Forensics at Northern

The Minervan Debating society caught my eye as I scrolled through a collection of student organizations by name. I have always had a particular affinity for the club’s goddess namesake, Minerva, who was the Roman god of wisdom. (She was known in Greece as Athena, too.) I have considered her my “patron goddess” since I learned of her, because she represents intelligence, education, and wisdom — all qualities I find especially important.

It was this club’s name that caught my attention, but perhaps more interesting was what I found after looking them up in the 1926 Kawbawgam yearbook on the Archives’ reading room shelves. Out of 18 student organizations at Northern in 1926, six were debating societies. Compared to today’s nearly 300 organizations, not one holds the sole purpose of debating. In order to get a better understanding as to what these groups did, I read through their descriptions in several yearbook editions.

Forum Debating Society

Each section of the yearbook had a title page like this, with a small illustration. They usually made more sense than a cat and dog scene, though.

Comprised of 19 female students, Forum is probably the least notable of all groups… That is, they would be if they did not have a Sergeant-at-Arms listed under their Officers. Noted next to the regular roles of President and Treasurer, this position was held by Beatrice Morrison. A quick search on Google informed me that a Sergeant-at-Arms has the duty of maintaining order and security. Given the fact that she was the only such person in all of the debating groups, it is not difficult to imagine each young woman pictured making a firm point during their meetings, and maybe discussions getting a bit out of hand, too. Meetings were held each Wednesday at 3:45, where the girls met with their faculty sponsors, history professor Miss Miriam Compton and English professor Miss Daphne Dodds, to practice their skills.

Minervan Debating Society

“The aim of the Minervan Debating Society is to develop the ability to debate and coach debating. The society has debated weekly on current topics. Keen competition and interest in argumentation has been aroused through the inter-society clashes.” So says their description in the Kawbawgam, placed above a doodle of the spear-and-shield armed goddess herself. Though they had one less member than the other all-female group, the Minervans were represented on both the Affirmative and Negative Intercollegiate Teams (more on those later.) Their picture below was the only group photo in the “Forensics” section of the book.

Part of the Archives’ collections include the original layout boards that eventually formed the yearbook. Here is image page for the 1927 Minervan Society.

Webster Debating Society

Named for Daniel Webster (who was a famous orator and Congressman in the early 1800’s), this group of 16 young men must have been an interesting bunch. They are noted for having debates on such “current questions” as prohibition and co-education, and a fun fact is written in their description as well: “Sylvester Trythall and Mr. Meyland related their experiences in traveling; the former telling of his trip through the East, and the latter, of his jaunt through Canada. They instilled into every member the longing to travel.” Trythall would go on to receive the Distinguished Alumni award from Northern in 1962, and you can read about his travels here.

One of my favorite things about the yearbooks in our reading room are the notes written inside. This one is from Leo Yanasab, who wrote next to his own photograph, “Every time I’ll think of Billings, I’ll remember of you as one of the gang. Best of luck and success in all your future work.” Leo was a Websterite, and Howard Billings was a member of the Haynes Society. Though the original owner of the yearbook wasn’t in any debate groups, he must have been friends with many members and tagged along to their events.

Haynes Debating Society

Though the Haynes Society members didn’t have a fun name like the Websterites did, they were undoubtedly the most active and enthusiastic Forensic group on campus. “That the men of Northern are becoming interested in this work,” says their description, “is further shown by the fact that when a call for membership was issued last fall, the roll was augmented by thirteen new recruits.” They seem to have hosted the most events, too, including a banquet at the “College Eat Shop.”

Affirmative and Negative Intercollegiate Teams

The intercollegiate teams at Northern were responsible for representing the school in debates across the state. Most notable were those at the Ypsilanti and Central normal schools, which both had the same question for debate: “Resolved, That the United States should recognize the present government of Russia.” With wins at both Ypsilanti and Mount Pleasant, these teams were a successful grouping of members from Minervan, Webster, and Haynes.

See the gallery below for more news articles about debate groups on campus, or stop in to the Archives to view them on Northern Normal News microfilm reels. The Kawbawgam yearbook series are also available to the public, and can be found on our reading room shelves.

This post was written and formatted by Emily Tinder.


Archives Trivia Night – Study Guides!

In case you hadn’t heard, we’re hosting a trivia night! It’s next Thursday, the 28th, in the Archives at 7:00. Oh, and did we mention that the first place winner gets $50?

See the guides below and come on down to the Archives to be our first winner!

Northern’s Past: 100, 50, 25, and 10 Years Ago

We’re already almost two months into 2019. For me, it feels like those two months have flown by very quickly! Because of this, I’ve been thinking a lot about “time.” So, for this blog post, I thought it would be fun to go back to various points in history and explore what was going on at NMU. And now, we can travel aboard my “time machine” using the campus newspaper as our guide!

100 years ago: 1919

Who was the President of the United States? Woodrow Wilson
Who was the Governor of Michigan? Albert Sleeper
What was NMU called? Northern State Normal School
Who was the President of Northern State Normal School? James H.B. Kaye
Notable International Event: Signing of the Treaty of Versailles ending World War I (June 28)
Notable American Event: Prohibition established (October 28)
Notable NMU Event: Death of Professor Samuel D. Magers (January 16)
Why is this event notable for NMU? Professor Magers was a professor of Natural Sciences at Northern State Normal School. He died in 1919 as a result of the Spanish influenza pandemic. His daughter, Mildred Magers, who was 22 when her father died, eventually became a professor in the Language and Literature Department at NMU. The Magers residence hall is named after her.

50 years ago: 1969

Who was the President of the United States? Richard Nixon
Who was the Governor of Michigan? William Milliken
Who was the President of Northern Michigan University? John X. Jamrich
Notable International Event: Yasser Arafat is appointed chairman of the PLO (February 4)
Notable American Event: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin land on the moon (July 20)
Notable NMU Event: The Student Government Association votes passes a resolution to recommend to President Jamrich that the Job Corps Center stays open (February 18)
Why is this event notable for NMU? The Job Corps Program was a federally created program that started in 1964. Then-president Edgar Harden helped establish a Job Corps Center for Women at NMU in 1966. In 1969, the federal government gave notice to NMU that the Center needed to be closed. This was due to cuts in the federal budget. Many students protested, and a vote in the Student Government Association recommended that President Jamrich keep the Center open. However, a referendum was soon held, and by a vote of 1,322 to 791, students voted in favor of closing the center. The Job Corps Center closed on June 20, 1969.

25 years ago: 1994

Who was the President of the United States? Bill Clinton
Who was the Governor of Michigan? John Engler
Who was the President of Northern Michigan University? William E. Vandament
Notable International Event: Nelson Mandela is sworn in as South Africa’s first black president (May 10)
Notable American Event: is founded in Bellevue, Washington by Jeff Bezos (July 5)
Notable NMU Event: Longyear Hall demolished in Fall of 1993, leaving a vacant lot where a proposed parking lot sparked discussion on campus.
Why is this event notable for NMU? Though this event may not be that notable for Northern’s history, I have heard many students over the years complain about the parking issues on campus. So, in some ways, seeing that parking was also an issue at NMU 25 years ago made me think about how past students were not that much different than the students of today.

Before, during, and after the demolition of Longyear Hall (1993).

10 years ago: 2009

Who was the President of the United States? Barack Obama
Who was the Governor of Michigan? Jennifer Granholm
Who was the President of Northern Michigan University? Leslie E. Wong
Notable International Event: The World Health Organization declares H1N1 swine flu to be a global pandemic (June 11)
Notable American Event: Barack Obama sworn in as the United States’ first African-American president (January 20)
Notable NMU Event: Residence halls begin using students’ ID cards to get into the buildings rather than an actual key.
Why is this event notable for NMU? This event shows how technology has advanced over time, and how Northern can adopt these technologies in various situations, be they academic research or student safety.

If you’d like to take your own trip on the “time machine,” come into the Archives during our open hours. You can use our microfilm readers to see campus newspapers from the past! Want to know what happened at Northern the year you were born? What about the year one of your family members graduated from NMU? We’d be happy to help you explore the past. We also have plenty of other resources to help you with any research questions you may have about Northern Michigan University and the central Upper Peninsula of Michigan.

This post was written and digitized by Lucas Knapp, and formatted by Emily Tinder.