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Rip Ross Smith

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Passed away from a Heart Attack around 6 PM. He was a great guy and a HIGHLY INFLUENTIAL and DEDICATING Person to the community, he will be missed.



RIP Ross Smith

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I only knew Ross from his visit to DDI my senior year, but he was a colorful character and a genuinely friendly guy. I'm not likely to forget Bill and Ross' Excellent Adventure anytime soon.


Hats off to you, Ross Smith.

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Ross was a giant, and one of the nicest people I've ever met. I owe him a great debt for his encouragement of the Yorktown program, and the way he would take an interest in the debaters we would send to his institutes over the years. I will miss him much. H.

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I was 16 when I met Ross, he walked in on my lab at Wake 3 week with hershey's kisses for everyone. I always heard what a great guy but I was always in awe of the great mind I thought he was...a persona that I'd only heard of and could only imagine. That instance made him very human and warm, he will be missed.

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Every experience I ever had with Ross was positive. His speeches were the highlight of every Wake tourney. I found him to be simultaneously funny and profound whenever he spoke. His coaching success was matched only by his focus on inclusiveness and kindness towards everyone involved in debate.

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I met Ross after my novice year at Wake Forest, and he gave me new perspectives of debate. His lectures were so seamless and informing, and his personality was unmatched. I feel lucky to have been judged by such a brilliant man, and i will never forget how afraid i was when i saw that on the pairings.


You will be greatly missed, Ross.

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I didn't know Ross Smith well, but I did talk with him quite a bit this year at NAUDL. He was a kind man, and certainly generous with his time and abilities. The world needs more people like him, not less.


Condolences to his family, and to the WF team for their loss.

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I don't think I ever met Ross in person but we spoke several times on the phone and by e-mails when I sent kids to his workshop at Wake. I know he was a gifted teacher and a tireless supporter of the debate activity. The wierd thing is I was just re-watching one of his lectures that Planet Debate has so generously shared with the rest of us when I saw the notice on his untimely death. It is some small consolation that modern technology will allow him to continue to teach more students in the future. From what I know of him, he would have wanted it that way.

Edited by DeCoach

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A very sad time for the debate community. Ross Smith will be missed by many, many people. He will be remembered by those who he trained, taught, coached, counseled and simply befriended.


The largest group who should remember him will be those he thanked . . . for wonderful tournaments, for marvelous hospitality, for the opportunity given by competitors to improve oneself. A remarkable person of quality and dignity, one of his last edebate posts is how I think I will remember Professor Smith.


In his words:


"I've received some e-mail and facebook praise (thanks!). I want to issue

a broader reply.


Maybe it's just too obvious to state, but I've rarely been a person of

few words (once you get me going) . . . .


Thank you competitors. Every one of you, coach and debater, who face our

teams and push our teams to think harder, research deeper, get outside

of our narrower confines. You pose questions to our coaching, without

which questions we could not learn and improve.


On occasion, hopefully rare, we do not reciprocate or we fail to

appreciate. When we (being human) are at our worst we might denigrate. I

hope and trust not, but know that we mean not.


We can't do it without you.


What are the best debates you have judged or debated in? They are

closely contested. They reflect a commitment to excellence. That

atttribute can never be one sided.


We are at our worst and best when we put everything we have into a

debate and come up on the short end. But who gave us the opportunity to

be triumphant and feel that the win was meaningful in the first place?

Our competitors.


Thank you.



Ross K. Smith

Director of Debate

Wake Forest University"



Thank you, Ross Smith, for making our world a far better, more human, more graceful place.

Edited by William Smelko

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This was just put up on edebate. It is well worth reading:


*In Recognition: Ross K. Smith*


Earlier this week the college debate community lost one of its most

accomplished and influential coaches, leaders, mentors, and friends. Ross

Kennedy Smith passed away on July 19, 2009, but his influence will be felt

for many years.


In the shock of the last few days the debate community has paused and

reflected on the ways in which Ross influenced us all. The tremendous

outpouring of condolences and memories is a testament to how many lives Ross touched. As representatives of the three largest collegiate policy debate organizations we take this moment to remember a coaching legend.


For the last quarter century Ross, as Director of Debate, and Alan Louden,

as Director of Forensics, embodied the Wake Forest University Debate team.

As we celebrate Ross, we also celebrate the remarkable partnership of these

two remarkable forensics educators. Together they defined a standard of

excellence for all debate programs. It is not always easy to highlight their

accomplishments in isolation of each other, because they both exemplify such modesty. Today we celebrate their partnership as we remember Ross.


A Wake graduate himself (’82, ’84), Ross started coaching the Demon Deacons in the fall of 1984 as he began one of the most significant coaching careers in the history of intercollegiate debate. As the Director of Debate at Wake Forest, Ross left his mark as a deeply committed and incredibly successful coach. His list of accomplishments is long and well-known. He coached the 1997 and 2008 National Debate Tournament National Champions, the 2006 and 2009 NDT 2nd place teams, was named National Coach of the Year in 1994 and 1998, and District VI Coach of the Year in 2000 and 2006. In Best of the Decade polling he was named Best Judge of the 1990's and Second Best Coach of the 1990's. He qualified more teams to the elimination rounds of the National Debate Tournament than any other coach in the last decade.


As remarkable as this list of accomplishments is, it only begins

to appreciate his energy and his passion as an educator. Ross was a

tireless advocate for bringing the very best from policy debate. A brilliant

teacher, Ross was a mentor to Wake students of all competitive abilities.

With leadership from Al and Ross the Wake Forest debate program has

influenced hundreds of undergraduate and graduate students. Many fields owe a debt of thanks for the talented young professionals that learned from

Ross. It is almost impossible, for example, to find a debate program

untouched by Wake graduates.


Regardless of when they were involved with the team or if they were an

undergraduate competitor or a graduate teaching assistant, these students

fondly recall the influence Ross has on their development. Marcia Tierksy

(WFU Class of ’94) explains, "Ross was a remarkable person. He was a great mentor and a brilliant innovator. I know that I would not be the person that I am today without Ross's influence, and I could easily name 50 other people who could say the same. Ross had a great gift for making those who debated for him better. Better debaters, better thinkers, better speakers, and better people. There are no words for how much he is missed."


His influence was not just limited to those enrolled as students

at Wake Forest. Ross saw competition not as a way to divide people, but as

an opportunity to teach all those around him. Many of those who have shared their memories in recent days are those who competed against Ross and his Wake teams. Dan Shalmon (Berkeley, ’04) shared what is was like to compete against Wake Forest, "Debate coaches are intensely competitive people. Rivalries can become intense, personal and mean. Races for the Copeland Award, which recognizes the best team of the course of a season can become downright ugly. Such races usually are waged between two, or at most three teams…. Ross was a mentor to me and my teammates. He was also the coach of the team we contended for the Copeland with most closely. Our race came right down the wire; our debates with Wake were exceedingly close and often infuriatingly so. Ross was always - and I mean without fail - friendly and supportive."


Ed Panetta, the Director of Forensics at the University of Georgia, himself

a former Wake debate graduate assistant, noted this same experience of

coaching against Ross, "While his teams were very competitive -- he didn't project a sense of being competitive with his professional colleagues. This is a gift that fewer and fewer coaches exhibit. When Georgia was in the finals of the (1997) NDT against Wake Forest we spent most of the debate together sharing fun memories. And, he was very gracious in victory. In fact, he was the only person left to help me move [our] evidence from the ballroom that night after the dust settled."


Debate coaches and students spend a great deal of time together during the

competition season, much of it at three day competitions, known as

tournaments. Never content to direct countless tabulation rooms at other

schools’ tournaments and host the largest regular season tournament each

year, Ross always worked tirelessly to make tournaments better. As the hosts of the ‘Dixie’ (now renamed as the ‘Franklin Shirley’) college debate

tournament, Ross was a driving force in improving the way that debate

tournaments operate. Ross had as much influence as anyone in the last

quarter-century in improving their operation.


His willingness to take risks and experiment with new practices brought many

of the innovations that today the debate community takes for granted.

Everything from the basic time limits for each speech, the scale used to

evaluate the way in individual debaters are judged, use of precise and

accurate schedules, greater transparency in pre-tournament disclosure, and

groundbreaking use of computer tabulation software were innovations

developed at Wake Forest.


He strove to provide great competition and legendary hospitality. It is not

surprising that the annual Wake tournament was selected as the best

tournament of the both the 1980s and 1990s. The humane and professionally

managed tournament attracted the very best in college policy debate and is a positive memory for everyone who attended as a coach or competitor.


Ross also influenced many more students by directing Wake’s summer debate

institutes for high school students, organizing public debates and teaching

Debate and Advocacy at Wake Forest. His high school summer workshop and

early season national high school tournament provided high quality

instruction and competitive experiences for thousands of high school

students from across the nation. He also edited more than twenty volumes of

the "Debater's Research Guide", the most widely respected annual guide to

the policy literature and arguments surrounding each year's national high

school debate topics.


His service includes leadership at the national level of intercollegiate

debate organizations. He served as the District IV representative to the

National Debate Tournament for several terms and served on the national

topic selection committee. Ross was a leading voice in making the merger of

the NDT and CEDA communities possible, a tremendous step forward in the

integration of our debate community. In just the last few months he played

an active role in The National Development Conference on Debate, hosted at

Wake Forest. He served as a member of the Best Practices Committee, a group that continued the spirit of his labors. He was a vocal and enthusiastic

advocate at this forum, just as he had been his entire career.


Ross saw debate as something that was not limited to just tournament

competitions. He founded the Open Source Debate Foundation, which has as its mission the connection of the research and analytic capacities of the

academic debate community and its graduates to the wider political and

policy communities. He cofounded DebateScoop, a community blog devoted to coverage of campaign debates led by the nation’s leading debate and

political communication scholars. He was active in local Democratic Party

politics, including running for the Board of Education Forsyth County, NC,

in 2006. He also taught regularly at the Ben Franklin Transatlantic Fellows

Initiative, a U.S. Department of State-sponsored program that brought

hundreds of high school students from around the world to Wake Forest for

study of civic activism.


In recognition of his exemplary service, he was named the 2009

recipient of the George Ziegelmueller Award. The award, named for the

longtime coach at Wayne State University, is presented to a faculty member

who has distinguished himself or herself in the communication profession

while coaching teams to competitive success at the National Debate

Tournament. Ziegelmueller’s son, Bill (‘91), debated at Wake Forest. Al

Louden, himself a recipient of the award in 2000, presented the award.


"The Ziegelmueller award is the top award presented by the National Debate

Tournament, which recognizes long-term career contributions to the national

debate community, akin to a lifetime achievement award … In Ross’ case, his

competitive success, coupled with being widely recognized as the leading

innovator for debate practice in the country, contributed to his selection."


The generational nature of academic debate lends to a sometimes

fleeting institutional memory. Students and coaches pass through each year.

Some influence others as a judge, others host competitions, and still fewer

truly become mentors to the next generation of talented students. Ross not

only thrived in each of these roles, he set a standard for others to follow.

Bill Ziegelmueller’s college debate partner, Mark Grant (’93, ‘95),

expresses how Ross lives on in those he touched.


Ross's passion, intelligence, wit, willingness to challenge contemporary

thinking, and kindness won't be forgotten. Ross changed the world around him for the better, in ways varying from as personal as helping troubled

students to as vast as improving the quality of debates in countless places

and ways. Those of us still here already miss you terribly, but beneath

that, are overwhelmed by how you positively touched our lives. Coach,

teacher, boss, friend, I am deeply thankful for the time you had with us.


Every person who has passed through debate in the last quarter-century has

been influenced by Ross. Dallas Perkins, the Director of Debate at Harvard

University described Ross as “one of the most highly respected judges in

history” and “One of the greatest coaches in the history of academic debate

in America has left us at a terribly young age.”


At this truly sad moment we face the future and the change that

will come. This will be all the more difficult because of how important Ross

was in difficult times. When circumstances warranted change, Ross was not

afraid to act decisively. Within weeks of the terrorist attacks of September

11th, 2001 Ross broke with traditional tournament format to provide

opportunities for extended discussions of issues affecting the nation and

world following the attacks during the Franklin Shirley tournament’s public

debate-ins. The process of making this happen was challenging and it

required motivating an entire community to adjust its practices.

Appropriately, Ross voiced the challenge,


"Look folks, there are thousands of people who WANT TO HEAR YOU. They are calling on you to debate in a way that answers their real need for something beyond the drumbeat of the media and the administration. Will you answer their call?"


For the last twenty-five years Ross answered the call with a sense of joy

and energy that inspired us all. We are better for having had the pleasure

of knowing him. His pioneering contributions advanced our competition

practices and our activity's pedagogy single him out as a true visionary who

will be dearly missed. Today we begin the difficult task of moving forward,

inspired by his legacy and answering that call. It will be very difficult to

experience tournament competition without him. His influence, however, will

last as long as we honor his memory.


As the representatives of intercollegiate debate organizations, we recognize

Ross K. Smith’s lifetime of service to our community and we express our most

profound condolences to his wife Jayne, their son Alex, their entire family,

Alan Louden, the entire Wake Forest debate family, and Wake Forest



Brent Brossman, President – American Debate Association


Tim O’Donnell, Committee Chair – National Debate Tournament


Robert C. Rowland, Chair of the Board of Trustees, National Debate



Gordon Stables, President – Cross Examination Debate Association

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