The Mason Spirit

Forensics Enthusiasts Generate Tremendous Support

By Greg Guenthner

It all began with a challenge. College of Arts and Sciences (CAS) Dean Daniele Struppa challenged forensics team alumni to raise $100,000 in one month. Faculty and alumni responded to the challenge, and by the end of June 2002 had raised more than $130,000 for the Forensics Team Alumni and Friends Endowment Fund to support the team.

Alumni Association Vice President Diane Pape Reed, B.A. Communication ’89, headed the fund-raising initiative along with a group of alumni who contacted past team members for donations. Faculty and staff associated with the team also donated to the fund.

“I am proud of CAS professors Bruce Manchester and Sheryl Friedley, and a special forensics team alumna, Diane Pape Reed, who volunteered many hours of their time to raise more than $130,000 in donations in just a few weeks,” says Dee Ann Holisky, CAS associate dean for academic programs. “Members of the forensics team are encouraged and trained to excel. Certainly, these three individuals exemplified this in their efforts to ensure a strong future for our nationally ranked team.”

The response to the e-mail and phone calls was tremendous. According to Tere Linehan, director of development for CAS, many of the gifts were more than $1,000 and from alumni who had not previously donated to the university.

“ Being a part of the team inspires incredible loyalty,” says Holly Sisk, B.A. Communication ’98, the team’s current part-time director and team alumna. “There’s a sense of obligation to give back to it.”

Along with their donations, the alumni gave positive feedback about how the forensics team affected their lives. “The team proved to me that academics could be rewarding at a level far beyond what I had ever imagined,” wrote Kim Larkin, B.A. Communication ’90. “I grew personally and professionally through the forensics team—becoming a more competent writer, public speaker, and self-assured young woman. I was so proud of George Mason for supporting an academic program like forensics.”

Impressed by this kind of loyalty and commitment from team alumni, Dean Struppa responded by agreeing to hire a full-time director for the team. Sisk has agreed to stay with the team for another year until a new director is found. Sisk says the forensics team is a goal-oriented organization, and a full-time director would give it more stability.

Despite the need for full-time leadership, the team is still quite competitive, placing first in the district and 13th in the nation this year. The team also won its 14,000th award at last season’s national championship.