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Inaugural Reunion 2022




More than 50 former University of Kentucky Debate alumni and coaches, including two of the three past national championship teams and debaters from the 1950s through the 2020s, returned to UK’s campus for the first-ever Kentucky Debate Reunion in October 2022. The alumni met with the current debate team, toured campus and attended a gala dinner where President Eli Capilouto and former Governor Steve Beshear gave the opening remarks.

Several Debate alumni were recognized at the reunion for their accomplishments and contributions to the Kentucky Debate program and the larger debate community. Deno Curris received the Distinguished Alumni Award, and Ava Vargason, a 2017 graduate, received the Rising Star Alumni Award.

It was announced at the event that the Top Speaker Award at the Kentucky Round Robin, a National Speech & Debate Association tournament, will be named in honor of Paul Skiermont, a Kentucky Debate alumnus. The prestigious Tournament of Champions, which attracts top high school debaters from around the country, will now permanently be named after J.W. Patterson, affectionately known as “Dr. P.”, the founder of the tournament and UK director of debate from 1971 to 2008. Patterson was also a faculty member in the Department of Communication for nearly 50 years.

Additionally, the current and future squad room for the debate team will be named in honor of Jay Finch, a four-time National Debate Tournament qualifier (1992-1995) and second-place finisher in first round voting at the 1995 NDT.

At the reunion, Skiermont also announced the creation of an endowment to support debate activities for years to come. This endowment will play an important role in providing Kentucky Debate with financial security for future generations.

“It was truly inspiring to listen to the stories across generations about the power of debate; it was energizing for myself and our team,” said Director of Debate Dave Arnett. “As we face the next set of challenges to expand opportunity for debate, we know we do so with the support of the entire Kentucky Debate family.”

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