to them for sharing your light with us) and I’m sure the forthcoming chapters will be rich and fulfilling. Even twenty years after having had the privilege to coach for you, I come back to your example every day. All of us are better because of your influence and, even more significantly, we know that when we forget to ask WWJRD, you are not going to say “I told you so;” rather, you’ll offer a bear hug and say, “What can I do to help?” Thank you so so much for everything and keep on keeping on! All ways and always Hook ‘em! Kevin
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SherryHall
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« Reply #5 on: May 24, 2018, 11:54:04 AM »

From Kevin Johnson:

Joel Rollins is simply one of a kind. The opportunities he has provided for me are out of this world. I love him. He is compassionate, kind, wicked smart, and a great friend. Retirement is a gigantic milestone, marked by the simple recognition that he is irreplaceable. He has been Texas Debate for as long as I have known Texas Debate. Happy retirement Joel Rollins!! We'll hope to visit you this summer.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #6 on: May 24, 2018, 11:55:51 AM »

From Sara Romine:

This #tbt gem goes out to Joel Rollins, who is retiring next week as the Director of Debate at The University of Texas. 🤘 Joel, you’ve had a profound impact on my life and I wouldn’t be where I am today without you. You’re brilliant, kind, and patient. You inspire and empower, and you taught me to have fun while kicking a little ass. 😉 You encouraged me to partner with Alex, insisted that I was cut out for law school and law firm life (I forgive you), and have always given the best advice on life and love. You’re a true mentor and I adore you. Thank you doesn’t capture the enormous debt we owe you. Enjoy retirement and come see us in Dallas. We’ll enjoy bottles of good wine on Alex. Hook ‘em.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #7 on: May 24, 2018, 03:13:40 PM »

As some of you may know, Joel Rollins is retiring from coaching debate next week.  I write this in response to Kate's call for people to recount their memories of Joel.
It is difficult to know where to begin to express my feelings toward Joel.  When I was 17, I showed up at North Texas State University without really knowing what to expect.  I was the first in my family to attend college.  The one thing that I knew I wanted to do was join the debate team.  I found the debate coach, John Gossett, and went to his office to find out how to join.  It was his first year at UNT as well.  He told me that another person had just left his office who also wanted to join the debate team.  He handed me a piece of paper with Joel’s name and phone number on it.  I called him, got directions, and drove out to his house (he was a Denton local) and thus began one of the most enduring relationships of my life. 
We debated together for three years (as he was a year ahead of me in school).  He taught me a lot about debate, but the real significance of our relationship is the impact he had on my personal growth.  I grew up never really questioning my conservative upbringing.  Joel, along with Gossett and Laura, challenged me to ask questions and discover my own beliefs.  I have to say that I don’t believe I have ever met a person who is more kind and caring than Joel.  He has such a big heart and a tremendous amount of compassion for others.  He is definitely my role model for how to treat other people, especially people that you have disagreements with.
Joel was very adept at debate strategy.  He had a knack for coming up with really clever affirmative cases.  He was meticulously organized.  When we first started debating we debated off of cards – yes actual index cards.  The affirmative cards were filed in a brief case with two dividers so that there were three rows of cards.  Joel didn’t use any dividers within the three rows.  He could just reach into the briefcase and find the card or cards that he wanted.  It always amazed me and I never attempted to refile or touch the briefcase full of cards at all.  If I needed a card for the 1AR I would just lean over to him and ask for the card.  Many times, he was already handing it to me before I even asked.
Over the years we have remained very close friends.  We are one of the few teams where both members loved debate so much that each of us decided to become debate coaches professionally.  He helped me cook the food for the College tournament for several years.  This is not something that just any old friend will do.  We taught a workshop lab together for a few summers.  I echo comments made by Kate and others that Joel has infinite patience with kids and is a fantastic teacher.  We have not always agreed on everything, but I can honestly say that we have never had a fight.  I can’t even remember ever having an argument with him in 37 years.  I am really going to miss seeing him at tournaments, but I know that Ava, Charlie and Kristina deserve to see him more.  I also agree that you three deserve a big thank you for sharing Joel with the rest of us all these years.
I wish you best of luck with the next phase of your life, my friend.

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SherryHall
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« Reply #8 on: May 25, 2018, 08:34:44 AM »

From Michelle Lancaster:

The beauty of collegiate cross ex debate is manifested many ways but maybe most by how much I adore Joel Rollins and how little he knows how much I model my managerial life while mentoring kids on sustainability on him. Having smart and compassionate sponsors literally put me as a director at at fortune 25 company before I was 35.

Thank the pulled pork god you were there to reinforce the idea that I was smart, could run shit and had earned everyhungovershrill bit of this voice. You took me seriously when I didn’t take me seriously. Thanks for that
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SherryHall
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« Reply #9 on: May 26, 2018, 09:23:05 AM »

From: Matt Schnall

Sad for the students, but happy for you, Joel. Congratulations on an outstanding career, and thanks for being a thoughtful, diligent, and compassionate educator, as a coach and as a judge.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #10 on: June 05, 2018, 02:25:00 PM »

From Bill Russell:

I know I am a week late on this, but had meant to write something as Joel stepped down as the Director at UT. I've known Joel for over 30 years, first as a competitor, and far better as coaches at different schools, and again as long time competitors in a great fantasy baseball league. As many have said Joel is one of the great guys in debate. Unfailingly kind and generous in every interaction, and just as giving to your students as to his. I remember several times watching Joel's post round RFD's of our students and loving the obvious thought given to the decisions, and his patience in talking the debaters through his thought process and the way he approached his decision, something that is amazingly helpful, at least for debaters that are listening. Smiley I learned a lot myself from watching the interactions. The Texas squad itself was also a great reflection of Joel, not only the competitive success, but the way it's members helped change debate, and what to me always seemed from the outside to be a great camaraderie. Joel has also been supportive of me, and always willing to offer any ideas, suggestions and support that he could through various ups and downs. Congratulations on an amazing career in debate Joel, and happy retirement!
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