A healthy dose of arguing leads debate teammates to marriage

Posted on Mar 30, 2018 in Alumni News and News

Plenty of Jayhawks think they have the best “how I met my spouse at KU” story. But Bill and Dana Hensley’s story isn’t up for debate.

Bill, c’73 l’76, and Dana, d’73 g’76, met each other through the KU debate program. After two years on the team together, it was only natural that they developed some chemistry. Ultimately, it led to marriage.

After this year’s team won a national championship, we reached out to the Hensleys to learn more about their time at KU and how the program has changed over time.

How did you meet?

“We both debated in high school in Kansas, but didn’t meet. Bill joined the debate squad as a freshman and competed for KU all four years. Dana was a piano major and didn’t debate until transferring as a junior to the School of Education with an emphasis in English and Speech in secondary education.

One course requirement was Introduction to Debate, which was taught by a graduate student/assistant debate coach. He encouraged Dana to come out for the KU debate squad and dip her toe into debate at a low-key tournament in Emporia. He gave her some debate material to look at. The next day, Dana opted to take the bus from Daisy Hill due to rain. At the next stop, Bill got on, saw the debate material on Dana’s lap, and struck up a conversation.”

Bill and Dana Hensley | KU debate teammates debate couple

What are your memories of KU debate?

“We remember spending a lot of time on debate and enjoying every minute. The squad was large, talented, and fun to be around. We had great coaches and traveled often. We had only one tournament together as colleagues. We always joked that Dr. Parson, the Head Jayhawk (Coach), thought that might break us up. It didn’t.”

Are you still involved in the program?

“There is an active debate alumni association that follows the KU debate program. Last year, in association with the National Debate Tournament which KU hosted, we had a debate association reunion at which some of the current KU debaters attended and [current debate director] Scott Harris spoke. Without financial support from KU alumni and other friends of KU debate, the program couldn’t travel the large squad to national tournaments and compete at the high level it has historically.”

How does debate nowadays compare to when you were students?

“It is probably more specialized now than when we debated, but the activity continues to match KU debaters against the best and the brightest in other universities, both public and private. Judging by KU’s track record in recent years, the KU program is in the best shape it has ever been, even though we will both claim we debated during the halcyon years.”

Thank you to the Hensleys for sharing their story! Debate is one of the oldest activities on KU’s campus. The first debate on campus was held on November 8, 1867. Learn more about KU Debate, and find out how you help support KU Debate as an alumnus.

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