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Author Topic: 2012 Ross K. Smith Coach of the Year Award  (Read 1570 times)
Jarrod Atchison
Jr. Member
Posts: 54

« on: November 11, 2012, 07:28:51 AM »

We are happy to announce that Daniel Fitzmier, PhD is the 2012 Ross K. Smith Coach of the Year. On Friday night, Stephanie Spies delivered a moving speech in his honor. Today, I have the honor of posting some reflections from Dr. Fitzmier's college coach, Melissa Wade, who is the Executive Director of Forensics for the Barkley Forum at Emory University.

As a former winner of the Coach of the Year award herself, Melissa agreed to let me post the following reflections of her former debater:

Dan was extraordinary from day one.  I watched him win top speaker at the Kentucky Tournament of Champions as a high school senior from Hume Fog in Nashville—while standing next to his coach, civil rights attorney Larry Woods, who had been one of my coaches at Emory.  Pretty special moment since Dan had already committed to Emory for school—felt like three generations in the Ballroom at the Harley Hotel that day.  Turns out I had no clue how extraordinary Dan was and became. 

All debate teams have the folks who do more heavy lifting than others.  Dan was that--and more.  He helped those less talented, did buckets of research, and encouraged beginners—who called him Dan Fitztheory.  He won a national championship for Emory, an amazing number of top speaker awards at national tournaments, and was one of 3 Emory students selected to help launch the middle school division of the Urban Debate League—a year-long endeavor that went from 18 at a summer institute to 150 participating at tournaments 8 months later. 

Dan coached multiple national champions at Emory before heading to Northwestern for graduate school.  It’s hard to go to a new team with a different culture, but Dan made that transition so many times—from Emory to Northwestern to Augustana to Berkeley—and he treated each experience as graduate school.  The result was his own, unique approach to directing forensics; one brought to fruition when he took the reins at Northwestern: profound support for women debaters, uncompromising standards for research and argument, outreach to UDL cohorts for summer institute training, and privileging the development of the whole student, not just the debate person.

There is very little as rewarding as having students who choose your profession—lots of totally inappropriate ego and pride there… 

But far more rewarding, is watching the best the debate world produces keep that work going by advancing all that came before them.  Dan’s receiving this award epitomizes that concept.  Dan learned from virtually every school in this room in the form of judging, institute service, and coaching.  He pays that forward with every student he judges, every student he teaches, and every student he enfranchises in summer training.

And, Ross would have loved watching Dan get the award that bears his name as much as Melissa does.

Full Member
Posts: 112

« Reply #1 on: November 11, 2012, 11:01:02 AM »

Congrats to Fitz!  Truly deserving and was absolutely one of my favorite people I ever judged.  Fitzmeier and Heidt were an amazing team and all Melissa says puts in a nutshell why he is deserving. 

As I read the post I read it/heard it in Melissa's voice, with her tone and inflection coming through oh so clear.  Gave me goosebumps.  We need more of Melissa's prose as her wisdom and experience in this activity is unmatched imho.  Not surprising Dan was one of my favorites to judge, as Melissa was one of my favorite judges to hear oral critiques from.

Nice job Dan!!

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