John Cosden Honored as 2016 William Hennessy Outstanding Educator

To celebrate its tenth season, it was only fitting that Empire Mock Trial honor a coach who has been with the Empire from the start. John Cosden, coach of Xavier College Preparatory in Phoenix, Arizona, has been awarded the 2016 William Hennesy Outstanding Educator Award.

The award is given to one mock trial coach each year. It is based on more than winning records: it is awarded to a coach for his or her influence, and personal attributes.

“I cannot think of anyone who is more deserving of this award,” said former student Mary Olson. “He has developed a program that welcomes quiet, timid girls, and after four short years, transforms us into strong, confident women.”

Cosden has coached more than 500 mock trial students in his 17 years as coach at Xavier. His team from Phoenix, Arizona, has a history of success: winning four Arizona State Championship titles, two state runner-up finishes, three 3rd place finishes and two fourth place finishes.

He founded the first and only high school invitational tournament in Arizona, and writes educational materials for new mock trial students.

“The invitational tournament helped Xavier prepare… but it also helped other schools,” said Xavier graduate Chelsea Divins. “[Cosden] cared so much. He put countless hours of energy into our program, to make sure we were the best we could be.”

His students said he was just as inspiring in the classroom, teaching English at Xavier. They remember how he would dress up in character to teach literature, jump up on a desk to get his students’ attention, and sing songs to liven the school day.

“Mr. Cosden taught our team the true meaning of strong, skillful, and tough,” said former student Leah Gessel.

Xavier has a special place in Empire history: Cosden brought his students to the inaugural tournament in 2007, which only featured a handful of schools. His team has competed in Empire tournaments all ten years.

“Mr. Cosden has been with us from the start — he is synonymous with Empire Mock Trial,” said Empire founder Justin Matarrese.

But, ironically, the year that Cosden won the Outstanding Educator Award was a year he had to stay behind in Arizona.

His wife, Judy, has been battling Alzheimer’s disease for the last few years. He has had to significantly cut back his hours coaching mock trial to spend with her.

“She has undoubtedly been just as important to Xavier Mock Trial as he has been,” said Xavier graduate Shelby Clark.

Knowing Cosden could not make it to his own tribute at the Empire Closing Ceremony in New York, Matarrese sent him a letter to thank him for his years of dedication, and reveal that he would be the recipient of the 2016 William Hennessy Outstanding Educator Award.

Students filmed Cosden as he read the letter out loud, and got emotional as he realized he was receiving the award.

“Dear Mr. Cosden, how has it been ten years?” the letter started. “Empire has evolved over the years, and it certainly looks different now than when we first met…

“Yet throughout the last 10 years, there has remained one constant: the unwavering leadership and mentorship of John Cosden.”

When he read the sentence revealing the award, Cosden got choked up. He sighed, and quietly said: “Well, that’s a surprise.”

The always humble coach quickly diverted the attention away from himself, and started to talk about what an outstanding teacher William Hennessy is — and how honored he is to have an award with Hennessy’s name attached to it. He thanked the Empire staff for selecting him, and got choked up with his final sentiment:

“I love mock trial. I love teaching. And I love my wife.”

Cosden’s remarks, along with video testimonials and photographs, played in a tribute video during the Empire New York Closing Ceremony on Sunday, November 13 in the Grand Ballroom of the Brooklyn Marriott. You can watch the video below.

“Mr. Cosden sees mock trial as a way of developing young people with strong minds and loving hearts,” added Matarrese. “And that’s what we try to do at Empire.”

Congratulations, Xavier Mock Trial Coach John Cosden: the 2016 William Hennessy Outstanding Educator.


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