History of the Speech and Debate Team

The CSUF Speech and Debate Team has a history as long as the university. It is divided into 5 Dynastic periods, each marked by the director. Competitive dynasties are more difficult to mark. 

If you are an alumni, we strongly encourage you to visit your era of competition and share your stories. We'd love to hear from you!
HELP FILL IN THE GAPS: The chart at the bottom of this page shows what we know and catalogues what we don't about CSUF history. We are especially interested in the names of anyone who qualified for the AFA-NIET, the NDT qualifiers in '83, '85, and '89, and the accuracy of the NDT qualifier list from 1970-1983.

  • FIRST DYNASTY: Lee Granell (1960-1968)
  • SECOND DYNASTY:  Lucy Keele (1967–1983)
  • THIRD DYNASTY:  Bob Gass (1983-1996)
  • FOURTH DYNASTY: Jeanine Congalton (1990-2003)
  • FIFTH DYNASTY: Jon Bruschke (1997-2010)
  • SIXTH DYNASTY: Erika Thomas (2010-Present)


Lee Granell joined the California State University, Fullerton faculty in 1960 and founded the debate team. Dr. Granell received his B.A. from California State University, San Diego and his M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Southern California. His areas of expertise included argumentation, debate, and persuasion. He worked diligently for the Southwestern Collegiate Forensic Association and served as vice president of the Western Forensic Association. He served as the forensic squad coach for ten years and made Fullerton’s presence known in the forensics world in a short period of time. He was elected department chair in 1968 and served three terms through 1977. Dr. Granell was also well known in Orange County as a consultant for Republican candidates for public office. For twenty years he worked on numerous campaigns from grassroots local issues to campaigns for statewide offices. He had a key-role in the campaigns of Marion Bergeson, R-Newport Beach, and Brad Gates, Sheriff-Coroner for Orange County.

Dr. Granell believed in an emphasis on Individual Events and with budgets that were very tight he focused on regional travel.

George Enell, his Ph.D. also from USC, was an assistant debate coach from 1965-1967. He stayed on faculty and retired in 1992, working with the Dean of Students during the Viet Nam protests in the early 1970s. He also helped found the Honors Public Speaking course and on the Honor Board.



Dr. Lucy Keele brought the program into national prominence. Lucy Keele joined the CSUF staff in 1967, became Director in 1969 (serving as Assistant to Dr. Grannell two years prior) and served on the faculty until 1995, resigning forensics duties in 1983.

Her extraordinary service to the field qualified her for receipt of the NCA Mentor award in 2001, the first year the program was offered. In her name over $10,000 was raised to support students. For NCA she Chaired the Finance Committee during the time when the first national office building was purchased. She served longer than anyone on the Commission on International Discussion and debate and twice accompanied students to Russia and lectured across the old Soviet Union and the new Russia to stimulate interest in the discipline of forensic and communication education.

Her long-term support of the American Forensic Association including its work for the National Debate Tournament is legendary. On behalf of this latter group, she served longer than anyone on the Board of Trustees. On the regional level, she served the Western States Communication Association with a full retinue of offices including service as that organization's youngest President. Lucy has received many awards and honors including the highest awards (the Distinguished Service Award) in the gift of the Western States Communication Association and of the American Forensic Association. In her honor, the Keele Award is given annually at the National Debate Tournament to an outstanding forensic educator.

Judy Sanders held the title of Assistant Director until earning her master’s degree and was then designated Co-Director. She went to law school at night and went on to marry CSUF Professor of the Year (2004) Rich Wiseman and retired as a professor at Cal. Poly Pomona in the Spring of 2006. Assistant Director Dan Crary later became an Associate Professor at CSUF and is one of the world’s greatest bluegrass guitar players. Assistant Director Bob Emry became a CSUF Professor and served as chair of the (then) Speech Communication Department.

Under her reign, CSUF received the first-ever first-round in 1971 (John Dolan & Patty Peoples). During this period the current NDT district structure was formulated, and CSUF was one of the seminal programs in the powerful District 1. Individual Events participants David Cramer was the first-ever Titan to participate in the National Individual Events Tournament in 1980 at Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Janice Bailey reached the IE semi-finals in dramatic interpretation.

Dr. Keele started hosting the high school and college debate tournaments. For a period of time the high school tournament was the largest in the nation. Two college tournaments were hosted; one in the fall (now discontinued) and the January tournament (which is now perennially one of the 5 largest in the nation).

The program was chronically underfunded; the title of Dr. Keele’s retirement speech in 1983 was “Goodbye to Motel 6 and McDonald’s.”



Bob Gass did graduate work at Kansas and USC before serving as the Assistant Director for Lucy Keele for one year and then taking the program over. During his tenure he had three different students qualify for the NDT at least three times each and one student who qualified four years in a row. In 1988 he coached a double-octofinalist team, the only Fullerton team to advance to elimination rounds of the NDT since 1973.

Dr. Gass also took a CSUF contingent to China during January of 1989, just months before the Tiananmen Square incident. He reinvigorated the Individual Events program and qualified a number of students to the AFA-NIET. He was the first coach to acquire computers for the squad room and was a leader at bringing new technology into debate.

Key members of the debate squad included Jon Bruschke, a former director, Chris Daley, a 4-time NDT qualifier, and Greg West, a 4-time NDT qualifier now an attorney. Jon Bruschke and Chris Daley advanced to the elimination rounds of the NDT in 1988, the first elimination round appearance since 1972. Mike Dolny qualified for the NDT, received a Ph.D. in Sociology.

Individual Events competitors included: Robin Gurien, former faculty member at Mary Washington. Beth Dumas, now a Cuesta community college faculty member in Languages and Communications. John Seiter, now a faculty member at Utah State. Scott Smith, who now owns his own Public Relations company. Carrie Gartner is the Special Business District Director in Columbia, Missouri, and works with Miles for Miracles to raise funds for Crohn’s Disease.


FOURTH DYNASTY: Jeanine Congalton (1990-2003)

Dr. Congalton co-Directed the program for six years with Dr. Gass until his retirement from debate in 1996. In that year she co-founded the Daniel Webster Project, which would become the Southern California Urban Debate League, at Santa Ana High School. The SCUDL would grow to two additional schools the following year, blossom to over 20 high schools during the life of an OSI grant, and finally evolve into the entity it is today.

Dr. Congalton continued to nurture both Individual Events and debate, and in 1999 Marcus Omari Bowman appeared in the final round of the AFA NIET, the only Fullerton student ever to do so. During her time 21 different students qualified for the NDT, including Laura Heider and Demetrius Lambrinos, the only Fullerton team to both finish in the top 10 speakers at the NDT and the only first-round team since 1973. In 2003 she received the Jack Howe award from the PSCFA for a lifetime of excellent work.

In 1997 the team of Laura Heider and Demetrius Lambrinos received a first-round bid to the NDT, advanced to the elimination rounds, and finished as the 6th and 9th speaker, respectively. They were the first team to get a first round, advance to elims, or win speaker awards since the early 1970s.

No faculty member has ever given more of her personal time, effort and money than Jeanine. Her students ran the range from the talented but troubled to the good-hearted but average to the best in the nation; they all love and respect Jeanine for her never-ending support. In January 2006 the winter collegiate tournament was named in her honor.


FIFTH DYNASTY: Jon Bruschke (1997-2010)

Jon Bruschke began as an Assistant Director with Jeanine Congalton and worked with her for seven years before her retirement from forensics in 2003. He was hired as a 1-year lecturer in 1997 and then as a tenure-track faculty member the following year. The era marked a time when SCUDL graduates were increasingly attending the school and when CEDA and NDT debate had merged after two decades of separation. In 2002, CSUF hosted the CEDA national tournament, and that year marked an impressive sequence of appearances in the top 16 teams at CEDA nationals and the NDT.

Jon retired from forensics in 2010 and remained as faculty at Cal State Fullerton. In 2018, he became the chair for the Human Communication Studies Department. Jon also has a annual high school tournament named in his honor.
Another high-water mark was the appearance in the quarterfinals of the NDT in 2004 (Cameron Ward and Josh Clark), the best NDT finish in Fullerton history, and prominent coverage on the seminal CSTV coverage of the NDT. Cameron and Josh also finished in the semi-finals of CEDA nationals.

Brenda Montes and Luis Magallon are an exceptional team by any score. Luis was the top speaker at GSU in 2005, the only Fullerton student ever to be the first speaker at a major national tournament. Brenda was the 4th speaker at the NDT in 2006 and the 2nd speaker at CEDA the same year.


SIXTH DYNASTY: Erika Thomas (2010-Present)

Erika M. Thomas is the Director of Forensics and an Associate Professor in the Department of Human Communication Studies. She has been in the position since 2010. She teaches a variety of speech communication courses and coaches the intercollegiate and nationally competitive speech and debate team.

She started competing in speech and debate events on her high school forensics team in 1996. In 2004, she graduated with her Bachelor of Arts in communication from John Carroll University in Cleveland, OH. She competed on the policy debate team for four years and was a recipient of the President’s Cup Award for Success in Debate and the Austin J. Freely Debate Scholarship.

She received her Master’s of Arts in communication studies from Miami University (Ohio), and her Ph.D. from the Department of Communication at Wayne State University in December 2011. During her time in graduate school, she was an assistant coach for both programs, primarily coaching and traveling with the policy debate team. Over the years, she has helped coach multiple teams to qualify to the National Debate Tournament (NDT).

Thomas’ areas of study include rhetorical criticism and theory, including critical theory and cultural studies (with a specific interest in representations, gender and queer studies).