Speech & Debate

Speech and Debate is Hawken’s largest extra-curricular activity. Founded over 40 years ago by Dr. Larry H. Banks, the team has built an impressive list of results, including multiple individual event state champions, two team state championships in 2014 and 2016, two national championships in 2014, and three-time recipients of the National Speech and Debate Association Debate School of Excellence Award. Every season, the team travels around the country to debate at the country’s most prestigious tournaments including the Harvard Invitational, Emory’s Barkley Forum, and the University of Kentucky’s Tournament of Champions. Currently led by Bob Shurtz and Susan McGraw, the Speech and Debate team is without a doubt one of Hawken’s most celebrated signature programs.

Speech & Debate Coach Biographies

Bob Shurtz
Bob Shurtz has been teaching science and math and coaching speech and debate at Hawken School for over 30 years. He has been the Director of Speech and Debate since 1998. He has received his third diamond from the National Speech and Debate Association and is a member of the Ohio High School Speech League Hall of Fame. He has coached many state champions in Lincoln Douglas Debate, Public Forum, Policy Debate, and Congressional Debate as well as numerous students in the final round. He has also coached a national champion team in Public Forum and in Congress. A graduate of the University of Michigan with a master's degree in physics from Harvard University, Mr. Shurtz has received teaching awards from the Tandy Corporation, MIT, Stanford, and Williams College and has served as the Academic Director of the United States Physics Team. He is currently the Director of STEMM Pathways.

Susan McGraw
Susan McGraw has been teaching high school English and writing for 24 years. A graduate of The University of Florida where she earned a B.A. in Secondary English Education, Ms. McGraw is a former National Board Certified Teacher of High School Language Arts. She comes to Hawken from Florida where she first got involved in speech and debate in 2010 teaching debate classes and overseeing a small, fledgling competitive team. In 2012, her school district entered into a debate initiative with the National Speech and Debate Association to grow the debate presence throughout the district, and in 2015 she qualified the first two students from an initiative school to the NSDA National tournament, growing a team of 6 to a team of over 100 with qualifiers to nationals every year since. She has coached state champions in original oratory, program oral interpretation, oral interpretation, and public forum debate. In 2017 she coached the third place finalist in original oratory to the NSDA national tournament, and in 2018 she coached the sixth place poetry supplemental competitor and the second place public forum team to the NSDA national tournament. Her program was host for the past five years to the debate initiative monthly novice tournaments, and she served as an initiative mentor to new coaches to the district and to debate. In 2015 she was honored as the Broward County Debate Initiative Coach of The Year and that same year as the Florida Forensic League Hurricane Region Coach of The Year.

David Childree 
David Childree joined the Hawken team in 2022. He holds a B.A. in Spanish and Political Science from Furman University in Greenville, South Carolina, and an M.A. in Latin American Studies & Politics from Tulane University in New Orleans, Louisiana. He taught undergraduate Spanish at Tulane University before transitioning into teaching Spanish and Speech and Debate at the high school level. He has taught Spanish, Public Speaking and Debate at high schools in Louisiana, Georgia, Florida, and Ohio over the past twenty years. During that time, eight of his students have become national champions, nine of his students have earned and held the rank of #1 in the nation for over a year, and over 250 of his students have gone to debate nationals. He has written curriculum, coached, and directed programs in the speech and debate sector for a variety of organizations including Harvard University’s Summer Debate Institute, Wake Forest University’s Summer Debate Institute, and debate camps in California, Florida, and China. Mr. Childree now coaches congressional debate and extemporaneous speaking for Hawken.   

Congratulations to Cassandra Berlin '20 on being selected one of twelve members of the 2019-2020 USA Debate Team! To read the August 27 announcement on the National Association of Speech and Debate's Twitter feed, click here.
For more information about the National Speech and Debate Association and USA Debate, click here.
“Speech and Debate has undoubtedly made me a better person. Being in this activity has challenged me to put myself out there and step out of my comfort zone. I have gained more confidence in myself since joining this team. My public speaking skills have improved tremendously as a result of the amazing coaching staff and help from my teammates. Speech and Debate provides me with the unique opportunity to speak my mind and share my voice; I have the opportunity to make a difference. As a captain, I love being able to share my passion for this activity with others and see them thrive. I am proud to call myself a member of the Hawken Speech and Debate team.”
– Joanna Sherman ‘17
“As a new student entering high-school at Hawken, I was expectedly nervous about how I would do in classes and if I would make new friends. Joining the speech and debate team ended up being the best decision I could have made. The caliber of the team quickly forced me to become more articulate and precise in my argumentation which soon translated into my essays, and my fears of finding friends were gone as the team turned from after-school extracurricular into a second family. The friends and memories I’ve made by being a part of the speech and debate team will almost certainly stick with me for a lifetime.​”
– Ozan Ergungor ‘17

“The Hawken Speech & Debate program afforded me opportunities not usually available to high school students. My time with the team was spent traveling around the country as I competed with some of the best and brightest high school students. The program also cultivated skills such as research, public speaking, and critical thinking that have practical value in the real world. I would highly recommend the team if you are looking for a fun and rewarding learning experience.” 
– Tim Perevozchikov ‘14

“My son's Speech & Debate experience taught him to speak more articulately and comfortably, even in front of large groups.  The skills that he learned will be useful throughout his life no matter what career path he chooses.  He learned about world events and made a lot of friends both inside and outside of Hawken School.  It was easily his favorite activity from his four years in high school.” 
– Bobbie Jacobson, Parent of Isaac ’16 and Eli ‘19
"What parent does not want their child to excel in public speaking and know more about current national and global issues that you ever could! That has been my experience with having a child in the Hawken Speech and Debate program. Thanks to the wonderful coaches any child can turn into a national champion. The opportunity to travel around the country and compete at the national level is not something you can find at every school. If you have ever wondered about the future of the country all you have to do is watch the Hawken Speech and Debate kids in action." 
–Girish Rao, Parent of Nayan ‘17
“I didn’t know it at the time, but my decision as a freshman to join the speech and debate team would be the defining moment of my high school career. From writing, to research, to speaking skills, being a member of the speech and debate team left me with a whole host of crucial skills that helped me both in high school and as I transition into college. But more importantly, my experiences on the team shaped me into the person I am today. Debate taught me to be confident, to be bold, and to feel comfortable speaking my mind. Debate also taught me to learn from my defeats, to recognize I’m not always going to be right, and to understand that (even in an event like debate) listening can be just important as speaking. Being a member of this team still means an incredible amount to me today, and I think that lasting connection is a testament to the value of speech and debate at Hawken.” 
– Will Mascaro ‘14

“Speech and Debate was the most family oriented program I have ever had the privilege of being involved in at Hawken. It defined a huge portion of my Hawken experience, socially and academically. I had a stellar coaching staff and incredibly intelligent teammates who were extremely dedicated to helping me with argument generation, research, and public speaking skills, but what I will remember most is how that shared dedication created a family dynamic for the team. I felt like I was completely and thoroughly involved with people who cared just as much about my success as I did, and who I could go to not only as a teammate, but also a best friend for advice. From red eye flights back from tournaments to late night practices to team dinners, I grew to love all of my teammates like best friends and will miss them immensely when I’m at college. Speech and debate is the best thing I have done so far with my 18-year-old self.” 
–Nicole Kastelic ‘16

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Recent Speech and Debate College Matriculation

  • University of Michigan
  • Yale University
  • Brown University
  • Dartmouth College
  • The Ohio State University
  • Northeastern University
  • University of Chicago
  • Vanderbilt University
  • Tufts University
  • Duke University 
  • Carnegie Mellon University
  • Columbia University
  • Northwestern University
  • Vanderbilt University
  • The Ohio State University
  • University of California, Berkeley
  • Cornell University
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