Historic photo of Gasson Hall constructed in 1913.

Gasson Hall constructed in 1913

In the early part of the 20th century the big event for Boston College and the Fulton Debating Society was the move to Chestnut Hill, where the college swelled with pride in its magnificent new building and the Fulton men gloried in the special amphitheater built for them. Father Gasson followed the example of Father Fulton in providing the debating society a room of its own—and what a room! The Boston College Club of Cambridge made a gift (the amount is unrecorded) specifically for the Fulton room, and all generations of Boston College people are in their debt for their role in creating one of the architectural gems of the campus.

The ceiling of the room forms a Gothic arch, reflecting the building's architecture. The sloping ceilings on either side were, fittingly, adorned with six examples of or tributes 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. 

Ceiling of the Fulton Debate Room, Gasson 305

Ceiling of the Fulton Debate Room, Gasson 305

Three of the quotations are from secular and three from sacred eloquence. From the vantage of the platform in the Fulton room the quotations from Cicero, Webster, and Demosthenes are on the left wall and those from Segneri, St. Paul, and Bourdaloue on the right wall. The unknown selector of the quotations has provided generations of Fultonians with gems of eloquence and exhortation. They are called, as aspiring orators, to selfless patriotism, to respect for human dignity, to lofty life goals, to sincerity springing from high intellectual and moral force. Truly these are guidelines that challenge the mind and stir the heart.

Tributes to Oratory


Reprinted from Boston College Magazine, 2002

"You can naturally imagine how pleased I was to see my name [on] your Winter issue cover," wrote the author of a letter that reached our offices shortly after the Winter 2000 issue came out. The writer signed himself simply "- - - - '68." Thus began the trail toward the resolution of a 30-year-old Boston College mystery. 

The photo on the Winter cover showed part of a wall in Gasson 305, where the names of the annual Fulton prize debate winners are painted on a long trompe l'oeil plaque.

In the spaces reserved for 1968, 1969, and 1970 there were no names, just dashes. Except for the years 1944-46, when World War II interrupted campus life, these were the only blanks on a roster of Fulton Prize winners stretching from 1890 to the present. 

The mysterious note was passed on to John P. Katsulas, director of the Fulton Debating Society. A clue it contained--"[I] also won the medal twice"--proved inconclusive, so Katsulas set about solving the mystery of "- - - - '68" the old-fashioned way: with legwork. While at it, he decided to identify the other winners, as well.

Combing the Fulton archives, Katsulas came up with a list of likely prize-winners. He sent letters of inquiry, and a few months later he had his men.

Joining the ranks were, chronologically, David M. White '68; Mark Killenbeck '70; and Ronald Hoenig '70. (Hoenig didn't actually win the Fulton debate in 1970, but received the honor after antiwar protests led to the cancellation of all campus activities in the latter half of the spring semester.) The names have now been painted in their rightful spots.

According to Katsulas, Fultonians of the time trace the origin of the empty spaces to then Fulton director Bob Shrum's expanding political life. A speechwriter for John Lindsay in the 1969 New York mayoral campaign (and, since, for a string of politicians from George McGovern to Al Gore), Shrum "can't be blamed for letting it slip for a few years," says White.