“I’ve missed him a lot this year,” said Columbia City High School English teacher Tom Lough of a colleague who died unexpectedly in April — Bob Brittain.
Brittain was an icon in the speech and debate department at CCHS for years. And he was known not only in Indiana, but throughout the U.S. and beyond.
His former competitors, debate coaches from northern Indiana including Plymouth, Chesterton, Fort Wayne schools and South Bend schools, passed the hat and purchased a tree in Brittain’s memory which has been planted near the library at the high school.
“It’s a good choice, by the library,” Lough said. “Someone will say ‘who is this Bob guy?’ And someone will know.”
Beside the tree is a bench purchased by the Alumni Association in Brittain’s honor. Eventually a plaque will be placed there with his name.
Brittain graduated from Columbia City High School in 1964, earned his Bachelor’s Degree in English from Indiana University in 1968 and returned to his high school as a teacher and speech and debate coach that year.
Retiring in 2004, he remained very much a part of the program in an advisory role.
Brittain’s memberships included the National Forensic League, state and national chapters; the National Council of Teachers of English; and the Teacher’s Association, local state and national. He served on the board of directors of the Whitley County Literacy Council, the Bowen Center for Human Services, the Peabody Public Library, the Columbia City Kiwanis Club and was the president of the CCHS Alumni Association at the time of his death.
“He was an integral part of our Alumni Association,” said his successor, Andrew Thompson. “He did a tremendous job.”
Brittain had developed the Alumni Association scholarship fund, from which the first two scholarships were given in May of this year.
He would have been the presenter but for his untimely death in April.
Many of his former students and colleagues posted about their relationship to Brittain shortly after his death, speaking often of his accepting no less than the best from his charges.
While they spoke of disliking the work, they also admitted their lives were made much easier after his influence, because of that very work ethic.
Cassandra Petrie, this year’s Whitley County Junior Miss gave credit to Brittain for her skills in the interview portion of the program.
Aaron Dicker, who has been hired as Speech and Debate Coach this year at CCHS, remembered his predecessor from his days in high school debate at South Side High School in Fort Wayne.
“He was a very personable person,” Dicker said, telling how Brittain would give money for lunches if his students hadn’t brought enough.
He also spoke of Brittain’s reputation being nationwide and even worldwide for excellence in speech and debate.
When asked how he would fill Brittain’s shoes, Dicker replied simply, “It’s impossible.”