Lowell Forensic Society
The Lowell Forensic Society, founded in 1892, is the oldest high school speech and debate team in the United States and also the largest organization at Lowell High School in San Francisco, California. The Society occupies Room 135, also known as "Leland Room," named after former Deputy Under Secretary of the Treasury Marc E. Leland.
Boasting over 200 members, the team travels regularly to prestigious national invitations, including Harvard, UC Berkeley, Stanford, Long Beach, and the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky. Lowell Forensics has also competed in the National Speech and Debate Tournament under the National Forensic League for 40 years, making it one of the longest running national championship teams in the nation.
In the nineties, the Forensic Society saw one of its greatest peaks under the leadership of Sandra Bird. Every year in the decade, Forensics made it to Nationals while Individual Events and Congressional Debate saw a major comeback in the late nineties as Lowellites took greater interest in dramatic events. In 1995, Lowell Forensics received the NFL Leading Chapter Award in San Francisco Bay Area District and later for two consecutive years, in 1997 and 1998, the Lowell Forensics Society was named one of the top 5% of NFL Chapters in the nation for achieving over 200 degrees.
The Forensics team suffered a setback in 2002 when Sandra Bird retired, as she was an irreplaceable part of Lowell's debate legacy and its longtime coach. Bird, who brought the team from States to Nationals year after year as the coach of Lowell Forensics for decades, retired after receiving her fifth diamond (the highest and rarest honor bestowed by the National Forensic League).
In the years following Bird’s retirement, Christopher Newhouse, a biology teacher, took the helm of leading the team while administrative and training duties largely fell into the hands of student leaders of the organization. The Forensics team, for a short period, was also conjoined to the English department, resulting in a lack of a permanent coaching staff. In light of these changes, the society board’s student officer arrangements were reformed in 2003 with the creation of the new positions of Congress Director, Policy Debate Director, and Individual Events Director in addition to President, Vice President, Treasurer, and Secretary. The Directors are team captains for their respective events.
Forensics in the new millennium has become the largest student organization on campus. From 2003-2005, Forensics membership more than tripled to 172 students; one in nine Lowell students is affiliated with the Lowell Forensic Society and 199 new NFL degrees were earned in 2005. In the same year, due in part to generous support from the Fineman Fund and the Lowell Alumni Association, Lowell qualified for Nationals for the 39th time in addition to State Championships, Stanford, Berkeley, and Harvard national invitational tournaments.
Despite the Society's long history, some firsts have been accomplished in relatively recent years. In 1999, the first policy debate team (Barbara Hou '99 and Sam Chang '00) qualified for and attended the Tournament of Champions in Kentucky and advanced to quarterfinal rounds (Hou placed 13th speaker nationally); in 2009, for the first time in Lowell Forensic Society history, members of the Lowell squad competed at the National Catholic Forensic League Grand National Tournament in Albany, New York; and in 2010, Lowell sent its very first Parliamentary Debate team to the California State Championships.
Lowell High School was the host campus for the 2012 California State Championships.
Lowell Forensic Society alumni include Yale University President Richard Levin, Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, California Governor Edmund G. "Pat" Brown, actress Carol Channing, actor Benjamin Bratt, writer Naomi Wolf, actor Bill Bixby, PG&E CEO Frederick Mielke, author Daniel Handler, and numerous academics, writers, and judges.
- Jack Anderson, 1949 Longtime Lowell H.S. Forensics coach and VPA Dept. chair
- Bill Bixby, 1952 Television star, My Favorite Martian and The Incredible Hulk
- Stephen Breyer, 1955 U.S. Supreme Court associate justice; Harvard law professor
- Edmund G. Brown, 1923 California Governor, 1959–1967; State Attorney General
- Harold Brown, 1925 California Court of Appeals justice
- Julia Chang Bloch, 1959 U.S. Ambassador to Nepal – first U.S. Ambassador of Asian descent
- Carol Channing, 1938 International star of screen and stage
- John Heilbron, 1951 Vice Chancellor and professor of History at UC Berkeley
- Richard Levin, 1964 President, Yale University; Professor and Chairman of Economics, Yale University
- Marvin Lewis, 1924 San Francisco Supervisor and leader for creation of BART
- Mathew Tobriner, 1920 California Supreme Court justice
- Naomi Wolf, 1980 Rhodes Scholar; Author, The Beauty Myth