Wayne State University

Passing of distinguished professor of Communication and internationally recognized debate educator, George William Ziegelmueller

We are very sad to report that distinguished professor of Communication and internationally recognized debate educator, George William Ziegelmueller, passed away on May 18 in Chicago. George was a professor of communication and debate coach from 1957 – 2006 where he led Wayne State debaters to hundreds of championships in the college debate circuit. Under his direction, Wayne State was established as one of the most successful programs in the nation.
 
George Ziegelmueller was born on July 28, 1930 in Speedway City, Indiana and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree from DePauw University in 1952. He earned his Master of Arts degree from Southern Illinois University in 1954, and a Doctor of Philosophy in Speech from Northwestern University in 1958.
 
He was an elder in the First Presbyterian Church, Royal Oak, Michigan; a member of the American Forensic Association (President and journal editor 1973-1978 and recipient of the Distinguished Member Award 1981); a member of the Speech Communication Association, Central States Communication Association (journal editor 1986-1988), Michigan Association of Speech Communication (President, Honorary life member), and Delta Sigma Rho-Tau Kappa Alpha (President, Distinguished Alumni Award recipient 1974). He was the recipient of the Alumni Service award from Wayne State University in 1983. He was named the 2000 Michigan Professor of the Year by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. His book Argumentation: Inquiry and Advocacy was considered the standard in the field.
 
During the 1999 National Debate Tournament, the George Ziegelmueller Award was created to recognize Professor Ziegelmueller for his over 30 years of excellent coaching, timeless commitment to the activity, and numerous contributions to the forensics community. The George Ziegelmueller Award is presented annually at the National Debate Tournament to a faculty member who has distinguished himself or herself in the communication profession while coaching teams to competitive success.
 
Professor Ziegelmueller was known for his deep commitment to his students, often providing personal support, and sometimes even paying their bills. Alumni fondly remember, and often cite, the “Five D’s” that George used to define the culture of his program and the expectations he had for his debaters:

  • (No) Drugs and Alcohol - competitors are forbidden from consuming alcohol or illegal substances while at competition.
  • Dress - students are expected to dress in a professional manner.
  • Deodorant - Teams travel long distances in small vehicles. Participants were expected to practice appropriate hygiene
  • Delivery - Students were encouraged to persuade and move their audiences with both the better argument and the best performance.
  • Decorum - Students were expected to act as ambassadors of the university and the program.

“It’s hard to overstate the impact George had on the debate community and on Wayne State.” said Matthew Seeger, Dean of the College of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, and former chair of the Department of Communication. “Generations of Wayne State students learned about the power of critical thinking, reasoned discourse, and principled argument from George. He was a supportive colleague and mentor, and an engaged and committed teacher who helped every student he touched. For 45 years, he was the face of Wayne State debate.”
 
A memorial celebration of his life will be held on Friday, June 28, 3 p.m. at Schaver Music Recital Hall, 480 W Hancock St, Detroit 48201. RSVP at rsvp.wayne.edu/ziegelmuellermemorial. If you are unable to attend but would like to make a memorial contribution to the George W. Ziegelmuller Forensics Endowment, visit giving.wayne.edu/donate/cfpca. All memorial donations will be matched up to $10,000.