Talking Saints Michael Fuller named All American

Tuesday, June 9, 2020

HELENA – Carroll College Talking Saints senior Michael Fuller has been named to the 2019-2020 Individual Events All American Team.

Fifteen students from across the United States were named All Americans, based on forensics achievement, academic achievement and community service. Fuller was one of only two students from the western United States to make the team.

The recognition might be seen as a sort of a welcome “apology” for Fuller’s lost nationals, which would have been his fourth trip. He qualified in four events, but COVID-19 canceled the April tournament.

“The award lessens the blow, a little,” said Fuller. “But it would have been nice to receive it at nationals with my family. And it’s not the same as competing at nationals for four years – but it’s nice.”

This is the second major award Fuller received this year, having also won the Megan Gaffney Award from the Northwest Forensics Conference for his efforts “to make our community more inclusive and welcoming, thereby enriching the educational environment for everyone.”

A coach from Linfield College wrote a letter nominating Fuller for the Gaffney award.

“Michael is a strong competitor and undoubtably, a great teammate,” wrote Una Kimokeo-Goes, “but more importantly he makes our forensics community feel personal and connected even as we are pitted against one another through competition. It is a very rare person who can be both ambitious and conscientious, confident and kind.”

Nationals in Anaheim, California, was set to fall on Michael’s birthday, April 5. His twin Joshua, plus his mother and father, were all set to celebrate the twins’ 22nd birthdays Sunday night at the tournament.

And so, Fuller’s eight years ends not with a bang, but a whimper.

“There’s some sorrow involved, but also some relief,” Fuller said. “There’s no more stress about practicing or worry about preparing speeches months in advance. But the thing I’ll miss the most is going to meet my friends, the community, catching up, hearing stories – or being stuck in mud on a bus.”

Fuller majored in biochemistry and is dreaming of a career in pediatric psychiatry. He’s applying to medical schools for admission in fall 2021. He’ll spend the gap year working in the medical field.

Fuller says his speech career will serve him well in healthcare. Both the Gaffney Award and the All American award emphasize service to others.

“In speech you have to have the ability to communicate with people with different lifestyles, different religions, different cultures,” said Fuller. “And you have to be courteous. You have to remember to treat people with the same kindness and respect you hope to receive.”

Fuller’s life was always overloaded, with school, speech and a variety of part-time jobs. But he says the busy life was a blessing.

“Scheduling was probably my best friend,” Fuller said. “If I don’t get it on my schedule, it won’t be done. My notes were color coordinated. I had every course in a different colored folder. I had to learn to be organized and to balance my life.”

Fuller and his twin Josh have been fixtures on the Carroll campus since they were six years old when their father, Chris Fuller, accepted a job at Carroll in 2004. Both boys could be seen at the computers in St. Charles Hall, where his dad had his office in the early years.

“We’d walk to the CUBE and look at the bricks on the walk with all the student names on it and ride our scooters down that path,” recalls Fuller. “Students and faculty would wave and say hi. Carroll was our second home.”

Fuller admits that after high school he was anxious to leave Montana, but in what he calls “one of the best decisions I ever made,” he chose Carroll for its medical program. His brother chose Concordia in Moorhead, Minnesota, for music.

“When Josh decided to go somewhere else, that was hard,” said Fuller. “That first semester was the worst. I knew he wanted music and I said good for him, but it was hard to accept my brother moving away.”

Josh graduated, too, and is back in Helena. So, it’s twins united again, for now. Fuller remembers how much fun it was to dress up as Harry Potter characters or to “play the twin card” with his brother, but says they are too different now for that game to work anymore.

Looking back at this chapter of his life, Fuller smiles. He dedicated a poetry performance to close friend Beth Haile, who taught at Carroll, but died of brain cancer in November 2019, just days before he was to compete at Linfield.

“I will always remember my poetry round at Linfield that I dedicated to Beth. That will forever stick out to me,” he said. “The last line was ‘gone but not forgotten.’ I was crying, and the entire room was crying.”