Not up for debate: Debate coach inducted into National Forensics Association

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Kathryn Kelly

After being chosen by the selective committee of the National Forensics Association (NFA), Associate Director Lafayette Forensics and Debate Coach John Boyer has been inducted into the association’s Hall of Fame.

As a member of the Hall of Fame, Boyer is among those who have excelled in competing in forensics, in contributing to forensics after college graduation and in their own professional field, meeting the NFA’s three criteria for induction.

The NFA is an academic association dedicated to providing leadership in intercollegiate speech and debate education in the United States, according to their website. Each year, the NFA sponsors a collegiate national championship, where the induction ceremony occurs.

Boyer was one of six people selected out of twenty nominees for induction into the hall of fame this year, according to Director of Forensics at Lafayette Scott Placke.

“I think that that’s pretty telling and pretty awesome, how choosy the committee that makes that decision had to be,” Placke said.

While Boyer remained humble when speaking of the induction, he did recognize it as the pinnacle of his achievements in forensics and debate.

“Once you finish competing in debate or speech, there’s not much else you can do other than coach,” Boyer said. “Getting inducted into the Hall of Fame is like the one thing that you can still work towards.”

Placke said that Boyer has been instrumental in growing Lafayette’s forensics program ever since he joined their team eleven years ago.

“John has really made our team a powerhouse in debate and he is somebody who is pretty universally respected in the forensics, speech and debate community,” Placke said. “The last four years in a row we’ve placed in the top five schools in the country. And that is in large part due to the credit of John Boyer.”

But Boyer is not just passionate about debate, president of the Forensics Society Vanessa Milan ‘16 wrote in an email. She wrote that he is passionate about helping the debaters he coaches find out what makes them passionate about debate.

“I think his devotion to inclusiveness is what the NFA, and what I, admire about him most,” Milan wrote.

Boyer “challenges people intellectually” to find the best way to articulate themselves and emphasizes the importance of students actually believing what they say in competition, Milan said in an interview.

As a coach at Purdue University, Placke was aware of Boyer when he was a college student at Otterbein University in Ohio, because of his renowned speech and debate skills.

“I used to coach at Purdue and I had a competitor who was afraid of John,” Placke said. “She was like, ‘I don’t want to be matched up against him, I’m going to lose.’ He was good.”

As a coach, Boyer said he finds it gratifying to see his students excel and go on to achieve great things.

“It’s really rewarding to watch students realize the foundation that they’re building by participating in forensics and debate,” he said.

Students from the debate team have gone on to some of the best graduate schools in the country, including Harvard Law School, UPenn and Cornell, he added, which they often attribute at least partially to their time on the team.

Boyer also said he believes that forensics and debate prepares students for life in a way that many other activities cannot.

“In terms of all the things that you can do in college to better yourself as a human and better yourself as an adult, so that when you leave college you’re better prepared for life, I think one of the most important activities is debate and forensics,” he said.