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Four finalists to face off in June 8 debate at NYM

The four finalists for the 2013 Great American Think-Off have been selected and have agreed to come to New York Mills to participate in the 21st annual debate, set for Saturday, June 8 at 7 p.m.

This year’s question is “Which is more ethical:  sticking to principle or being willing to compromise?”

Two of the finalists, both arguing for principle, hail from the American south and two, both arguing for compromise, live in Minnesota.

Caroline Zarlengo Sposto recently retired from a long communications career to start writing fiction and poetry. Her stories and poems have been published by “The Saturday Evening Post” and “Family Circle” magazines as well as various literary magazines and anthologies.

She lives with her husband in Memphis, Tenn., where she is an active community volunteer. Their two grown daughters live in New York City. Caroline has a B.A. in English from The University of Colorado and an M.S. in Electronic Media from Kutztown University.

David Eckel is a writer and philosopher whose day job is small business IT and marketing.

An MIT graduate in Management Science, Dave’s checkered past includes developing a non-reversing mirror as well as working for start-ups in the plastics and telecom sectors before founding a software company whose diverse clients include an oil field services company and an antique mall.

Close to home he’s the neighborhood’s computer fix-it guy and a junior golf teacher. This varied background had contributed to an intuitive style of problem solving that at times yields surprising results when applied to matters of philosophy.

Dave lives in Clayton, N.C., with wife Sandy and their rescue dogs Heart and Soul. When not in the fairways or hazards of a nearby dog friendly golf course they explore as a family the myriad of foot trails throughout North Carolina, from the Appalachians to the Atlantic.

As CEO of StayWell Health Management, Paul Terry directs client support, program evaluation, research and industry leadership and ensures the highest quality in program development and delivery.

Additionally, Paul leads strategic planning and market presence, and provides consulting expertise on customer programs. 

Prior to StayWell, Paul was the president and CEO of the Park Nicollet Institute, the research and education division of Park Nicollet Health Services in Minnesota. He also was a member of the health education faculty at St. Cloud State University and Hamline University.

Paul, a former Senior Fulbright Scholar and a past president of the Minnesota Public Health Association, serves as an editor of the American Journal of Health Promotion.

David Lapakko is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at Augsburg College in Minneapolis, where he teaches courses in Argumentation, Persuasion, Intercultural Communication, Organizational Communication, and Public Speaking.

He also teaches a communication ethics course in Augsburg’s Master of Arts in Leadership program.

He received a B.A. from Macalester College in St. Paul, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in speech-communication from the University of Minnesota.

His textbook, “Argumentation: Critical Thinking in Action” (iUniverse, 2009) is now in its 2nd edition. His hobbies include distance running (six marathons and 30 half-marathons) and blogging (under the moniker “Contentious Introvert”).

He considers the three most important people in his life to be his wife Helen, his son Tony, and his daughter Jamee.

The Think-Off is only 3 weeks away.  Get your tickets now at the Cultural Center, 24 Main Ave. N., New York Mills; by calling 218-385-3339; or purchase them online at

If you would like the VIP treatment you can also purchase “Philosopher” tickets to the Think-Off.

The price of a Philosopher ticket is $50 and helps us cover the costs of producing the annual Great American Think-Off.

Philosopher tickets provide seating in the first three rows at the James Mann Center for the Performing Arts for an up-close and personal admission. 

Your support will be acknowledged in the Think-Off program if you purchase your ticket by Thursday, May 30.

Minnesota folk legend Larry Long will perform a special concert at the Cultural Center on Friday, June 7 at 7:30 p.m.

Admission is $12 with advance reservation and $15 the night of the concert.

Save money by ordering tickets for the concert and the debate together at a cost of $20, a savings of $10.

A Philosopher’s ticket to the debate on Saturday also gives the bearer free admission to Long’s concert on Friday.