A J. L. Crowe instructor librarian has been recognized for her dedication to helping young debaters excel.
“(I’m) delightfully surprised but also humbled because there are so many individuals who contribute to the promotion of debate across the province,” said Marilyn Lunde, who acts as a debate coach for School District 20 students.
Lunde has received the Willis McLeese Award, which is given out annually on behalf of the Canadian Student Debating Federation to those who’ve made an outstanding contribution to debate within their jurisdiction.
“I am deeply touched to be included with the list of individuals who have worked hard to ensure that we have participants who can look at two sides of a topic and argue both sides equally well,” she said. “I know that debaters have learned valuable skills that they will share with others. That is what I am most proud of.”
Lunde is one of the last recipients to receive this award while the late Willis McLeese was still alive. The philanthropist, who supported and advanced debate and public speaking, was 97 when he died last month.
Lunde’s award was presented at the Senior Nationals in the Northwest Territories on March 12, where Rossland Secondary School’s Sydney Gomez not only placed in the Top 20 out of 60 participants vying for national recognition but also brought back her coach’s special honour.
Gomez is not surprised Lunde was selected for the award because her coach has worked tirelessly over the years to represent debate as an exciting pastime for students, who become more confident socially and academically by taking part.
“She’s basically the reason I’ve progressed the way I have and stuck with it,” said Gomez, who started as a timekeeper and is now a strong contender competing at the senior level. “She’s been a really great support person.”
Lunde started coaching young debaters in 1984, spending 25 years working at Rossland Secondary School before becoming the teacher librarian at Crowe nearly three years ago. Students have traveled to the provincials yearly over the past 27 years, and to the nationals in Halifax, Montreal, Toronto, Winnipeg, St. Albert, Whitehorse, Hay River, Calgary, Edmonton, Prince George, Vancouver, Victoria and many places in between.
She has spent many lunch hours with debate students at the Crowe and has also taught valuable research skills to School District 20 students preparing to compete.
“The enthusiasm of the students and the mental stimulation has kept me working with them,” she said. “It is easy to sit around a table at lunch and have thoughtful conversations about important issues. How many students understand what the United Nations Security Council does or what restorative justice is? Those were two of the debate topics that we investigated this year.”
To her, the recognition highlights the importance of offering a debate club for students looking to be challenged.
“Often, the more populated areas are the ones that do well and anyone outside the Lower Mainland can’t compete because of geographic challenges and the lack of consistency with leadership,” she said. “I think it means I have just been at the executive table longer than anyone else. Overall, I think I am one of the senior members who is able to provide history as to what works and what doesn’t and rally for the areas outside the urban mainland.”
The award also recognizes the continued support of local residents who have stepped up when judges were needed and funds were required to send students to distant competitions.
“To those in the community, I need to thank those who say, ‘Yes, I will judge for your tournament’ when I make those phone calls,” she said, also acknowledging her family, parents and volunteers for their commitment, and local lawyers and professionals who teach students about the ins and outs of resolutions.
“They are all amazing in their belief of this activity,” she said. “I know that we live in the Home of Champions. This honor is to recognize their contributions.”