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Ziegelmueller forensics fund reaches $1 million, supports scholarships and travel



Forensics icon George Ziegelmueller created one of the country's best debate and speech programs. An endowed fund in his honor provides support for student scholarships and travel funds at Wayne State.

Thanks to the loyalty and commitment of Wayne State’s debate and speech alumni, the George Ziegelmueller Endowed Fund for Forensics recently reached $1 million. The forensics program at Wayne State is comprised of a debate team and a speech team that are consistently ranked in the top 50 nationally.

The program rose to national prominence under the guidance of former director George Ziegelmueller, an icon within Wayne State's forensics program and the debate community at large. During his 48-year tenure as forensics director, Ziegelmueller built a nationally recognized program that successfully competes against the likes of Harvard and Northwestern.

A large part of the forensics program’s funding comes from the George Ziegelmueller Endowed Fund for Forensics. Hundreds of former students have supported the fund to honor their beloved mentor and to ensure the quality program they enjoyed continues. George’s son, Bill Ziegelmueller, says, “It’s a tribute to my dad that so many people would come together and give to this fund in his name.” It is an uncommon accomplishment for a fund with many individual donors to reach the $1 million mark.

“With this endowed fund, we can ensure that future generations of Wayne State students will have the opportunity to become great communicators, great debaters and constructive voices in our communities,” says Matthew Seeger, dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts. “Dr. Ziegelmueller was a mentor, supporter, educator and friend to students and colleagues alike. Anyone who worked with him was touched by his intellect and sense of humanity.”

Ziegelmueller ensured the debate and speech teams embody both opportunity and excellence. His philosophy was simple: there is a place for everyone. While some collegiate debate teams only accept elite students who were top high school debaters, Wayne State accepts any student willing to work hard.

The endowed fund supports Ziegelmueller’s commitment to opportunity. Scholarships and guaranteed travel funding allow students to join the debate and speech teams regardless of their financial situations. With the average forensics student spending 20 to 30 hours each week preparing for competition, working a part-time job is difficult. Senior debate team member Jake Justice believes the program’s financial support contributes to students’ success at national competitions. “When you’re not worrying about how you’re going to pay, you can focus on debate,” he says. “I also think it makes our team more accessible.”

At age 83, Ziegelmueller can no longer attend forensics events, but he is no less a part of the Wayne State program. Even current students, who began their studies after Ziegelmueller retired as director in 2005, know all about him. “I’ve never met George, but I feel like I know him,” says senior debate team member Talya Slaw.

At the beginning of each school year, the coaches go over George’s 5 Ds, the core tenets of the forensics program—delivery, decorum, dress, deodorant and (no) drinking/drugs. Forensics Director Kelly Young says, “Alumni and current students will make fun of these rules, but they really do define a lot of the reputation of the program. There’s a certain sort of professionalism to our program that makes us stand out.”

Almost every member of the forensics program, past and present, says the same thing about the team: it’s like a family. Contributing to the forensics endowed fund is a way for alumni to honor their Wayne State family and secure the program for future generations of students.

Posted August 5, 2013