Union's Winningest Philomathean Team

Publication Date

In March 1952, the Philomathean team won the Brooklyn College invitational debate tournament—the only major competition of its kind won by Union. At the time, it was the closest thing to a national title for intercollegiate debating. In fact, research suggests the victory over 53 participating colleges was the biggest debate win in Union’s history.

But the triumph was not without its controversy. Here is the rest of the story.

On March 7 and 8, 1952, the Union College debate team of Lawrence Levine ’52, Eliot Loshak ’53, William Ketchum ’53 and myself participated in 10 debates on this topic: “Resolved that the Federal Government Should Institute a Permanent Program of Wage and Price Controls.”

The evening of the 8th, all tournament participants assembled for the award ceremony. First place, with its giant gold and bronze cup, was awarded to Notre Dame, which won the following year’s contest as well. Notre Dame and Wilkes College were announced to have tied with an 8-2 record, but Notre Dame won first place on points. They took the trophy and left.

We were disappointed.

I wanted to examine the judges’ ballots for the 10 debates because I felt we had done well. The ballots showed that we had a record of 9-1, losing only to Notre Dame and defeating Wilkes. Union was the only team with a 9-1 record.

We spoke to the tournament officials and they confirmed our first-place win. Unfortunately, the trophy was on its way to South Bend and we had no accolades of success from our fellow debaters.

But once everything was straightened out, a second cup was made and later sent to us. A picture of the team with it appeared on the front page of Concordiensis (March 14, 1952). The New York Times also reported our victory on March 9.

It’s a victory, belated recognition or no, that still fills me with pride today.