Pak-A-Sak gifted Forensics team $100,000


Layce Donnell

WTAMU forensics team showed their appreciation for the McKee family at the endowment reception.

Savannah Wesley, Former Editor-in-Chief

The McKee family donated $100,000 to establish the McKee Forensics Scholarship Endowment, which will provide financial support to the students on the West Texas A&M University forensics team. The gift will be used at the discretion of the director of forensics for emergency scholarships and to help pay for expenses associated with attending the International Forensics Association.

“I’m really excited that these endowed funds that [Dale and Joyce McKee] are providing really make it possible for the team to excel,” said Dr. Jessica Mallard, dean of the Sybil B. Harrington College of Fine Arts. “Futures are uncertain and the endowment says this is going to be here forever, so it’s truly exciting and we really appreciate it.”

According to Associate Lecturer Connie McKee, director of forensics and coach for the team, some universities have been pulling out support for forensics teams that used to be around, making it harder and harder to find competitions. So the team appreciated WTAMU for promoting them and continuing to support forensics in this way. The  team prepared a video for the donors referencing Dr. Seuss’s “Oh! The Places You’ll Go!” in appreciation of their support.

“I think this endowment is essential to the continuation of our team because not only does it show community support from someone as big in this Amarillo-Canyon community as the McKee family. It also just means that things like financial burdens won’t be hard for the team,” said Bailey McClure, sophomore corporate communications major and second-year returner to the forensics team.

The McKee family has a long history in the Texas Panhandle that began when Dale and Joyce founded the convenience store chain, Pak-A-Sak in 1978. Still to this day, the family enjoys the opportunities to serve and work in rural communities on the high plains. Their legacy of service continues with the philanthropic gift  made to WTAMU.

“There’s a sense of permanence,” said Duncan Miertschin, freshman physics major and new member of the team. “The idea of someone being able to continue it for generations to come is actually kind of exciting and inspiring to me. It makes me want to redouble my efforts if I can and give 150 not just a 110 percent because I know that people are going to want to continue to come on this team.”

The forensics team has attended four competitions since the fall term started. Multiple team members have placed in the top sweepstakes with one member placing in the national competition. The team has more competitions coming up in Colorado Springs, Fort Worth and Denton, Texas and Podua, Oklahoma. The team placed second last year at the international competition so the goal of the team this year is for every member to qualify for nationals and become international champions.

“We’re coming back with a vengeance,” said Connie McKee. “We are going to win it this year. How cool would it be to say we are the international speech team?” 

The majority of the students that Connie McKee recruits come from the top 26 county schools in the panhandle of Texas. These are small, rural communities but the accomplishments of the students as a debate team are not small at all. Under Connie McKee’s leadership and instruction, students have extended the reputation of WTAMU’s forensics teams far beyond the Texas panhandle and even beyond the borders of the U.S. by consistently earning international championships in countries like Spain, Peru and Canada.

“The McKee family is allowing us to be reminded through today’s announcement and celebration that higher education is a public-private partnership,” said Dr. Todd Rasberry, vice president for institutional advancement. “That partnership is vital to providing an exceptional educational experience here at WT.”