Retired HHS debate coach entering national hall of fame
(The following press release and photo were submitted from Hattiesburg High School.)
The National Speech & Debate Association has selected retired Hattiesburg High School Coach Michael Marks for induction into the National Hall of Fame. Coaches from across the country decide who is tapped for inclusion in the annual NSDA Hall of Fame.
Marks, who was a high school debater at Magnolia’s South Pike High School, was also a varsity debater for The University of Southern Mississippi during his undergraduate college years. As a 19-year-old teacher, Marks delivered his first state championship debate team at Lumberton High School. He later fielded championship squads at Perry Central High School, Hattiesburg High School and the ADEPT Dropout School.
Dr. Tommie Lindsey, Jr. of California nominated Marks for the lofty status. “I can still remember watching him on the Disney Channel the night he won America’s Outstanding Teacher of the Performing Arts. I never dreamed that a debate coach would win. He was an inspiration to us all.”
According to NSDA President Pam Cady Wycoff of Minnesota, the Class of 2021 will participate in a private induction ceremony, scheduled for June 10 and will be featured in a nationally livestreamed ceremony on June 15. “From his Katrina Project, which raised hundreds of thousands for natural disaster victims and received a national Human and Civil Rights Award, to his current work to save kids from the national vaping epidemic, Michael’s heart has always been in the right place. Congratulations to him on a lifetime of achievement.”
“I am so humbled by all of this,” admits the former Mississippi Teacher of the Year and Milken National Educator. “To be recognized by your peers is the greatest compliment. Throughout my career, I have been blessed to work with talented students, visionary administrators and supportive colleagues and parents.”
Through the National 4-H Public Speaking Program and the Elks Oratorical Contests, Marks earned scholarships to help pay for his education at Southern Miss. In 2000, the South Mississippi educator was elected by educators throughout the United States to national office with the 3.3-million-member National Education Association.
His theatre students have originated roles in national shows from Broadway’s Hairspray to Marvel’s Black Panther to NCIS. Under his leadership, HHS Thespians became the first high school in America to establish a chapter of Equity Fights AIDS on its campus and was named America’s Outstanding High School of the Performing Arts by Music Theatre International.
Hattiesburg High School Director of Speech and Debate Scott Waldrop, one of Marks’ debate students, weighs in on his mentor’s impact on students, “Marks’ insistence on public service in a diverse world is what drives him and inspires others. He always acknowledged that trophies and championships were fine but if we could teach kids to revere each other as human beings, we will have done the world a greater good.”
Commissioner of Tourism for the City of Hattiesburg, Marks is National Executive Director of Schools Against Vaping, President of the Board of Directors for YMCA of Southeast Mississippi and a founder of the nonprofit, Mississippi United.
Marks joins Brother Anthony K. Cavet (MA), Dr. Rich Edwards (TX), Gail Nicholas (SC) and J. Scott Wunn (IA) in the Class of 2021 National Hall of Fame inductees.