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Former WSU debate coach Quincalee Brown ’61 endows scholarship to support the program

Photo of Quincalee Brown
Quincalee Brown outside the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center in Colorado, where she is a board member.

Quincalee Brown believes that the 10 years she spent at Wichita State University, first as a student then as an educator, contributed enormously to the person she became both personally and professionally.

It wasn’t just the renown she earned for coaching the only national championship debate team in WSU’s history. It also was meeting and working alongside some of the most notable leaders associated with Wichita State’s history, people like former president Emory Lindquist, theater professors Mary Jane Teall and George Wilner, and debate and speech educators Bobby Patton and Mel Morehouse.

Quincalee Brown
Quincalee Brown in 1968 with Robert Shields and Lee Thompson, the WSU students she coached to the national championship that year.

“If it hadn’t been for people like that, my life would have been very different,” Brown says in a phone interview from her home in McLean, Virginia. “I had these remarkable people who had input into what I did, why I did it, where I went. They were wonderful mentors to me.”

Now, Brown is giving back to her alma mater in a way she hopes will strengthen WSU’s already respected debate program and enhance its ability to secure another championship. With a generous donation, Brown has endowed the Quincalee Brown Scholarship for Debate, which will help WSU recruit top high school debaters.

“Part of what wins tournaments is having the right kids in your program,” Brown says. “And helping them financially, if necessary, so they can spend time and energy working on debate and not holding down two jobs to go to school.”

Brown was one of only a handful of female college debate coaches in the country in 1968 when the WSU team of Robert Shields and Lee Thompson won the national championship, arguing the affirmative on the question of whether Congress should have the power to overturn decisions of the Supreme Court.

Her experiences convinced her that competitive debating is one of the most useful experiences a college student can have. Debate teaches research and critical thinking skills, as well as effective communication, she said.

“If you can’t convince people of your position, you’re not going to be a good lawyer, a good teacher, a good businessman,” Brown says. “Talking and speaking well are essential in most professions.”

Brown moved to the Washington, D.C., area in 1973 after spending three years at the University of Kansas working toward her doctorate, which she completed in 1975. It was while at KU that she became active in the women’s movement, which helped prepare her to take a job as director of the Montgomery County Commission for Women in suburban Washington. From there, she moved to the American Association of University Women as executive director, then worked for 15 years as executive director of the Water Environment Federation.

Though Brown retired in 2001, she remained active on various corporate and nonprofit boards. Today, her primary focus is as a board member for the Crow Canyon Archaeological Center, which is involved in the study of Native American cultures. She has been married to James Simsarian for 38 years.

Wichita State remains firmly embedded in her psyche. Besides her connection to the debate program, she serves on the WSU Foundation’s National Advisory Council. And one of her favorite possessions is a large photo of two of her father’s sisters, who graduated in the 1920s from Wichita State, when it was Fairmount College. The photo shows one of her aunts as the university’s May Queen, the other as a member of the queen’s court, and Brown’s father holding a satin pillow upon which the queen’s crown rests. Brown’s mother and father both graduated from the University of Wichita.

“I was always very proud of my family’s connection to Wichita State,” Brown says. “Now, through this scholarship, that connection will be permanent.”