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Baylor Alumni

Capping it Off

There's no debating Glenn Capp's impact
Claire Moncla


"Capp is best described by the old phrase—a gentleman and a scholar," said then-Baylor President Abner McCall in 1974. Even a cursory glance at Dr. Glenn Capp's years at Baylor proves the truth of McCall's words. Affectionately called "Prof" by his students, Capp was widely known at Baylor for his involvement in debate. His impact on the program was so powerful that both Baylor's debate team and high school tournament were named for him. He directed the forensics program from 1934 to 1981, coaching seven hundred debaters and attaining more than seven thousand wins—even coaching former Texas governor Ann Willis Richards '54 and judging future presidents Lyndon B. Johnson and Richard Nixon when they were college debaters. But his work in debate is only part of the legacy Capp left behind.

Born September 21, 1910, in Westminster, Texas, Capp grew up in Shawnee, Oklahoma, and attended Oklahoma Baptist University, where he obtained a BA degree. He received an LLB degree from Baylor in 1938, and earned a master's degree from Northwestern University in 1948. Capp joined the Baylor faculty in 1934, when the Department of Speech Communications consisted of one full-time and one part-time professor and had graduated fewer than four hundred students. When he retired in 1981, after almost forty-seven years, the speech faculty ranks had swelled to twenty professors, and the department had graduated more than four thousand students.
 
"He was a visionary. He built the communications department from the ground up," said Karla Leeper, former head of the speech communications department and current chief of staff to Baylor's president. As department chair from 1948 to 1978, Capp expanded the department, adding radio communication and aiding in the establishment of the Castellaw Communications Center in 1974. "He saw the power of radio as an important communication element," Leeper explained. His inception of courses in radio evolved into the film and digital media program, and his dedication to a strong base in public speaking led to corporate communications classes in the speech department.

During his time at Baylor, Capp garnered a long list of honors. He was past president of the Pi Kappa Delta national forensics organization and the Southern States Communication Association, and in 1972 he was given the Piper Professorship by the Minnie Stevens Piper Foundation of San Antonio for having a profound effect on the lives of his students.

Capp cultivated strong relationships and served others both inside and outside of Baylor. In a 1970 interview with the Lariat on his creation of a student senate in the speech communications department, Capp argued, "Students ought to have more of a part in the determining of departmental policies." Besides partnering with students on academic issues, Capp ran for the Waco School Board in 1956 and took part in establishing a speech and hearing program in Hillsboro in 1969. In his last years at Baylor, Capp researched and wrote a chronology of speech communication at the university, compiling the history of debate before his time with his experiences directing the forensics program and communication department.

Capp died at age eighty-eight on December 14, 1998, at his home in Waco, yet his legacy still lives on at Baylor. "Almost as long as there has been Baylor, there's been Baylor debate," Leeper said. And almost as long as there's been Baylor debate, there has been Glenn Capp.


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