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Michael Rustad's Memories


Martha Roberts and Virginia Ott

Educators Extraordinaire

I think that there is a whole generation of Humboldt studentswho owe a rich debt to Martha Roberts. Martha Roberts was an extraordinaryteacher who demanded excellence from generations of Humboldt High Schoolstudents and got it. Humboldt had very few extraordinary sports teams, butwe were well known as a powerhouse in speech and forensics. She was a personnever satisfied with mediocrity. I never received a grade above B plus fromMartha Roberts. I was able to attain a perfect all A average at Boston Collegeand an A- average at Harvard Law School, but never an A grade from MarthaRoberts.

Martha Roberts was convinced that speech was one of themost important educational activities and made certain that every graduateof Humboldt-St. Vincent had ample opportunity to demonstrate their abilitiesin speech.

Humboldt-St. Vincent was one of the speech powerhousesand won a large number of trophies especially in the period between 1963and 1970. There was a period between 1965 and 1968 that Humboldt won thesub-district and district tournaments every year. We also sent a numberof our best student advocates to the regional and state competitions.

Our dynasty in speech began in 1963 with Cheryl Ingemangiving an extraordinary performance in story-telling. John Isely receivedan "A" in the state competition that year. We had so many extraordinaryspeech contestants that I would be leaving out many names in my accounts.My recollection was that Sharon Short was a star speech student, but therewere many others in her class who excelled as well: Tom Brown, Janice Bahr,Marge Twamley, David Boatz, Tom Brown, to name just a few. In the classof 1966, there were a number of superb students and speech contestants:John Wilkie, Leslie Turner, Ethel Finney, Cheryl Twamley, Linda Stewart,Lois Ward, Randy Reese and many others.

We also had some tremendously good advocates in the classof 1967. Marlys Diamond, Janice Armstrong, Ralph Giffen, Carolyn Wiese allexcelled. I represented Humboldt-St. Vincent High School at the state speechcompetition in the Spring of 1967. My memory is that Martha and Orval Robertsaccompanied my parents and me to the state tournament held at Hamline Universityin St. Paul. It was a big time event for me - sort of like going to theSpeech Super-Bowl.

Humboldt-St. Vincent's internal speech competition wasalways a trial. During my senior year, I was not certain that I would beeven picked for the team as I was faced with stiff competition in the intra-schoolcompetition from a number of talented speech contestants. I did gain theopportunity to represent the school at the sub-district where we won theinter-school competition by a wide margin. Humboldt won nearly every event.Humboldt's success in speech was so well known that we were like the ChicagoBulls were to basketball in the 1990s. In any case, we owe a great dealof our success to Martha Roberts.

Another influential teacher from that era was VirginiaOtt. After I graduated from Humboldt-St. Vincent high school, I earned adebate scholarship to the University of North Dakota. Our first debate teamwas fielded my junior year. My debate partner was Cynthia Baldwin. I believethat my brother Tony and Cynthia's sister were also on the first team. Cynthiaand I competed in some top tournaments and debated Crookston High School,then one of the best teams in the state. Cynthia will remember that we hadsome extremely difficult debate tournaments during our first year. I rememberTom Peterson, captain of Crookston's team, turning off the tape-recorderbecause were were not that competitive.

We became a good team during our second year when we gaineda few recruits to the team. We regrouped and Ralph Giffen became my partner.Cynthia Baldwin, Margo Baldwin, Tony Rustad, John Bergh, Barb Bostwick,and Dan Twamley were all members of the Humboldt team in 1966-67. Ralphand I enjoyed working together. Ralph was the better speaker and I was thebetter researcher. My memory remains keen of providing him with the researchon index cards. We took debate very seriously and with Virginia Ott's helpbecame a good team. We debated Hallock, Lancaster, Roseau, Moorehead, anda number of teams from much larager Minnesota teams. We won more than ourshare of debates and gained confidence with each tournament. I think thatthe speech and debate programs at Humboldt-St. Vincent High School wereresponsible for a large number of students from that generation excellingin college and in the professions. I often remark to friends about the superbstudents at Humboldt-St. Vincent High School and the competition was keenerthan at Harvard University Law School. I tell people that I was not evenin the top ten percent of my high school class. We had one National MeritScholar in our class another semi-finalist, Rhoda Symington and CarolynWiese. I believe that the speech and debate program at Humboldt-St. Vincentgave us a good foundation for our later studies.

at Humboldt-St. Vincentgave us a good foundation for our later studies.