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Alumni E-mail Newsletter
August 1, 2009 we sent an e-mail to alumni to update them on the accomplishments of the
2008-2009 season. If you did not receive this e-mail it is probably because we don't have
your address. Please take a moment and send us that information by completing the form
below. Pass the word on to other Bellaire Debate alums you may have contact with.
Where are Bellaire Debate Alumni Now???
Bellaire Debate alumni are an important part of the ongoing success of our program. Unfortunately, it is often easy
to lose touch with those of you who are so important to us. Please take a moment and let us know what you are up
to these days.
Ceena Babukutty '01 Houston, TX Graduated college, applying to law school.
It meant a lot to me even though I wasn't good at it. Mr. Johnson treated us like
a college class and put alot of pressure on us. Little did I know how much it was
going to help me in college!
Justus (Jody) Baird '91 Director of the Center for Multifaith Education Auburn Theological
Bellaire Debate gave me the ability to be articulate about current events and
prepared me to think quickly on my feet. It also taught me that just because
people talk fast or have the most persuasive argument doesn't mean that they have
the best solution to a problem.
Paula Barvin '74 Elkins Park, PA Developing grass roots membership organizations for
consumer and environmental issues
I learned how to frame an argument and developing supporting points with
evidence. I learned how to research issues. I learned how to speak in public. I
learned that appealing to lay judges was different than just making a strong
argument. Now, I prefer to argue on one side, instead of both. I feel passionate
about the issues on which I work. I'm glad that the organizations I work with take
strong stands. But I've also learned that we do not win by being right. We have
to out organize our opponents. I thank Mr. Johnson and the Bellaire debate
organization for making me take my skills and intelligence seriously.
Natalie Bates '02 Austin, TX Work in State Representative Strama's office.
Public speaking and arguing are important abilities, but, though it was probably my
least favorite aspect of debate at the time, it also taught me how to research
effectively. I cannot begin to describe how helpful this has been in both college and
politics. Frequently I am complimented on my research capabilities because I do
so more exhaustively than others (who did not have Bellaire debate!). Also, I feel
that Bellaire debate made me a much more rational and healthy person. Most girls
in high school start out with an immature attitude and shallow interests, and I will
always be thankful that debate helped me overcome those negative qualities. I can
honestly say that I wouldn't be where I am today without debate; it was THE most
worthwhile class I have ever taken.
Lauren Bleiden '99 Houston, TX Baylor College of Medicine grad date 2007
I think the closest friends I have, I made in Bellaire Debate. Plus, I learned how to
knock out a research paper in an afternoon.
Jeffrey Brookner '87 Bridgewater, NJ Attorney with Wilentz Goldman & Spitzer.
Everything. Of course, it taught me how to argue a point and speak in public. But
also, it helped me appreciate the benefits of hard work, optimism, creativity, and
Kenneth Carr '59 El Paso, TX Practicing labor & employment law.
I arrived at BHS as a sophomore the second year the school was open. Under
Mollie Martin and Cecil Pickett, we won sweepstakes at our first tournament of
my junior year, and Bellaire's next loss was at Nationals three years later, when
they finished second nationally. In the meantime, BHS won sweepstakes at
Nationals in both 1958 and 1959. I take pride in playing a part in starting an
outstanding winning tradition that has lasted for five decades, and we are grateful to
all of those who have carried on the tradition of excellence for all these years.
Sam J. Charendoff '60 Lufkin, TX Optometrist
If I learned nothing else from Mollie Martin, it was to probe thoroughly any
information I would need to use. She also taught me to think on my feet. She was
a dynamic woman who brought the best in all her students.
Sandi Kaye-Cohan '98 Atlanta, GA Medical student Morehouse School of Medicine
As I look back at my short time with Bellaire Debate, I am struck by how
intelligent my friends and fellow debaters were, and how they were able to use their
minds. I hope you all are still doing so!
Seth Davidson '82 Palos Verdes Estates, CA Lawyer
There's always someone better. And worse.
Robert Donaldson '60 Tulsa, OK Trustees Professor University of Tulsa
An absorbing and fulfilling extracurricular activity that also developed life-long skills in
research, writing and oral communication. The center of my high school friendships.
Robert Doty '80 Kensington, CA Environmental lawyer
A much, much, much better high school experience than I would have had
otherwise, and some damn good friends even if I haven't been good about staying
in touch. Indeed, just yesterday getting second at Nats came in handy as I had to
help my daughter deal with getting second at a soccer tournament. The critical
thinking, the public speaking, the strive to succeed and win, all of it has been
incredibly valuable as I have moved through the years since graduating. And every
time I stand up in a court or at the front of some room where I'm explaining to
people how to solve the myriad problems associated with redeveloping
contaminated properties, and I hear my heart beating in my ears, I say to myself
"take a breath, relax, speak smoothly, make eye contact, smile from time to time,
toss in a self-depricating joke if possible, and it will all be fine, just like it was in all
those rounds of debate and extemp." Works every time. Invaluable experience.
Jonathan Earl '05 Bellaire, TX Attending UT pursuing degree in civil engineering
Bellaire Debate helped me be confident in everything I do from researching to
applying for jobs. I have been through a lot of pressured situations from local to
national levels of competition. After this experience I feel like I keep excellent
composure ever under incredible amounts of pressure. After failure, I realized
that you need to analyze why you failed and correct those mistakes. Bellaire
Debate taught me the importance of learning from your mistakes. That's all you
need to succeed.
Daniel Epstein '01 Houston, TX Currently in law school.
There is no question that the experience I had in the debate program at Bellaire was
formative in my intellectual and personal development. I entered college well above
other students in critical and analytic abilities. The research and writing skills
learned at Bellaire prepare any dedicated debater to succeed in college and receive
acceptance into an exceptional law school. Furthermore, the public speaking
experience enables students to develop the skills necessary for succeeding in a
world that requires effective communication and leadership. I hope Bellaire remains
a bastion of independent and original thought and research.
Andres Fabris '91 Dallas, TX Vice President of Business Development for Travelocity.com
Benjamin Finzel '85 Washington, D.C. Sr. VP Fleishmann-Hilliard, former Clinton
Administration appointee (Department of Energy)
Bellaire Debate gave me an introduction to the critical thinking and public speaking
skills that I use everyday in my career in public relations. I was only a member of
Bellaire Debate for one year (my 10th grade year), but the experience was
important to my development as a confident, accomplished public speaker and
Randy Friedman '89 Binghamton, NY Assistant Professor of Philosophy and Judaic
I am still afraid of Mr. Johnson.
Howard Goldman '70 Austin, TX Director of Communications, Teacher Retirement
System of Texas
Participating in Bellaire High School Debate helped me to better analyze issues, structure
my thoughts, develop effective communications and feel comfortable with public speaking.
John Gordon '76 Pasadena, CA Partner in business litigation firm in Los Angeles.
It was great training to think analytically and speak extemporaneously, as well as
work on a team. Overall, a great experience.
Marc Grossberg '58 Houston, TX Lawyer Thompson & Knight LLP
It meant an immediate community for me when I transferred in the middle of my
11th grade year from San Jacinto. That community was both fun and intellectually
challenging. Many of those friendships persist and many of my colleagues have
remained good friends. I was very sad to have lost Mack Kidd who died earlier
this year. Bellaire Debate also raised the bar from what I had experienced by their
being a team approach by Molly Martin who was also a fine teacher.
Russell Green '90 Washington, D.C. Deputy Director, International Monetary Policy, U.S.
Never before and never since have I been involved in anything so intensely,
fantastically consuming. It was a time I will always cherish, and about which I still
have strong feelings. One can discuss all the ways Bellaire Debate helped prepare
us for college and careers, which is all true - college seemed easy after Bellaire.
But mostly I wish those deep friendships didn't get all scattered in the college
Johnie Hackett III '03 Houston, TX Pursuing paralegal degree at Center for Advanced
BHS Debate was the most intellectually stimulating experience for my mind, my
thinking process, and was the highlight of my high school career. It was the epitome
of supreme intelligence and only the smartest could have ever survived. The
research, case writing, and independent thinking skills that I received have
contributed in a major way to my success at my current firm. Many of my
co-workers and my clients commend me on my ability to be original, think logically,
and to possess such a strong work ethic that supercedes like any that they have
ever seen. Debate taught me to be persistent, to strive for excellence, and to be
confident. Without that foundation set, I would not be able to do what I am doing
today. I am so glad that I had the opportunity to be a part of something great.
Elmer W. Hanak '65 Alexandria, VA Private Investor
One the best learning experiences in a school. Only 3 courses at Harvard Law matched it. Bill
Henderson was on par with John Silber (UT) and Profs Chabourne,Kaufman and "Black
Jack" Dawson (Harvard Law)
Joslna John '96 San Francisco, CA Labor & employment lawyer
Foundation of skills that I still use in my career as a litigator today.
David Kaplan '71 Santa Monica, CA Architect
Lee Kaplan '69 Houston, TX Founding partner Smyser, Kaplan & Veselka, L.L.P.
I credit debate with encouraging me and teaching me to think analytically and where
possible, to present my analysis persuasively.
Lyn Blumenthal-Karol '63 Incline Village, NV Vacation/Retirement home sales
It was the basis for all my success in life. The poise and capacity to think on my feet
and express my ideas eloquently, yet logically and succinctly was invaluable in all the
diverse fields I have been able to enter. The focus to get myself to the National
Championship in extemporaneous speaking and taking Third Place was confidence
building. However, more important was the ability to seek criticism and to
incorporate it into my "next" presentation was so valuable. Critiquing taught me to
accept negative observations about my performance without getting defensive. This
is such a critical skill to constant never ending improvement. Thank you to our
principal Harlan Andrews, my debate coach Mollie Martin, and the many hours my
mother devoted to my enhancement as a speaker and a debate participant.
Harvey Kronberg '68 Austin, TX Publisher & Editor of Quorum Report
Debate was four things for me. First, Coach Bill Henderson challenged, intimidated,
browbeat and cajoled all of us into critical thinking and sharp analysis. Second, we
all learned the power of communication and persuasive thinking and writing. Third,
we all learned how to put ourselves on the line every weekend in competition where
winning or losing was just an episode to enjoy or overcome and move on. Finally, I
was put in the company of some of the brightest, most committed people I have ever
known. It is a privilege that most of us are still friends and regularly stay in touch.
Victoria Lazar '83 Bellaire, TX Senior Counsel with EDS Corporation
Tremendous experience. Taught me to think logically and on my feet, stand up
under pressure, speak publicly both planned and extemporaneous and work hard
for my own education. Debate helped me build self confidence that I know impacts
me daily. Thanks, DJ!
Cleophus J. Lee '90 Chicago, IL Program Manager of a WIA Workforce Development
Program and CEO of NewLife Community Development
It was a tremendous experience that helped to shape my intellectual life. Mr. David
Johnson challenged us beyond limits. To this day I reference back to some of the
experiences I had in Bellaire Debate.
Jane Lindhout '66 Cedar Hills, UT High School principal
It absolutely changed my life. Had I not had the experience of having Bill Henderson
turn me from a shy and quiet "band geek" into a confident debater, I am sure I would
not have accomplished all I have in my life. I encourage my students to participate in
debate because of the life-altering experience experience I had.
Stacy Goldberg-London '78 Houston, TX Co-own a mortgage company.
Bellaire Debate was a "life forming life altering" experience. So much of what I am
today came from those 4 years! I couldn't imagine not having been a part of it. Now
that my son is a teenager...he is a debater (not at Bellaire) and it is all due to the
memories we have shared of my debate life.
Louise Lu '10 Stanford University
Debate opens the mind to different perspectives and it has been such a rewarding activity for
me. Debate has taught me many practical skills in terms of public speaking, research, analysis,
and familiarity with current issues.
John M. Mericle '68 Seattle, WA Partner Harris Mericle & Wakayama PLLC, Adjunct
Prof Seattle Univ Law School
Thanks to (Dr.) Bill Henderson, Bellaire Debate gave me the desire and the
opportunity to test my biases against those of others, and to struggle against
unquestioning acceptance of what "we are told." And thanks to remarkable
companions like Harvey Kronberg (my long-suffering debater partner), Don Peters,
Bill Roig, Loma Cogen, Sandi Morgen, Ralph Zarefsky, Martha Farmer, Paul
Downs and many others, I emerged with a group of friends worthy of life-long
Greg Miller '75 Delmar, NY Psychiatry.
Wow. It taught me so much about what it takes to make it through trials and
tribulations and to make it to success in a way that no other experience has ever led
me. David Johnson was ever present, pushing for your best, always seeing when it
was missing and pushing for more, and where it wasn't it suddenly was.
Roland Moore III '66 Houston, TX Criminal Defense Attorney
It was the only subject of intellectual interest to me at Bellaire.
Sandra Morgen '68 Eugene, OR Professor of Anthropology & Director of the Center for
the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon
Since 1968 I have used the speaking and analytical skills I learned and honed in
debate in both my academic career and as both a community organizer and
community activist on behalf of progressive politics. I also believe my politics --
feminist, anti-racist and pro-working people -- were in part shaped by the way my
critical thinking skills were developed in debate. I have the ability to stand up for
what I believe in and because of Bill Henderson, my debate colleagues and my
experiences in extemporaneous speaking and debate.
Arthur Nathan '69 Houston, TX Partner & Board of Directors of Haynes & Boone, LLP.
I was very fortunate to debate at Bellaire during 1968 and 1969. I was surrounded
by brilliant people during my two years - they were not only good friends, but great
inspirations. Our debate coach, Bill Henderson, probably did more to prepare me
for college and law school than any other non-family member. I doubt that I would
have had the succeses that I've had during college, law school or professionally if I
had not had an absolutely superb teacher. Ther is no way that I can thank all of them
enough for what they did to help me.
Greg Ostfeld '91 Chicago, IL Greenburg Taurig LLP appelate & litigation practice groups
Joining Bellaire Debate was the best decision I made in high school. It wan an
activity I was passionate about, and drove me to achieve and push myself in a way
that ordinary schoolwork and classes could not. I developed speaking skills and
writing skills in debate that I still use in my legal practice today, and a sense of self
confidence that I badly needed. I consider David Johnson, the coach while I was at
Bellaire, one of the defining role models of my life..
Austin Osueke '98 San Francisco, CA Comic book publisher/IT consultant Stanford
I learned how to think quickly on my feet as well as prepare for many variables and
obstacles. I accredit my business acumen to Bellaire Debate.
Collyn Peddie '75 Houston, TX Practing appellate law on the plaintiff's side.
It gave me my profession.
Don Peters '68 Phoenix, AZ Attorney
Bill Henderson's influence caused me to raise my expectations and my aspirations.
He showed me that I could do more than I thought I could. I also made friends that
I'm still in touch with to this day.
John Pflueger '81 Austin, TX Technology Strategist working on Improving the Power
Consumption and Energy Efficiency of Data Centers
I still hold that, of all my classes in High School, Debate taught me the the skills that I find
most useful in my career.
Angela Polczynski '01 Houston, TX Program Coordinator University of Texas in Houston
For the years I was a part of the organization, I loved every second of it. It was and has
always been a wonderful molder of minds. Although circumstances did not allow me to
continue on as long as I would have liked, the skills I acquired in through the program are
forever ingrained within me. The speaking, presentation, research, and critical thinking skills
have been invaluable, and have certainly made college and my career much more interesting
Amar Raval '96 Bellaire, TX Attorney
The most intense, yet rewarding experience in my formative years. I learned public
speaking, thinking on my feet, and the importance of a poker face when things were
going awry. Mr. Johnson pushed us hard, but it was only to open the sleeping giant
within. The friendships and stories I take from those times will stay with me a very
Ben Reynolds '04 Plano, TX Manager
Everything, up to this point. If I'd never debated at Bellaire, I never would have kept
debating when i left Houston, never would have had the competitive success I enjoyed,
never would have learned the difference between reading and Reading, never would have
gone to UNT...and therefore wouldn't be where I am today or the person I am without the
formative experiences that Bellaire Debate provided for me.
Devosha G. Cullick-Roscoe '65 Houston, TX Asst Gen Counsel of Synagro
Everything...Bellaire Debate was my social activity, intellectual activity, psychological
support and family. I loved what I was doing, who I did it with and for. It made me
happy and focused. Debate taught me to take care of myself and express my views.
It provided me with what I needed to continue my education and gave me the push
to succeed. It helped me to be organized, logical and analytical and to not be afraid.
I am proud to have participated and been a part of such an educational and
Dr. Alvan Rosenthal '62 Santa Monica, CA Management consultant
Prepared me for logical analysis of problems and presentations to large groups.
Bruce G. Rossiter '61 Irvine, CA Financial Advisor and Investment Banking
The fun of the debate group under Molly Martin. Competition of the mind; the
humor of talented friends.
Doug Sandage '69 Houston, TX Attorney-Mediator
Learning rigorous logic and research skills. Managing the emotions around stiff
competition on and off the squad. Getting away from home for a few extra days
every semester. A level of intellectual endeavor never matched anywhere else I've
been, even in big-firm law practice.
Amy Schorr '90 Austin, TX Dentist
From a social perspective, I made wonderful friends with other folks who wanted to
make a difference in the world. I'm still trying to make a difference through my work.
And, my interest in public health policy and challenging policy, I know, is founded
from being in debate.
Julie Nahid Ahmad-Siddique '98 Staten Island, NY Criminal Justice Coordinator City of
Great friends, lots and lots of laughs, weekend tournaments (and all that comes
along), a fair amount of feat and anxiety (esp. before 7th period), a few
disappointments - and learning how to deal with them, gradually overcoming extreme
shyness, beginning to develop self-confidence and intellectual curiosity, and so many
skills I didn't fully appreciate until much later - four fantastic years!
Sara Speights '63 Austin, TX State & Federal government lobbyist
There were good and bad influences from that time period...1960-1963. The best
was that it forced me to learn to think critically, which has been valuable all my life.
Bill Steiber '57 Keller, TX Retired VP Sales & Marketing Konsyl Pharmaceuticals.
Bellaire Debate taught me to think objectively by seeing and presenting both sides of
many issues. The value of using reason with evidence rather than relying on evidence
alone. Oratory was being more convincing on a subject. I learned some judges
weren't so objective when I received two 1st places and an 8th place in the final
round of "Little Nationals" for my position on the death penalty. A wonderful
experience for life long friends.
Jana Stockwell '77 Atlanta, GA MD - Pediatric Critical Care Medicine; Emory University
School of Medicine
Days in the "Debate Shack" were terrifying, enlightening, eye-opening and wonderful. The
shack was home. DJ scared the daylights out of me, but when teenage angst was at its
worst, he was a calming & reassuring influence. Everyone should have the opportunity to
have such a role model. As a result of debate, I can speak my mind and enjoy speaking in
front of groups. Even though my kids say I was (am) a nerd, I loved it!
Steve Story '75 Norfolk, VA Partner, Kaufman & Canoles, Norfolk, Virginia
Bellaire Debate was a tremendous training ground for my subsequent legal career. David
Johnson was an outstanding coach, teacher and mentor.
Nagesh Thurkal '95 New York, NY MBA student at NYU
I can't stress enough how important debate was for my intellectual growth. The basic
lessons that you learn while debating (logical reasoning, researching, public speaking)
have helped me immensely. On top of that, I can't forget the great friends and
debate partners I met along the way.
Neill Tseng '92 San Francisco, CA Assistant U.S. Attorney
Bellaire Debate improved my self confidence, analytical skills, and speaking skills.
Alan Waldman '63 Encino, CA Freelance writer.
It taught me to organize, to think on my feet, be fearless, see how Bush and others lie
with statistics, speak confidently in public, snag bright chicks.
Kenneth Waldman '65 Houston, TX Pschologist and Director of the Counseling Center at
the University of Houston
I was too nervous to speak in front of a group. I got over this, learned to think on my
feet, to organize, to analyze, and got great joy from this activity as well as a lot of new
friends. I learned that you can argue either side of an issue with success. It wasn't
until training in Psychology that I learned that relationships are about being on the
same team, not about being a good adversary.
Gary Walkow '71 Santa Monica, CA Writing & directing feature films; photographer.
It was a pivotal life experience, on every level. It shaped habits of self discipline,
research, analysis, and the effective presentation of ideas that have lasted a lifetime. It
probably exacerbated my tendancy to be argumentative, but I probably loved to
argue before I started debating. Where else could I argue, get to take long car trips,
and win some trophies?
Julia Wang '06 La Crescenta, CA University of Southern California
Debate essentially defined my high school experience. The hours upon hours spent in the
classroom and in the rounds were some of the best, whether from the thrill of competition or
the people I spent them with. The memories I have made as part of the squad are
unforgettable, and I'm proud to have been a part of Bellaire Debate.
Baylor Wetzel '89 Saint Paul, MN PhD student, artificial intelligence & psychology,
University of Minnesota.
Bellaire was my 4th high school and 4th debate team and it was entirely unlike any
other school I'd been to. Smart peers, a ridiculously talented coach (who, when he
chose to, could be quite charming) and a very, very long history of winning. Debate
was the first time I ever worked hard, the first time I ever won anything and the first
time I ever saw a relationship between the two. It's a bit sad when a high school
activity is the high point of your intellectual life but even after college, graduate school
and more than a decade in management at various Fortune 500 companies, I haven't
found anything comparable to the intellectual vitality of Bellaire Debate.
Jean Whileyman '65 Humble, TX Chemistry professor Kingwood College
If I had not participated in debate at Bellaire High School I would never have pursued
my current career of being a college professor which is a job that I really love.
Before I entered the debate program I was a very shy and unsure teenager. Debate
gave me confidence and the ability to get up in front of a group of people and speak.
I am very thankful for what debate did for my life.
Paul Zarefsky '69 San Francisco, CA Deputy City Attorney
Debate honed my analytical, speaking and writing skills, deepened my interest in
public affairs, and gave me greater confidence in working with, competing with, and
leading others Our coach, Bill Henderson, challenged us to be our very best. The
high standards he set, and the aspirations for excellence that all of us shared, made for
an intense and rewarding intellectual endeavor. The friendships I developed through
Bellaire debate have remained constant over the years. We were a close knit group,
devoted to one another. The experience is one I often recall, and will never forget.
Lynn Zimmerman '69 Houston, TX VP & General Counsel Houston based chemical
Honed key aspects of my personality (competitiveness, assertiveness,
argumentativeness), for better and for worse, and pushed me in the direction of law.
There is no question that Bill Henderson challenged my mind and thickened my skin
for real life.