Paul Winters

University of the Pacific mourns the loss of former faculty member Paul Winters, who coached Pacific Speech and Debate from 1956 to 1980 and taught communications and forensics from 1956-1989. During his tenure, he brought Pacific Forensics to national prominence and made an impact personally and professionally on all with whom he came in contact.

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The Passing of an Icon - Remembering former Speech and Debate Coach Paul Winters

The trail-blazing speech and debate coach, who led Pacific to its first national championship and played a major role in integrating forensics and eliminating separate men's and women's divisions, passed away this past week at his home in Tulalip, Wash.
Feb 3, 2014

Paul Winters, a beloved professor and mentor who led University of the Pacific's debate team to national prominence, died Thursday, January 30, 2014. He was 89.

Winters taught communication and forensics from 1956 to 1989 and coached the forensics team at Pacific from 1956 to 1980. As debate coach, he led a small West Coast school to distinction in an arena that had been dominated largely by East Coast and Ivy League institutions. He also broke down barriers to equality for students, helping to end separate men's and women's divisions in debate competition and recruiting students of color to what had been an activity comprised predominately of white students.

"Paul will be deeply missed," said University of the Pacific President Pamela A. Eibeck. "To hear his students describe the impact he had on their lives is to understand the profound calling that is teaching and mentoring. He represented the best of this University, and leaves an enduring legacy."

1964 National Debate Tournament champions
Coach Paul Winters (center) and National Debate champions Douglas Pipes '65 (left) and Raoul 
Kennedy '64 (right) show off tournament trophies.

From Winters' first year at Pacific, the forensics team began winning tournaments up and down the West Coast and across the country. In 1964, he led Pacific to win the National Debate Tournament Association championship, becoming the first West Coast team to bring home the coveted 1st place trophy in more than a decade.

Also that year, the team won the prestigious televised Collegiate Championship Debates, sponsored by the American Forensic Association and American Student Foundation- a win that garnered a congratulatory telephone call from then-President John F. Kennedy. Read more about Coach Winters and Pacific's speech and debate team's legacy in the Winter Pacific Review coming soon.

This foundation of excellence that Winters established has continued to produce nationally competitive debaters: For the past decade, Pacific has ranked in the top 10 forensics teams in the country.

For his students, Winters set an example of integrity and high standards. Members of the forensics team during his years as coach went on to Harvard Law, UC Berkeley Law, and other top programs.

One of Winters' protégées, Theodore Olson, became solicitor general of the United States under George W. Bush. Others built careers as college deans, business entrepreneurs and prominent attorneys. During his keynote address at Pacific's 2012 Commencement ceremonies, Olson shared the many ways Winters had impacted him, as professor, coach and mentor.

"If college is the transition between youth and adulthood," Olson said, "Paul Winters for many of us made that transition a foundation for a successful life." (View the full Commencement address>>)

Winters was born on May 4, 1924, in Albany, Ore. He was the eleventh of 12 children whose family was deeply affected by the depression. He credits his high school librarian for encouraging him to join the high school debate team, which changed the course of his life. After high school, he attended college at the University of Oregon and then was drafted into the Army-Air Force during World War II. He achieved the rank of corporal and was assigned to the transmitter that broadcast General MacArthur's war orders to troops in the South Pacific. After the war, he returned to college on the G.I. bill and completed his bachelor's and master's degrees at Linfield College in McMinvnille, Ore., where he also competed in forensics.

After graduation from Linfield in 1950, he was hired as to teach and coach the debate team at Stockton College (now San Joaquin Delta College) where he quickly established a winning reputation and was recruited to Pacific by then President Robert Burns as forensic coach and communication professor in 1956.  

His honors and accolades were many. He was named National Coach of the Year in 1964 by the National Forensics Association. He was a charter member and three-time president of The Northern California Forensics Association, which named their annual tournament the Paul Winters Invitational in his honor. He also was a charter member of the Cross Examination Debate Association and hosted the National Debate Tournament at Pacific in 1975, the first national tournament held at Pacific. In 1979, University of the Pacific recognized Winters with the Distinguished Faculty Award. At his retirement in 1989, he was awarded the Order of Pacific, the University's highest honor.  

Winters was preceded in death by his wife Marian. He is survived by a sister, Ruth, and his two children and two grandchildren. His daughter, Diane Winters '78, graduated from College of the Pacific with a degree in biology, and his son, Greg Winters '82, is a graduate of the School of Engineering and Computer Science.

Winters' family is planning a memorial service for him on Sunday, May 4—on what would have been his 90th birthday—at his home in Tulalip, Wash., where he has lived for the past 25 years.

In lieu of flowers, the family requests that contributions be made to the Paul Winters Forensic Endowed Scholarship, which was established at his retirement by colleagues and former students. For information, contact Jimilynn Dorough in University Development at jdorough@pacific.edu.