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Author Topic: Scott Deatherage  (Read 95717 times)
SherryHall
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« Reply #120 on: December 31, 2009, 09:06:05 PM »

From Bridgett Brocken-Smith:

Thoughts about Duck
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 Tue at 8:58pm
I was a sophomore at Northwestern when Duck first started his adventure as head coach. I learned so much from him, including:

1. What a valuable gift it is to give someone your complete attention, and to be completely engaged in your interactions with them. We spent a lot of summers working at debate institutes with the Duck, and Chuck commented the other night that it was amazing watching the impact of his interactions with the kids because he devoted so much energy to practice round after practice round after practice round.

2. The importance of Friendswood Hospitality. I was assigned to be Duck's helper with refreshments at the Coon my freshman year after the Motor Pool permanently banned me from driving, and it was the start of a long apprenticeship. I had many fabulous dining adventures with the Duck, and I can still remember how excited he was the first time he took us for barbecue in Waco. We recently had an unexpected guest for a meeting at work, and our project manager was promptly dispatched to the store for diet cokes and a veggie tray.

3. You may think you are done cleaning up, but you are not. If you are one of those lucky Wildcats that has scraped peanut butter off the floor of Tech, you know what I am talking about.

Duck was also an excellent babysitter dispatcher. Several years ago, I emailed our regrets to a reunion due to lack of childcare. He called me up, and insisted that we bring our infant and not yet verbal three year old by the Hardy House, and said, "Listen to me, you need to get out." He enlisted some excellent helpers who packed our kiddos up, and we had a lovely evening.

I've seen a few references to what an amazing memory he had, which Chuck experienced himself when we had our last conversation with Duck a couple of weeks ago at the Chicago kickoff. We were mostly discussing an NAUDL issue, but when he hugged us good-bye he made a quick reference to Mr. Smith's departure from the NDT. It has been wonderful reading all the comments. Thank you for sharing all of your thoughts.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #121 on: December 31, 2009, 09:13:44 PM »

From Shorge Sato:

Remembering the Duck
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 Tue at 12:42pm
I think Duck hated me. Actually, I know so. And understandably - what with the antics I pulled freshman year, including missing a flight to the west coast (where he had to call my mother to find out if I was dead or just overslept) and generally just being a cocky entitled freshman idiot. That was the Duck - he did not tolerate fools and I was a fool. But he was also a teacher: he recognized the inherent potential for growth and change in everyone; he saw it, he nurtured it, and, mainly, he made the fool suffer so that the hard-working, dedicated student inside could emerge. I had to work my way back into his semi-good graces, and, to some degree, I think I succeeded - at least in earning his toleration, if not a begrudging respect. (God and the NYU Law admissions office only knows what he actually wrote in my "letter of recommendation." Whatever it was, it did not dissuade them.)

In the past two years, I've had the opportunity to work closely with Scott on his passion and final calling - the cause of Urban Debate. His eyes would light up when he spoke about the cause, and he could enrapture anyone once he got going. I had the pleasure of introducing him at my law firm where he spoke to a conference room full of high school debaters, and their parents, as well as several attorneys who had never debated in their lives but served as volunteer CDL judges nonetheless. He spoke movingly of how debate saved him, and how he was eternally indebted to the activity, and how urban debate could change lives. He also described me, somewhat to my chagrin (as it was in front of my work colleagues and partners), as an enfant terrible as a freshman (he forgives; not forgets) and how I climbed back out of the deep hole I had dug for myself through hard work, and made it to where I was, because of the things I learned from debate. And he was right. In the past year, we talked about our shared vision of bridging the divide between the "real world" of the law and the insular world of debate. His last note to me sent just a few weeks ago in his patented Duckscrawl was an invitation to grab a drink sometime soon. A simple gesture, and perhaps just a nicety, but I couldn't help but feel the pride of a wayward son who finally earns a glimmer of respect from his father. I deeply regret not taking him up on his offer in time. I really can't believe he is gone.

The Duck will always be the better angel on my shoulder, telling me that if I miss the g****** flight/bus/meeting again, he will rip my g****** f****** head off. Or in a better mood: Be on time. Be considerate. Be prepared. Don't get in the way of your own potential. Words, really, to live by, however stated.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #122 on: January 01, 2010, 09:05:50 PM »

From Nishea Clark:

The Duck changed my life. Period. I can't think of anything more profound or interesting to say. And I will always be grateful to him and love him and wish I was able to work with him at NAUDL.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #123 on: January 02, 2010, 04:36:35 PM »

From David Glass:

Scott's passing
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 Today at 4:13pm
Up to now, I’ve avoided posting a remembrance about Scott.

Instead there was a condolence note to his debaters... and not much about my conversations with Scott over the years.

There was a concern for Scott’s privacy, and his legacy...handling it correctly.

This is a very serious concern.

But in talking with Sherry, and then with Diana, Scott’s sister... and reading all of the posts and messages about Scott, it seems that there is the danger that we may be missing an important opportunity here... what Sherry calls a teaching moment.

And Diana agreed when we spoke that maybe explaining how Scott died could truly add to Scott’s legacy... Maybe it could make Scott’s death more meaningful somehow, if you really understood how he died; there is the hope this understanding will help you be more aware of the issue, and take steps to protect yourself ... And be watchful of your friends. And perhaps it will give you an additional level of understanding... how complicated people are.

Maybe it would save a life, if you knew.

So here are the facts, and a few words about those facts:


Scott Deatherage died of alcoholism.

Scott was an alcoholic.

Scott had quite severe alcoholism for many, many years... leading to pancreatitis, an inflammation of the pancreas, three years ago, and finally cirrhosis... a condition where the liver fails due to chronic alcohol toxicity.

The constant alcohol poisoning causes the liver cells to finally die, replaced by fibrotic tissue. In Scott, this condition was so severe that it affected multiple other organ systems... including the blood vessels around Scott’s esophagus. These were the “esophageal varices” that one of the earlier emails mentioned... the liver failure causes an increase in blood pressure, and then you get these highly enlarged blood vessels around the esophagus, the food pipe going to the stomach... and basically those enlarged blood vessels ruptured, causing Scott to have extremely severe internal bleeding. That’s what caused the heart attack, and the coma... Scott entirely bled out, and the emergency docs needed 30 units of blood and blood products to get him stabilized... but by then he was in a coma... with no brain function... already dead for all purposes, with no hope of recovery, given the cirrhosis, the varices, and the multiple organ failure, and now the fact that his brain had been deprived of oxygen for over fifteen minutes, resulting in the final coma.

I mention all these details so people understand how bad it was. His situation at the end was terminal. There was no hope for him. And even before the final disaster, his situation was terminal; his doctors had told him months before that he should start putting his affairs in order... the cirrhosis was too far gone.

How can this be?

This is impossible, you might be thinking. Scott was such a high-functioning individual. Not just high functioning... amazingly high functioning. He was the best at what he did.

That is true. His case was very unusual, but not unheard of, because he managed to do so much. He got his students where they needed to be. He taught and coached at the very highest level of an extremely competitive activity. He was better than everyone else at what he did... coaching against other highly intelligent, motivated people. And also he was a responsible, caring person. And even after he was finished coaching, after he realized he could not continue to function as a debate coach, admitting that at least to himself, he brought increased recognition to an extremely important charitable organization.

All of this is true. And the facts of his death and disease do not detract from his accomplishments.

How come we did not help Scott? How come we did not see what was going on?

The vast majority of people who knew Scott did not know he was an alcoholic... You probably did not know. Scott of course knew. He had a long history of understanding this disease... going back to his childhood... his personal history. He knew.

This is one of the tragedies of alcoholism... how it effects families... In Scott’s case, he drank despite knowing it had killed people he loved. And he drank knowing it was killing him. And he did not tell those who asked and cared about him what was happening. All the skills that made Scott a great debater and coach made him the most effective denier you can imagine. Scott hid his alcoholism from almost everyone. He talked about everything except the alcohol.

Scott’s doctors knew, and they could not get him to quit drinking. Some people around him knew as well, and they tried... they could not get him to face what he was doing to himself... he would not stop. He knew though.


You still can’t believe it.

Look at those pictures of him, from the last six months. That yellow skin? That is not a problem with the camera. That’s jaundice... caused by liver cirrhosis. Jaundice is where you get yellow skin due to liver failure. By then Scott already had the final diagnosis... he knew he was going to die soon of his alcoholism. And yet he continued to drink. When he was diagnosed with pancreatitis years ago, and there was still a chance of turning back, he continued to drink.

Why are you hearing all this? Why not just keep this private?

If you read all the tributes to Scott, almost all of them involve alcohol. People remember drinking with Scott. There were multiple tributes promising that a drink would be raised in his memory. The first time he bought a student a glass of Makers Mart... that was a special thing... Alcohol is such a part of all these tributes, that it seems important to point out the deadly disease underlying all this. ...So the same thing is less likely to happen to you or someone else you care about. So that you understand that you cannot lead a life this way, without dying too young.

Why didn’t we save him? How could this have been allowed to go on?

Those clichés you have read are true... you really can’t just swoop in and save someone who does not want to be saved. They need to be willing to accept help. That sounds ridiculous, easy... it is not. Please know there was no shortage of people whose hearts were broken a couple of weeks ago by what happened. Broken. Such a brilliant guy. Such a good person. We should have seen, done more... we should have been able to help him. But we could not. He hid the facts. He did what most alcoholics do... he avoided telling people who cared about him what was happening. If you were to tell someone a year ago even, when the cirrhosis was already too far gone, that Scott was an alcoholic, they would not believe you. They’d think you were being an alarmist... exaggerating... but he’d been an alcoholic for years by then. You don’t die at 47 of cirrhosis, with a history of pancreatitis, unless you’ve been drinking yourself to death for years. It really is unbelievable though...

So what do you do with this news?

Think about it. Think about your own choices. Understand that how you treat yourself and your body matters. Your health matters. People who debate often seem to think they can argue their way out of anything... that these things doctors or people say may not be true.. that it all may be a scam. It is not a scam. Cigarettes really do increase the chance you will get cancer. Obesity really does lead to Type II Diabetes and heart disease. Alcohol abuse really does lead to alcoholism. All of these things really will kill you prematurely. There is a strain of addictive behavior that is in common with the same kind of focus that makes debaters very successful. Recognize this. Understand the difference between behavior that helps and behavior that is life-threatening.

Live hard, die young?

Mick Jagger is in his 60s now. He is still rocking. Bruce Springsteen is still a genius. Philip Roth is still writing great books. There is nothing good or romantic about dying young. All it does is cut you short.... before you accomplish everything you are capable of accomplishing. Before you meet your great love. Before you have that last good meal... or see Venice at sundown. Before you save someone’s life, or seem them through. There is no romance in shortening your life. There is no glory in it.

But what of Scott? How might he be remembered?

This is how I'll remember him... Scott Deatherage was a great man. He taught some of our best young minds how to be better. He inspired several generations of students to accept nothing but excellence. Scott accepted nothing but excellence. You might think this contradicts the above, but that is exactly the point. It is a contradiction... one he lived with every day. Scott was a perfectionist about debate, but he was a human being as well. A flawed human being. ... We need to understand this contradiction, is possible even if we don’t fully understand.


What about the why? Why did he drink?

It is a fraught game to try to answer the why... fraught... Who can presume to know what is going on in someone else’s mind? And drinking is only a choice in the beginning... once the addiction kicks in, it is no longer a choice, it is an addiction... and you need a special act of will to break through that. For some, the family history is in part a genetic issue... but there is more than that given a family history... in some it is a way that a person deals with the pain of experience. These are difficult things to resolve even if you’re in the middle of them, giving counseling. Who among us can truly claim to know another... to really understand. I don’t know why.


Moving forward...

There will of course be a memorial for Scott. Hopefully all of you who knew him will be able to attend... all who found themselves improved from having come in contact with him... who loved him... who appreciated his help and support.
Scott’s life was a struggle. He struggled every day. But he achieved so much. He deserves some additional level of understanding... a higher level of appreciation. He deserves that you know him more fully and still support him, with a more complete understanding of what he went through.

At last...

It was not easy writing this. It is a risky thing to do. A man’s legacy is a precious thing. And so is his life. And so is your life... and your legacy. The hope is that you will take from Scott’s experience what you can... take from it those parts that will make you great. But please let alone that part that is best let alone... and walk away from a path which leads to great sadness... and tragic loss. Honor Scott for his greatness, and understand that he was a human being.
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r wood
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« Reply #124 on: January 02, 2010, 05:10:11 PM »

for a couple of days now, i've been thinking to myself, "we're not hearing the full story re how he died."

may he rest in peace.  my sister died the same way.  very sad.
« Last Edit: January 02, 2010, 05:46:20 PM by r wood » Logged
Matthew.Cook
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« Reply #125 on: January 02, 2010, 09:46:50 PM »

Never knew Scott Deatherage. Saw him a couple times and immediately identified him as Scott Deatherage. Beyond that, he was a figment of oral tradition to me. I hate it when people pontificate about someone they never really knew; like their passing was somehow only significant after the fact. But Glass's description centered Scott's death within my personal history with the bottle. Its not as if I didn't know what alcoholism could do: my family's blood is tainted with this predisposition and too many have fallen to it. Its not as if Scott didn't know either, from the sound of it. So, if i know, and Scott knew, then you probably all know too. You can point to an example of its tragedy. You can point to counter examples too; people who live-on despite the disease. Rules and exceptions abound. Point is this: regardless of the outcome, alcoholism is too often endured alone. I'm not calling for interventions, i'm calling for a personal admittance. This requires courage and patience. Just don't be alone. That's it. 

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SherryHall
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« Reply #126 on: January 03, 2010, 12:07:02 AM »

From Kevin Hamrick:

Kevin Hamrick commented on David Glass's note "Scott's passing":

"Thanks David for saying what desperately needed to be said publicly.

For the past two weeks I've alternated between being extremely angry and horribly guilty - angry at Scott for finally succeeding in killing himself (yes he knew what he was doing) and guilty for my role in enabling this behavior for (literally) two decades.  Scott suffered from extreme depression.  Whether this was the cause or the effect of the drinking hardly matters.   As you note, it's a testament to Scott's extraordinary abilities that he was able to accomplish as much as he did.  Scott's greatest talent IMHO was knowing how to extract the very best from those around him.

It's no secret that both our personal and professional relationship had atrophied in the last few years until ultimately I decided that I could not and would not participate in his death march any longer.  Until your post, I felt obligated to keep his (open) secret.
The last time I saw Scott was at Ross' funeral in July.  I knew that Scott was terribly sick.  It meant the world to me that he had made the trip to WS in order to honor Ross.  We shared an extended silent hug but exchanged few if any words.

I loved Duck like he was my brother.  It was a privilege to work with him, but it was not easy.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #127 on: January 03, 2010, 12:07:59 AM »

From Asher Haig:

I think more of us knew this than the note suggests...

First we mourn, then we celebrate the life, then we look back and learn... Maybe...

Thanks for making sure we don't forget the last part. As much as Duck may have kept things quieter, we can be sure now that he would now be standing there, telling us how he can say from personal experience everything that you just relayed.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #128 on: January 03, 2010, 12:08:48 AM »

From Stefan Bauschard:

Struck by how Scott chose to spend what he knew were his final days...doing all he could to build the institutional capacities of the NAUDL...very few would have made that decision
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SherryHall
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« Reply #129 on: January 03, 2010, 12:09:37 AM »

From Marie Dzuris:

Thank you for writing this - I am glad it is out there to be discussed rather than being talked about in a low whisper (and it was being talked about). I agree with Sherry that's it a teachable moment - not to be lost. You said what many of us wanted to say but you were much more eloquent:-)
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Paul Elliott Johnson
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« Reply #130 on: January 03, 2010, 03:16:41 AM »

Amazing stuff.

As a community we lost so much last year.

That those who we lost lived hard is something of an open secret, but one that we all bear. I am in awe of David's courage in sharing his thoughts.

May we all bear these open secrets together not as burdens but as lessons for the lives we lead for those we love. I have seen good and bad in this community in the 13 years that I have been privileged to participate in it, and while the good so regularly outweighs the bad that one cannot bear to leave this community, it would be a lie to say that the bad does not stay with us. It does. But so does the good, in every charitable moment inspired by Ross K. Smith, in every 1AR full of embedded clash taught by The Duck (who said, without a hint of irony or shame, that he was to be referred to as "The Duck" in a brief but friendly email message to me many years ago when I addressed him as Doctor. When I incredulously asked Alan Coverstone why he was called "The Duck", Alan simply responded: "you'll see").

Alcoholism is difficult to talk about. It is especially difficult to reconcile its reality with our heroes. My family history is riven with the effects of this disease. So too, I guess, are my heroes. I never debated for the Duck, but his opinion meant a lot to me ever since I was privileged to have him and Michael Gottlieb as my lab leaders 10 years ago at the Zarefsky Scholars institute. Its a testament to his teaching power that  the most meaningful moment I ever had a debate judge was after a contentious decision in the finals of the Shirley when I was at Wake Forest. I judged it around midnight, after having worked through the whole Shirley (and tabbing it with Ross, which was not, you might say, the most "low intensity" job). It was a 2-1, and the losing team fought me and Kevin Hamrick tooth and nail in the postround discussion. After the debate, the Duck came up to me, completely unsolicited, and told me that I had handled myself expertly in the postround, and that he was proud and impressed. As a young judge it meant a lot to my ego, but as I reflect upon it more, it means so much more that he would take the time to deliver a compliment to someone who had done nothing more than merely sat in the Hardy House for 3 weeks as a foolish 16 year old.

I am so sad that I am not in California to share hugs and smiles and tears with so many of you that I consider to be my family in this new year, but I am blessed to be able to see many of you in Texas shortly, all of whom are, in their own way unknown to themselves, carrying on the legacies of the people who came before them. We all might this week have one or two more drinks than usual as we wish goodbye to 2009 with our extended family, and some may savor one more cigarette outside a tournament if they find themselves near someone gruff yet genial, but everyday we might find ourselves writing and rewriting the lessons and legacies given to us by those who have come before us. We are, I think, up to the challenge.

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SherryHall
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« Reply #131 on: January 03, 2010, 09:39:10 AM »

From Marc Rubenstein:

I'm one of the shocked people. It belies many of the stereotypes of alcoholics (though I guess consistent with some others). When we spoke a few weeks ago his memory was impeccable (even better than mine about my own debate rounds from almost 20 years ago) and he was incredibly professional and earnest in his work for NAUDL. It's a good reminder to all of us of the preciousness of the short life we have and to try to keep our bad habits in check even when it's hard. David, thank you. I wish I knew Scott better than I did.
« Last Edit: January 03, 2010, 09:52:42 AM by SherryHall » Logged
SherryHall
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« Reply #132 on: January 03, 2010, 10:33:58 AM »

From Barbara Reeder:

no words suffice to pay tribute to this man who gave his all for the students he reached and touched and cared about. RIP! He will be missed.
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SherryHall
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« Reply #133 on: January 03, 2010, 10:37:30 AM »

From Rakhael Ross:

I met Scott at Yoshi's Cafe. It was always a special night when Scott arrived to sit at the bar and add to the conversation among many Yoshi friends. We miss you Scott!!
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SherryHall
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« Reply #134 on: January 04, 2010, 07:44:11 AM »

From Tom Isaacson:

I want to thank you [David] for your post regarding Scott's death.  Although I did not know Scott, apart from a few brief meetings over the years, I assumed there was a significant connection between the drinking described in the remembrances and his death.  I hoped that someone would have the courage to raise the issue, both to teach and also because I was cringing at all the celebrations of drinking.  And I if I found them awkward, I assume it was far worse for those who knew and loved Scott.  Your post hit all the right notes -- it was informative, sensitive and much more.  It gave full justice to an extremely difficult issue.
 
I suspect everyone has their stories from debate.  One of my coaches, Herb James, nearly died from alcoholism but pulled back from the brink and lived well into his 80s.  There was at least one alcoholic, or alcoholic-to-be, among the dozen or so debaters on the squad.  I doubt it's a coincidence.  I'm not sure whether debate attracts people who have a tendency toward alcoholism, but the culture, and the intensity, travel, tournaments, parties, etc., probably make the odds quite high that someone with any tendency in that direction will travel well down the path.
 
The activity seems a lot more open to discussing these sorts of issues than it once did.  Perhaps your post will stimulate a broader discussion and much good will come of it. 
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