When I started college in 1990 at the University of Texas at San Antonio, more than anything, I wanted to continue my activities in speech and debate. During high school, debate was the one activity where my complete and total nerdiness actually worked to my advantage, and I couldn’t wait to have those same great experiences at the collegiate level. I started asking around and was sad to find out that UTSA didn’t have an active debate team at that time. In my second semester of college, I took my Introduction to Speech Communication class from Roy “Skip” Eno, who had previously coached the team. I set upon a steady campaign of harassment every Tuesday and Thursday during class and his office hours, trying to see what it would take to get the debate team going again. Thankfully, there were others that were just as interested in collegiate debate at UTSA; I am sure they saved me from stalking charges, or at the very least, a really bad grade.
In the fall of 1992, I found myself on the road with 3 other brave souls on our first foray into CEDA (Cross Examination Debate Association) Policy Debate. We were traveling by van from San Antonio, Texas to Tonkawa, Oklahoma; home to Northern Oklahoma College, and not much else. Our coach, Skip Eno, drove. Always, and without exception, Skip drove the van. We drove to every tournament, as to maximize our meager budget, and ensure anyone who had the desire could attend tournaments. We drove to points as far away as Baltimore and San Diego. We drove through rain storms and snow storms, logging at least as many miles as we had pages of briefs stuffed into our evidence totes. If you thought you were getting some extra leg room by sitting in the passenger seat, there was a cost… no falling asleep, as the copilot it was your job to navigate, and also ensure the driver stayed awake. For the first time in life, sitting shotgun came with serious expectations and responsibilities.
On May 11th, Skip left this earth. I found out after being invited to a group chat on Facebook, alerting those of us that were on the team during that time, that Skip was gravely ill. Within hours, he was gone. And although some of us hadn’t talked in years, the memories and stories poured forth. Our original band of 3 had quickly expanded to more than 5 teams at any point in time. For a moment, we were all back in college, crammed in a van with bad shocks and leaky windows, making our way up the gulf coast to Hunt Valley, Maryland. We shared bad food, crazy locals, and even some exhaustion spurred hallucinations. We had triumphs, tragedies, and above all, we had a champion in Skip.
As we shared the stories that made us laugh, I realized that Skip was far more than my college debate coach. As my mentor, he had shaped my thinking, my reasoning skills and my very being during my time on the UTSA Debate Team. Skip was a valued confidant; he offered his wisdom, advice, and experience through a lens that was so different from what I had experienced before. Because of Skip, I knew how to use an Apple computer (before they were cool). Because of Skip, I knew what Nanotechnology was long before it showed up in the movies. Because of Skip, I was encouraged to ask questions of authority, challenge the status quo and be willing to “speak truth to power”. Because of Skip, I started to get comfortable in my own skin, and stop questioning why I was different. Even if I went for Topicality in the 2NR, Skip provided constructive and positive feedback (if you got that, then you were definitely a policy debater) Above all, Skip is the reasons I KNOW that mentoring makes a difference.
Chairman and chief executive officer of the Jewel Companies, Donald S. Perkins, has said, “Everyone who succeeds has had a mentor or mentors.” This is true whether you are examining success in business, or in life. For many at risk youth, having a mentor may make the difference between living on the streets, or a career on Wall Street. There are so many advantages for youth that have been mentored. The impacts are jaw dropping. According to The National Mentoring Partnership, children at risk who had a mentor were:
- 55% more likely to enroll in college
- 52% less likely to skip school
- 37% less likely to skip class
- 78% more likely to volunteer regularly
- 90% interested in become a mentor themselves
- 130% more likely to hold leadership positions
As Douglas Adams said, “There was a point to this story, but it has temporarily escaped the chronicler’s mind.”
Oh yes…Chatting with my former teammates, I know that Skip impacted many, many lives. It wasn’t just his enthusiasm for life, or his intelligence, or incredible sense of humor that impacted each of us. It was the fact that Skip was there for us, that he cared about us, not just as students, or debaters, but as individuals. Skip gave each of us the most important thing he could, his time. Thank you, Skip. Until we meet again, so long and thanks for all the fish.