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Raising the roof

Dean of Alumni Judson "Jake" Ward '33C-'36G and Association of Emory Alumni Executive Director Bob Carpenter look over the plans for the Miller-Ward Alumni House. Named in honor of Ward and the late H. Prentice Miller '27C-'28G, the new facility will be located on Houston Mill Road and will incorporate and expand upon the existing Scholars Press building. "This will be an alumni center of the first quality," says Carpenter. "It will act as a portal to the campus for our alumni as well as a training center for our students on the vital role alumni play in the life of the current University." In addition to public areas designed for business meetings and entertaining, there will be significant archival space and a center for the Alumni Career Network. Ward, an emeritus faculty member, served during his long Emory career as dean of the College and executive vice president of the University. Miller, whose portrait is on the left, greatly influenced the lives of thousands of students as dean of the freshman and sophomore classes. He is also the only person other than Ward to have served as dean of alumni. Plans call for a groundbreaking for the building in the fall of 1998 and a completion date of late 1999.

Photo by Kay Hinton

A forensic odyssey

The great debates of 1927

Editor's note: In 1996, Emory won its first ever national debate championship, and at the end of the fall 1997 semester, Emory's debate team was ranked number one in the nation. While those recent accomplishments are considerable, debating at Emory has a successful tradition that stretches back more than a century. Emory Magazine recently received the following essay from David A. Lockmiller '27C-'28G-'54H concerning his experiences with forensics and literary societies while studying at Emory in the 1920s. Lockmiller went on to practice law and later served as president of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga and Ohio Wesleyan University. His debate partner during a tour in 1927, the year in which the Mississippi River delta region was hit with devastating floods, was Reginald W. McDuffee '27C-'28L. McDuffee became a prominent lawyer in Savannah where he also served for several years as judge of the bankruptcy court. McDuffee died in 1991.

During its first century, 1836-1936, Emory encouraged forensics. Student debates, declamations, and oratorical contests were weekly events. The Few and Phi Gamma literary societies flourished, and both erected handsome buildings on the Oxford campus before the Civil War.

After the College was moved to Atlanta in 1919, the Few Society met in the Moot Court Room of the Law School, and Phi Gamma met in the Durham Chapel of the School of Theology. Debates were held with the major colleges of the South, and a chapter of the national forensic society, Tau Kappa Alpha, was established.

During the 1920s, Professor N. A. Goodyear was chairman of the Debate Council. He brought the debate team from Oxford University and numerous prominent speakers to the campus. In the absence of intercollegiate athletics, the literary societies were major student activities. Since World War II, the Barkley Forum has carried on an excellent tradition.

I was privileged to enter Emory in 1923 and became an active member of the Few Society. We met each Monday of the school year for debates on current topics, discussions of parliamentary law, and good entertainment. I learned as much and probably more from the informal literary society meetings than I did from required college courses.

In the spring of 1927, I was selected along with R. W. McDuffee of the law school to make the prized Western debate trip. We had three subjects: Prohibition, "The Cancellation of the Allied War Debts," and "The Recognition of Soviet Russia," all live topics of the 1920s.

Leaving Atlanta by train on April 8, 1927, we defeated Birmingham-Southern College on the question of the cancellation of the allied war debts. The next contest was with the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville on the liquor question. Then to Dallas for a win over Southern Methodist University on war debts. The next victories in Texas were with McMurray College and Baylor University on war debts. We then traveled and detoured through the lower flooded South to Baton Rouge, where we won a decision over Louisiana State University on the subject of the recognition of Soviet Russia.

The six victories in a week were a record for Emory, and we returned safely to Atlanta after a train wreck, flood, and many memorable experiences. Insofar as I know, this was the largest and most successful forensic odyssey in Emory's history. Professor Goodyear and the Debate Council were pleased.

I know Emory has fine student activity programs today, but I do not believe any of them replace the old literary societies as a training and educational experience. Learning to express thoughts, to think quickly on your feet, and to counter opposing views in a friendly way is a necessary part of a liberal education.

Lesli Mitchell '86Ox-'90C

The truth about grad school

One of the first things Lesli Mitchell did as a graduate student in 1993 was go to the library to find what she calls "the book on how to succeed in graduate school, because I knew it had to be out there." It wasn't. "I found books on completing a thesis or a dissertation," she says, "but there was nothing about the quality of life in graduate school."

A 1986 Oxford and 1990 Emory College alumna who earned her master's degree in English from Georgia State University in 1996, Mitchell set out to fill that void. The result is The Ultimate Grad School Survival Guide, published by the well-known educational guidebook press, Peterson's. The book offers all the advice Mitchell wishes she had had during her graduate career: finding the right school; gaining admission and financial aid; taking coursework and exams; teaching; doing research; presenting work at conferences; publishing; and, finally, getting a job.

Mitchell, who penned the book while she was writing her master's thesis, did not simply draw on her own experiences--she turned to the Internet and canvassed other graduate students for their advice and perspectives. In four days, she received two hundred and fifty responses, and the guide is filled with anecdotes and suggestions from students across the country. The respondents discussed issues including the difficult transition from undergraduate to graduate school, how graduate work is more like a career than school, and mistakes they made in choosing their programs.

According to Mitchell, the book's three best pieces of advice are, first, "Don't pick your school solely based on location, because then you can really be miserable." Second, "Realize that no one is going to hand out information. Your adviser is going to assume you can take care of yourself." And third, "Treat graduate school like a job. Draft memos of your meetings, turn things in on time, treat your adviser like a boss or a co-worker. You're really there to take care of yourself and manage your own career."--A.O.A.

Photo by Sue Clites

David Fisher '85B

The Rope Warrior

David Fisher can still recall the expressions on his parents' faces when he informed them five years ago of his impending career change.

"One of my brothers is a CPA, and one is an attorney, both respectable professions," says Fisher, who received his undergraduate marketing degree from Emory in 1985. "It took my parents a lot of time to admit that their third son makes his living jumping rope."

And a healthy living at that.

While at Emory, Fisher trained for volleyball by jumping rope and ended up "falling in love with the sport." He occasionally performed during halftime at Emory basketball games. Now the thirty-four-year-old Chicagoan is better known as "The Rope Warrior." He is the founder of his own business, The Rope Warrior Inc., and performs his unique brand of high-energy rope-jumping for school assemblies and private parties.

"At the elementary [school] level, we talk more about cardiovascular fitness," says Fisher. "At a college show, it's strobe lights, smoke, glowing ropes, pumping music-more pure entertainment."

Fisher's latest addition to his act is a tongue-in-cheek tribute to "Lord of the Dance" showman Michael Flatley. He performs the musical number, "Lord of the Pants," in leather pants and a blond wig.

"Given the success of innovative productions like 'Stomp,' 'Cirque du Soleil,' and 'Riverdance,' I thought the timing was right for a show featuring the rope," says Fisher. "I'd like to do for rope jumping what Michael Flatley did for Irish step dancing."

The Rope Warrior is well on his way. In 1997, he performed more than five hundred shows, and Fisher says his yearly income hovers near the corporate executive level.

"Emory was terrific preparation for my career," he says. "Marketing is extremely important. I've always felt that if you can't market yourself, there's not much else out there for you to market."

Fisher's act has been featured on The Today Show, Good Morning America, NBC Nightly News, and on the cover of USA Today's Life section.

He says David Letterman has phoned him three times, "but an appearance hasn't worked out yet."

Still, Fisher has had a few celebrity-enriched audiences for his routines, which often involve jump ropes moving at speeds of one hundred miles an hour.

"I performed in the 1997 presidential inaugural parade in front of President Clinton and Vice-President Al Gore and their families at the White House reviewing stand," Fisher says. "I saw the president's jaw drop and [saw him] start pulling on Al Gore's sleeve and pointing at me. It was pretty thrilling."

Fisher also performed for Russian President Boris Yeltsin at the opening ceremonies for the 1994 Goodwill Games in St. Petersburg. Does Fisher feel he failed to convey the key to good cardiovascular health while performing for Yeltsin, who underwent heart surgery in 1997?

"No, no," Fisher says, laughing. "I think of myself more as an entertainer than a fitness expert."--R.E.

Photos courtesy David Fisher'85B

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