John C. Roberts (C61)

John C. Roberts of Kearney, Neb., joined the NU debate team as a freshman in the 1957-58 school year.   He was a member of the top two-person team as a junior and senior partnering with Dennis Hunt. He reached the semi-finals of the National Debate Tournament in 1960 and won numerous tournaments and speaker awards over his career

During his first two years, John had a 32-13 win-loss record and won two tournaments (Bradley and Wisconsin State, Eau Claire) and placed third in another.

In their junior year, John and Dennis Hunt were semi-finalists at the 1960 National Debate Tournament at West Point. In the l959-60 school year, they also reached the semi-finals of the 1960 Harvard Invitational Tournament with John being named fourth speaker. They also placed first in the four-person and second in the two-person team competition at Dartmouth, with John winning second speaker. In 1959, John and Dennis won the top negative team award and the four-person team award at Wayne State. That school year, Roberts also teamed with David Copus to place second in the 1959 Wichita State Tournament  (John was named third speaker) and with Eldon Lanning to reach the semis in the 1959 Kansas State Emporia Tournament.

In the 1960-61 school year, Roberts and Hunt won seven tournaments and were undefeated in the elimination rounds of all tournaments they entered that year. They also did not lose a debate before an audience their senior year. John and Dennis were members of the winning four-person team at the 1960 University of Kentucky tournament, with John being named top speaker. In March 1961, Roberts  and Hunt were members of the winning four-person team at the University of Maryland Capitol Hill Tournament, where they tied for top speaker. In November 1960, Roberts and Hunt were the top two-person negative team and were part of NU’s winning four-person team at the Wayne State University Tournament. They also won both the 1961 Kansas State Pittsburgh and the Kansas State Emporia tournaments. Roberts and Hunt also went 12-0 to win the 1961 Harvard Invitational Tournament (the country’s largest and most prestigious regular season tournament at the time) defeating eventual 1961 NDT winners Larry Tribe and Gene Clements of Harvard in the semis. They also won the country’s second most prestigious regular season tournament — the University of Kansas Heart of America tourney — again defeating Tribe and Clements of Harvard in the semis. Unfortunately, John and Dennis did not qualify out of the District V tournament and did not participate in the NDT despite having the best regular season record in the country and having reached the semis of the NDT in 1960. 

John was a member of the steering committee for the early debate reunions and has been a regular contributor to the Debate Endowment.