University’s national championship Debate Team recognized at ceremony Monday

Students presented the W. Clark Santini Award, Robert S. Griffin Medal and William J. Cashill Scholarship; former U.S. Representative of Nevada Jim Santini to attend

University’s national championship Debate Team recognized at ceremony Monday

Students presented the W. Clark Santini Award, Robert S. Griffin Medal and William J. Cashill Scholarship; former U.S. Representative of Nevada Jim Santini to attend

The University of Nevada, Reno Debate Team has a lot to celebrate this year. The team won the National Parliamentary Debate Association Season Sweepstakes National Title, ranking first out of 189 schools. The Nevada Debate Union, part of the Department of Communication Studies in the College of Liberal Arts, was selected by the Associated Students of the University of Nevada as the Outstanding Club of the Year, and two of the top debate team members were selected as the Outstanding Club Leaders of the Year, for both the men and women's categories.

Team members, coaches and supporters will celebrate the award-winning season and recognize these honors at the Nevada Debate and Oral Communication Awards Ceremony on Monday, May 5. In addition to recognizing the team's accomplishments, several awards and scholarships will be presented. The reception begins at 4:30 p.m. and the ceremony begins at 5 p.m. The free, public event is held in the Great Room of the Joe Crowley Student Union on the fourth floor.  

"The team's success relies upon the hard work of students, the assistance of staff, faculty and administration, and a supportive group of debate alumni," University Debate Coach and Director of Forensic Phil Sharp said. "This event is an opportunity for these groups to come together and celebrate another impressive season while emphasizing the importance of oral communication and civic engagement."  

W. Clark Santini Award
Santini Award is named for W. Clark Santini, a former speech and debate student at the University, and is given each year to a person who, through oral communication, has brought significant benefits to the community as a whole.  

Christi Cakiroglu was selected as the 2014 recipient of the Santini Cup by the Griffin/Santini Memorial Endowment Fund Committee. Since 2002, Cakiroglu has served as the executive director of Keep Truckee Meadows Beautiful. KTMB is dedicated to creating a cleaner, more beautiful region through education and active community involvement.  

"Cakiroglu's leadership is credited with tripling the organization's annual budget and more than quadrupling the number of volunteers," Sharp said.  

The Reno native has been involved with a number of community organizations including Western Industrial Nevada, Reno-Sparks Leadership Council and Truckee Meadows Tomorrow and is a past president of Washoe Zephyrs Toastmasters. She is a graduate of the University of Oregon.   

"We're delighted to recognize Christi's contributions to the community," Bill Isaeff, chair of the Griffin /Santini Committee, said. "The individual who nominated her highlighted two of her communication strengths: sheer enthusiasm and sincerity. When Christi speaks, people get involved."  

Santini was a visible community activist involved in the creation of Rancho San Rafael Park and protection of the Truckee River. He passed away in 1996. His brother, Jim Santini, is also a past member of the debate team and will attend the ceremony. Santini, former U.S. Representative of Nevada, has been named a Distinguished Nevadan, which is the most prestigious award conferred by the Board of Regents. Santini will be recognized during the University's graduate commencement ceremony at 4:45 p.m., Friday, May 16.  

Robert S. Griffin Medal
The Robert S. Griffin Medal is awarded to the top member of the Nevada Debate Team each year. The award memorializes the first Director of Forensics at the University. The award winner exemplifies the commitment, charity and professionalism that Griffin taught to generations of students and members of the debate team at the University.  

This year's Robert S. Griffin Medal winners are teammates Jonathan McGuire and Kelly Brill. The duo finished the season ranked No. 2 in the nation. As a member of the Nevada Debate Team, Jonathan was recognized as an All-American by the National Parliamentary Debate Association for his academics, debate performance and contributions through community service. Both Brill and McGuire are graduates of Reno High.   

In addition to these awards, the Griffin-Santini Endowment was established to provide funding and support to the Nevada Debate Team. As part of that support, the fund annually provides one student the Robert S. Griffin Scholarship. The recipient of the 2014-15 scholarship is Jakob Christensen. Chiristensen is a junior studying Engineering. He transferred to the University from Santa Rosa Junior College last year. He and debate partner Cory Nims ranked 19th in the nation in 2013.   

William J. Cashill Scholarship
Also recognized at the event will be the recipients of the William J. Cashill Scholarship. This year, Christensen and Mariah Wilkinson will receive the Cashill Scholarship. Wilkinson is a freshman from Elko.  

"Her hard work and flexibility led to success throughout the year with multiple teammates," Sharp said. "Her enthusiasm and talent are representative of the future of the program."  

Cashill was a member of the debate team from 1934-1937, winning the Griffin Medal in 1937. He used his oral communication skills in his law practice and as a distinguished member of the community.  

If interested in attending or for more information, contact Sharp at

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