The names of Fulton Prize Debate winners from 1890 on are displayed on the front wall of the Fulton Debate Room in BC's Gasson Hall. The room also features six quotations related to oratory: in Greek by Demosthenes, in Latin by Cicero, in Jerome's Latin rendition of St. Paul, in Italian by Paolo Segneri, S.J., in French by Louis Bourdaloue, S.J., and by Daniel Webster. The original lettering and represenations of the authors is the work of Brother Francis Schroen, who also began the list of prize winners, leaving spaces for additional names to be added until the year 2104. (Gary Wayne Gilbert)

The Boston College Fulton Debating Society has established a Fulton Hall of Fame, inducting five Fultonians at its alumni banquet earlier this year.

Director of Debate John Katsulas said the initiative is a means to reclaim and maintain the historical record of the society. “It’s fitting for Fulton to establish its own hall of fame to honor its many alumni with distinguished records of accomplishment.”

The inductees – William A. Murphy (graduated 1891), John J. Douglass (1893), John J. Wright (1931), Charles F. Donovan, S.J. (1933) and Lawrence J. Riley (1936) – were chosen based on criteria set by Katsulas: excellence as a debater, professional accomplishments, and the uniqueness of their contributions to the society.  

Fultonian Charles F. Donovan, S.J., seen here in later years as academic vice president of Boston College, with his golden retriever, Brandy.
Fulton Hall of Fame inaugural honoree Charles F. Donovan, S.J., shown here in later years as academic vice president of Boston College, accompanied by his golden retriever, Brandy.

“The debating society at Boston College was established in 1868 and was named the Fulton Debating Society in 1890, which was the first year the Fulton Prize Debate began,” said Katsulas.  “So it seemed appropriate to initiate the first class of inductees from the earliest period from which actual records and information could be located about the candidates.”

Murphy was the first winner of the Fulton Medal – awarded annually to the best speaker in the Fulton Prize Debate – and is considered one of Boston College’s most distinguished alumni. After graduation, Murphy covered the State House as a reporter for The Boston Globe and then served as secretary to three Massachusetts governors.  In 1941, BC awarded Murphy the Jubilarian Medal.

Douglass, the 1893 Fulton Medal winner and Fulton president, was valedictorian of his class. After graduating from Georgetown Law School and starting a practice in Boston, he began a political career, serving four terms in the Massachusetts House of Representatives and five in the U.S. House of Representatives – the only Fultonian ever elected to Congress.

Wright, widely regarded as one of the greatest orators of his day, won both the Fulton Medal and the Gargan Medal – the award given annually to the second-best speaker in the Fulton Prize Debate – and was a member of the Fulton team that defeated Harvard in a debate over prohibition. Wright became one of the most influential priests in the United States, serving as auxiliary bishop of Boston and bishop of Worcester and Pittsburgh, before being appointed a cardinal by Pope Paul VI. He was the featured speaker at the 1964 Fulton reunion banquet.

Fr. Donovan, winner of the Harrigan Prize for oratory and the Leonard Persuasive Speaking Contest, became an important senior administrator at Boston College, serving as founding dean of the School of Education, and later as academic vice president and dean of faculties.  As BC’s first University Historian, he wrote The History of Boston College in 1990, and several occasional papers, including Debate at Boston College: People, Places, Traditions in 1991. Katsulas noted that Fr. Donovan was a regular attendee at the Fulton Prize Debate – always sitting in the front row – and a great champion of the debate program.

Riley, said to have won every important honor as a debater and student – including valedictorian – competed in public debates where Fulton defeated Georgetown in 1934, and Dartmouth and Cambridge University in 1935. He entered the priesthood and in 1965 was appointed as the rector of St. John’s Seminary, and auxiliary bishop of Boston in 1970.

Katsulas used historical research from the Fulton archives, The Heights, Sub Turri, and The Stylus, to choose the first Fulton Hall of Fame class and will employ a similar method for choosing future inductees, supplemented by nominations from an alumni committee from the respective decades. Next year’s class will represent the 1940s and ’50s, with successive classes continuing up until present-day Fultonians.

“Contemporary members of the Fulton Debating Society will certainly be worthy candidates for induction,” he said. “During my tenure, I have coached many outstanding debaters who have gone on to achieve tremendous success in their professional careers.”

Click here to visit the Fulton Debating Society website.

–Siobhan Sullivan / University Communications