A Brief Timeline: 1951-1961
1951 - Prison officials at Norfolk contacted Emerson to bring collegiate debating to the prison. Coleman Bender and Haig der Mardersoian, both faculty in the School of Communication, coached the fifteen-man team to a record of 268 wins to six losses over the next 23 years.
1956 - The all-male debating team at Norfolk successfully defended the negative of the resolution: "That Women have a Natural Superiority over Men," scoring a victory over an all-female Emerson College team.
1958 - The Norfolk Prison debaters defeat Emerson co-eds over the question of "Intolerance is More Dangerous than Ignorance." The debaters for Norfolk, Tom Vigrolio and Al Barrows, were two incarcerated men serving life sentences who preserved the team's four-year undefeated streak against Emerson and other top Ivy League and collegiate teams.
1960 - Norfolk defeats Emerson debating the topic of "Women are Slaves to Fashion." The prison team garnered a 20-second standing ovation from almost 600 incarcerated audience members and visitors, after citing a regulation that stated "visual aids must be turned over to the opposing team for the opposing team's use" when the six Emerson coeds came out dressed up.
1961 - Ann Palmer and Judie Espinola defeat the Norfolk team on the topic, "Resolved that a woman president should be elected president of the United States by legislation every eight years."