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L. E. Norton Higher Education Student Award

Norton served as President of the Illinois Speech Association in 1950. He spent his career at Bradley University where he was a Professor of Speech and served as the Director of Forensics. His status among speech educators is legendary.  Norton was responsible for inventing many of the events we compete in today, including duo interpretation and informative speaking. While at Bradley, he founded Pi Kappa Delta, the honorary speech fraternity. The annual Bradley University Individual Events Invitational is named in his honor and is considered one of the most prestigious college individual events tournaments in the nation. He also coached the national championship GE College Bowl Team in 1969.This award is presented to an outstanding college major in speech or theatre who has made significant contributions to the college, community and discipline.

2023 L. E. Norton Higher Education Award Winner

Brenna Bretzinger, Northern Illinois University

In May, Brenna Bretzinger graduated from Northern Illinois University with High Honors receiving her Bachelor of Science with a double major in Actuarial Science and Applied Mathematics along with two minors in English and History. After joining NIU Forensics, with no prior experience and a fear of public speaking, Brenna explains that she found a passionate and supportive community who fostered her love of public speaking and communication. She served as both President and Treasurer of NIU Forensics and Sigma Tau Delta Honorary, and as editor in Chief for the Stonehouse  Academic Journal. She is the recipient of numerous speaking awards including her National Championship in Informative Speaking. In addition to her participation in a wide range of co-curricular activities, she participates in a number of volunteer projects including Safe Passage, Huskie Food Pantry, Feed my Starving Children, and Stemfest.

This fall, she begins her graduate program in Communication Studies at NIU where she will teach a section of the basic course and assist in the forensics program. Her goal is to teach communication and provide students the tools to create safe spaces to speak their mind, to never feel silenced,  and to share their voice. She is excited to be at her first professional Communication convention and is looking forward to becoming an active member of the Illinois Communication and Theater Association.

Watch Brenna's acceptance speech here: https://youtu.be/pmTRtHFr7Xk

Past Winners of the L. E. Norton Higher Education Student Award

1995 Ari Fisz, University of Illinois

1996 Ann O’Connell

1997 Adam Jenkins, McKendree College

1998 No award presented

1999 Angela Townley, Illinois State University

2000 Chad Kaffer, McKendree College

2001 No award presented

2002 Kristen Linde, Illinois State University

2003 Jamie Hines, Illinois State University

2004 Mark Adams, Illinois State University

2005 Jennifer Shelton, Illinois State University

2006 Lindsay Sank, Illinois State University

2007 Christopher J. Schmid, Illinois State University

2008 Christine Doman, Illinois State University

2009 April Lowry, Illinois State University

2010 Anna Wright, Illinois State University

2011 Camille Yameen, Bradley University & Scott Pyle, Illinois State University

2012 Brian Rohman, Illinois State University & Lisa Roth, Northern Illinois University

2013 Kaybee Brown, Bradley University & Chandler Johnson, Illinois State University

2014 Clinton Brown, Eastern Illinois University

2015 Marques Brown, Eastern Illinois University & Yanelly Villegas, Northern Illinois University

2016 Emily Vajjala, Eastern Illinois University & Southern Illinois University-Carbondale

2017 Allison Metz, Illinois State University

2018 Matt DuPuis, Northern Illinois University

2019 Harry Bodell, Highland Community College

2020 No Award Given

2021 Starr Lee, Northern Illinois University

2022 Lavontae Morrow, University of Illinois Chicago

2023 Brenna Bretzinger, Northern Illinois University

Illinois Communication and Theatre Association

C/O Edward Schwarz

Prairie State College

202 S. Halsted St.

Chicago Heights, IL 60411


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