A legacy of winning
They say that frequent relocations by a family is not good for children, either socially or educationally.
However for Neil Warren, his moves around the state from the time he was young until he was in junior high seem to have had no effect on him; in fact he is proud of it.
"My father was in the highway construction business and we moved everywhere in the state from Randolph to Hurricane, from Delta to Harley Dome," he stated on Tuesday.
Yet having been born in Spring Glen, and then coming back to Carbon for his teenage years set the stage for a life filled with accomplishment, and helping others accomplish their dreams as well.
Warren is well known in the community for his work with theater and in the state and nation for his ability to take forensic teams from a small junior college few had ever heard of, to national prominence. There are well known people that have emerged from the community here, such as J. Bracken Lee and Rex Berry. But in some circles Warren is better known.
After graduating from Carbon High School he went on to Carbon College. After graduation there he went onto the University of Utah. His senior year in college he decided to take a quarter off and work (he had been working for W.W. Clyde) and the draft board spotted the time off so he got drafted with one quarter of school left to attend.
That was during the Korean War, and the government was looking for everyone they could to fill the military ranks. Warren, who had been a television/broadcast journalism student suddenly was thrust into the Army. However, not understanding well what he was majoring in, the Army put him in the signal corp. He never went to Korea, but instead spent time at a camp in California and then Fort Sam Houston in Texas. A year and 11 months later he got an early discharge so he could go back to school.
Warren finished his work on his bachelors and then went onto to work on his masters degree. He intended on going into radio and television broadcasting, but then he got a call from Aaron Jones, the president of Carbon College in the mid-1950s.
"He asked me to come and teach at the school," said Warren. "He said 'Give it a try, you might like it'."
He liked it so well that he ended up teaching at the college for a total of 43 and a half years at CEU with the exception of teaching two years at Carbon High (before the college and the high school were divided in 1959), a year teaching as an assistant professor at the University of Utah and another year at the University of Arizona.
While teaching became his love, his passion became forensics. A forensics standout when he was in high school himself, Warren, as forensics coach, took Carbon High to 12th, sixth and finally a third place finish in the state at a time when all the high schools in the state competed with each other regardless of size.
In 1961 Warren began coaching debate at Carbon College. He worked on building the program and by 1966 the team found themselves ranked sixth in the nation in the junior college rankings. By 1968 they had moved up to third. One of the best teams in the west, they were successful against national competition in dozens of debate meets around the country.
But beyond the junior college ranks they often competed against the big boys, meaning universities from the Ivy League to the west coast. Often when the won in tournaments where four years schools competed along with junior colleges they would place first in junior college bracket and place third in the four year school category.
It was at that time that the schools trophies began to multiply faster than the school could build trophy cases for them. In 1967 the team won 54 championship and individual trophies for the year, a record no one thought would ever be topped. But that record was broken many times after that. In 1992, for instance, the schools forensics team won 272 trophies and the next year 273.
"It got to the point where there was no where to put the honors the students had won," said Warren. "As I discussed it with administration they suggested that from that point on we give the individual trophies won to the students that won them and only keep the team trophies."
In the time Warren worked with the forensics department, the school won 24 first place awards, four second places and 12 third places. At one point the program was ranked the 12th best program (all schools combined) in the nation.
"I was always so pleased and proud of CEU's debate team," he stated. "When people asked me how we did it I just told them there were three things we did that made them winners. First we gave them the skills and the training to do it. Second, I expected them to win, and they knew it. Third, we always emphasized that they had to work hard to meet those expectations."
Warren's propensity toward theatrical production also has made him a strong part of the community. Involved in both the college productions and community theater in the area, he directed 44 plays and productions for CEU and the Castle Valley Community Theater (CVTC). He also was often a technical director and acted in over 30 plays locally. In all he worked on 130 productions.
"My favorite parts as an actor were Polonius in Hamlet and Professor Higgins in My Fair Lady," he stated.
Over the years he also held many professional offices in groups such as the Utah Education Association, the Utah Speech Arts Association, the National Junior College Speech Association, the CEU Faculty Association and the CVCT, amongst others.
He was also honored as the 2011 Founders Day Dinner as the Outstanding Alumni of the year.
In 2003 when the old Main Building on what is now the USU Eastern campus was torn down, all the trophies of his winning teams from the trophy cases in the halls and stairwells were put in storage. No cases were built for them in the new Reeves Building but there has been a movement to build new display areas for them in the Western Instructional Building and maybe other places. At this point some display cases are in the planning stage and Warren is working with the administration on that project.
Like the trophy cases, the forensics department, once so highly regarded, is now gone from the campus. Warren who has retired and come back to work three times in his career, however will not be returning again.
"I was teaching a class one day a few years ago and realized I couldn't see the words on the page of a book I wanted to read to the class so I had to have a student do it," said Warren. "When I was checked out they found I have monocular degeneration. That was the end of my teaching days."
He may not be teaching at USU Eastern again, but his legacy of winning excellence will always live on.