Topic: College of Communication Information and Media

April 7, 2010

No student had ever brought home the award before Ball State University senior R.J. Crace claimed the prize.

At the 2010 National Education Debate Association (NEDA) tournament in March, Crace became the first undergraduate student in the country to receive the President's Award for outstanding contribution to public debate, an honor typically given to coaches or teams participating in the competition.

Mike Bauer, coach of Ball State's debate team, said Crace's recognition was well-deserved and all the more an honor given Crace's capacity to overcome the challenges of his disabilities. Crace, who is blind, also suffers from severe hearing impairment.

"His accomplishments are exceptional considering the barriers he must overcome to compete in debate," said Bauer, a communications studies instructor. "His personality has a positive effect on those around him."

Ball State won the team national championship title at this year's NEDA tournament. Combined with Crace's award and a host of other student honors, the team had its most successful appearance in its near 20-year history of participating in NEDA, a collegiate debate association emphasizing typical public forum debate. Colleges compete at eight tournaments each year: four in the fall semester and four in the spring semester, including the national tournament.

Ball State's total in the competition was 100 points, ahead of Dayton University's second place finish with 50 points. Crace and fellow student Matthew Cox won the public forum division, and Kaytee Byrns and Lindsey Dixon won the varsity championship.

Additionally, four students were named All-American Debaters: Lindsey Dixon, Kaytee Byrns, Carrie McMurray and R.J. Crace. The team has won the national title for the past three years.

Crace, a telecommunications major, said he's enjoyed working with peers who are such talented debaters. He's discovered that both debating and broadcasting require many of the same skills.

"In both, you have to be short and concise, you have to make your arguments understandable and let your audience know why they should care about what you're telling them."

So what does Crace think of how he fared in this year's competition? "It was one of those things where pretty much everything went right for me as an individual and for us as a team. I was just delighted to be a part of it," he said.

By Chanel Richards and Gail Werner