Ross Kennedy Smith (’82), the longtime successful Wake Forest Debate Coach, passed away on July 20, 2009.

Smith, who became Wake Forest’s debate coach in 1984 and its debate program director in 2007, was named national debate coach of the year in 1994 and 1998. In 2009, he received the George Ziegelmueller Award, presented by the National Debate Tournament to recognize long-term career contributions to the national debate community. For many years, Smith helped organize one of the top college debate competitions in the country, the Franklin R. Shirley Classic, hosted by Wake Forest.

A guestbook in his memory contains many anecdotes and condolences from former students, fellow faculty, friends and associates. The guestbook is preserved here as a permanent memoriam.

Please note: This guestbook is no longer open for new comments.

Guestbook Entries:

July 20, 2009 – 11:30 AM

My condolences go out to the family of Ross Smith. It was always a pleasure to work with Ross when he needed keys for the debate team. He was always smiling and friendly. He will be missed.

Toni Finch

July 20, 2009 – 11:31 AM

My deepest and sincere sympathy for the loss of our very own Ross Smith.

Maria Jones

July 20, 2009 – 11:33 AM

My thoughts and prayers go out to all of Ross’s family and friends. I’m so sorry to hear of his passing.

Sheila Hatfield

July 20, 2009 – 11:37 AM

Deepest sympathy for his family and his many Wake Forest friends.

Betsy Chapman

July 20, 2009 – 11:40 AM

I send condolences to Jayne, Alex, and Ross’s many, many friends.

Mary Dalton

July 20, 2009 – 12:04 PM

Jayne and Alex, We were so sorry to hear that Ross passed away yesterday. We’re thinking of you. Griff, Andy, Leah and Sandy

Sandy Parks

July 20, 2009 – 12:04 PM

My deepest sympathy and condolences go out to Dr. Smith and his family. He was a great professor. I had him this past spring in debate class, which was one of my favorite classes while at Wake. I am extremely saddened by his passing.

Saiyani Thomas Mukombe

July 20, 2009 – 12:04 PM

I came to know Ross through his work with the Obama Presidential campaign in the Fall of 2008. He was enthusiastic, intelligent, and pragmatic in his work with the campaign. On election night he was a part of the jubilant celebration at the Millenium Center and was warmly thanked by everyone. I will keep his family and friends in my thoughts.


Michael Klotz

July 20, 2009 – 12:07 PM

Cathy and I are deeply sorry to hear about Ross’s passing. His devotion and enthusiasm for his students, his teams, his alma mater and the leadership of his profession were infectious. Our prayers are with his family, colleagues and other loved ones.

Bob Mills

Bob Mills

July 20, 2009 – 12:15 PM

This man made Wake debate what it is today: a strong program with national recognition. Also, I had the pleasure of working with Ross in the Obama campaign. His dedication was inspiring to all of us interns. Rest in peace.

Henderson Trefzger

July 20, 2009 – 12:19 PM

Our sympathies go out to Ross’ family and friends. I will miss his passion for life, his willingness to engage in lively discussion on any topic, and his hearty laugh. Fresh in my mind is his passionate leading of a pre-debate discussion prior to one of the presidential debates this past fell. He brought knowledge and excitement to everyone in attendance. Ross opened my eyes that someone could bring that kind of passion and energy to a political event. The buzz he created rivaled a crowd at a sporting event. Ross was one of a kind. I will miss him.

Max Negin and Family

July 20, 2009 – 12:23 PM

Ross was such an intelligent, amazing and nice guy. My last memory of him was at the Tournament of Champions high school debate tournament in May. We discussed my upcoming move to Winston-Salem. He offered his advice as to where I should live and was willing to check out potential apartments for me. My condolences go out to his family, friends and the Wake Forest Debate Team.

Eric M. Oddo

July 20, 2009 – 12:28 PM

Dear Mrs. Craig-Smith and Family,

I am so sorry for your loss. Ross was a wonderful member of our community. He will be missed. My heart goes out to you during this most difficult time.



Simone Caron

July 20, 2009 – 12:34 PM

Please know that you and your family are in our thoughts and prayers. Ross will be greatly missed!Jean, Chuck, Mara, Erin and JT Trowbridge

Jean Trowbridge

July 20, 2009 – 12:43 PM

I’m deeply saddened by the passing of Ross; my condolences to his family and friends.

Christian Burris

July 20, 2009 – 12:44 PM

I am very sorry to learn of Ross’s passing. What a loss for Wake Forest, his family and friends, and the many he taught and inspired. We’re going to miss him.

Ralph Kennedy

July 20, 2009 – 12:50 PM

This is such a shock!! How sorry I am. I remember Ross from the days when debate was located in Scales. He had such drive and devotion to the program! He will truly be missed by all of us.
My thoughts are with you.
With heartfelt sympathy – Martine

Martine Sherrill

July 20, 2009 – 12:56 PM

Very sorry to hear this sad news. Ross was a great person. I only ran into Ross a few times since we were competitors and colleagues on the debate circuit in the late seventies. But we always shared a story about the good old days. It’s a big loss for the debate community and Wake Forest, and most especially for his family and close friends. My thoughts and condolences go out to his family.

J Walker Smith

July 20, 2009 – 01:03 PM

Please accept my deepest sympathy. Ross was a huge asset to the University and sent many fine young debaters to the Law School.

Melanie Nutt

July 20, 2009 – 01:11 PM

I would like to offer my deepest condolences to the family and friends of Mr. Smith. He was always a generous and gracious friend of mine. I am deeply sadden. We will miss him.

Willie Warren

July 20, 2009 – 01:15 PM

The power of prayers and the strength of our friendship may surround you even from overseas where I currently am and reach you Jayne my friend and your son Alex for this sudden and sad loss of our Ross: a good man and a great colleague. Ross will be missed among us and our students. My condoleances also to Ross’s mother.
Sincerely Yours, Roberta


July 20, 2009 – 01:33 PM

the wake forest community has lost a fine mind, a terrific educator, and a treasured asset. my condolences to his family and friends,
lillian shelton

lillian shelton

July 20, 2009 – 01:42 PM

Though I am an incoming freshman this year, I still recognize that the death of a loved one is difficult to deal with. My prayers and sympathy are with the family. I did not have the chance to meet Dr. Smith, however, I do know that God has a purpose for everything that he does. I pray that the family will find moments of laughter even in their time of bereavement.


Tiffany Newsome
Wake Forest Class of 2013

Tiffany Newsome

July 20, 2009 – 01:56 PM

My thoughts and prayers go out to the family of Dr. Smith. I am also an incoming freshman and did not get to meet him; however, debate is something that I wanted to take an interest in during college. I pray that the family and all those suffering from this loss will understand that although a loved one can never be replaced, God’s love endures forever. I hope that all is well and continue to Keep the Faith!

Marika Dillard

Marika Dillard

July 20, 2009 – 02:08 PM

Thanks for all of the advice, guidance and intelligence you shared with me over the past couple of years. I would not be in Winston-Salem to start next fall if it was not for you. I am at an utter loss for words in trying to describe the importance that you had in my development as a debater, a Demon Deacon and a person.

Thanks for everything.

Charlie Minato
Wake Forest Class of 2013

Charlie Minato

July 20, 2009 – 02:30 PM

Thanks for everything, Ross. Your patience and prodding, your support, and your hard work opened many doors for me and many others. Condolences to Jane, Alex, Ross’ mom, and the extended Wake debate family.

Bill Ziegelmueller

July 20, 2009 – 02:34 PM

What a huge loss to the Wake Forest community and more importantly his family to whom he was devoted. Ross was always kind and thoughtful to me and we often spoke in the parking lot before or after work. I will miss his smile.

Bonnie Rae

July 20, 2009 – 02:35 PM

My sincerest condolences to Ross’ family, friends, and colleagues. I always knew him as a friendly face in the hallway. Over the years I have come to realize the magnitude of his influence in the field, and how loved and respected he was by all who knew him. He will be deeply missed.

Ken Lachlan

July 20, 2009 – 02:51 PM

This is such an overwhelming loss for WFU, Deacon debate and the entire debate community–hs & college ! I am so proud to have so many wonderful memories of this amazing man ! I will miss you Ross. . . thank you for all you have taught me and done for me.

Chris Wheatley

July 20, 2009 – 03:01 PM

Ross was a friend and role model for me, and I’m absolutely sure, many who knew him. His WFU debate program contributions were amazing. I will miss his passion for debate, politics, better education for all, friendship and genuineness. Condolences to the entire Wake Forest community.

Jay Banks

July 20, 2009 – 03:15 PM

My condolences to Ross’ family and to the extended family of Deacon Debaters and Coaches around the nation. A husband, father and standout educator, his laughter and enthusiasm will be missed.

Ross Smith is truly a giant in the community. A successful coach, community leader, innovator and pioneer who not only welcomed everyone to the activity but represented himself and his university with pride and professionalism in their victories at the National Debate Tournament, as well as serving as its gracious host. His work to bring reasoned, evidenced and performance based critiques of political debates and campaign rhetoric through Debate Scoop and the Huffington Post enhanced the profile of competitive academic debate and what it offers to students and educators alike. His pioneering contributions that advanced the practices at our competitions, and our activity’s pedagogy single him out as a true visionary and someone who has made a life long contribution to the activity which everyone who participates is indebted to.

Kelly McDonald

Kelly McDonald

July 20, 2009 – 03:24 PM

I had the honor and esteemed privilege of working for Ross during his bid for a spot on the Forsyth County Board of Education in 2006. It’s safe to say that the time that I spent working for him has made a valuable impact on my life, both personal and professional. The experiences that we shared along the way will certainly stick with me for the rest of my life. Ross was a great role model in so many ways, and his absence will be felt across campus and across many other circles.

My thoughts are with Jayne and Alex. We truly lost a valuable member of society yesterday, and we lost him way too soon.

“Daniel Surwit, ’07”

July 20, 2009 – 03:40 PM

My deepest condolences to Ross’ entire family and the rest of the Wake Debate Community and the University. Ross was one of the brightest men I have ever had the pleasure to know. His contributions to Wake Debate, the University and the local community have been tremendous and are testimony to his intellect, his drive and his caring. Thanks for everything.

Scott Burton

July 20, 2009 – 04:09 PM

My deepest condolences to Jayne and Alex and the rest of the Wake debate family.

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.

Marcia Tiersky

July 20, 2009 – 04:11 PM

My life would be poorer and less happy were it not for Ross Smith’s influence. Many feel the same way. He is a genuinely mythic figure who set the standard for educators both in his field and generally.

My deepest condolences to his family and members of all of the communities he graced with his presence. He is deeply missed, and we are grateful for everything he gave us.

Michael Antonucci

July 20, 2009 – 04:22 PM

What a tremendous loss for Wake Forest and Winston-Salem. Jane, our love and prayers go out to you now and forever over your loss.

Much love, Cam, Sue, Lauren and Colin Kent

Cam Kent

July 20, 2009 – 04:55 PM

My deepest condolences go out to Jayne, Alex, the Smith family, and the Demon Deacon debaters and coaches. I am deeply saddened and share with each of you the loss. warmly, Bob Chandler

Bob Chandler

July 20, 2009 – 05:14 PM

While we mourn the loss of Ross Smith, we also celebrate his life, achievements, and exemplary model for his students. God bless.

Susan Borwick

July 20, 2009 – 05:41 PM

What a loss. All the best to Ross’s family and to those who knew him best. The world–and especially Wake Forest–will be poorer without him.

Cindy Gendrich

July 20, 2009 – 05:41 PM

Ross encouraged me as an artist to produce my very best work for the Summer Debate Workshop t-shirts and the Debater’s Research Guide over the course of two decades. He gave me free rein, and seemed to appreciate (conspire with, even) a fairly twisted sense of humor. What a great guy…

Alan Johansson

July 20, 2009 – 05:54 PM

Truly one of the best debate had to offer. He did so much for so many out of the goodness in his heart, and was a great competitor – while being a great person. I’m better for having known him. Bless you Ross.

Ken DeLaughder

July 20, 2009 – 05:54 PM

I am so sorry to hear of Ross’s passing. He was a great man who had a wonderfully positive influence on my time at Wake.

Patrick Jackson

July 20, 2009 – 06:03 PM

Ross will be missed by many, he was a model teacher and a great person.
I am so lucky I got to know him.
Pat Dixon

Pat Dixon

July 20, 2009 – 06:05 PM

I am so sorry to hear the news about Ross. My thoughts are with you.

Brook Davis

July 20, 2009 – 06:08 PM

Toney and I send comfort and love to Jayne, Alex, and the Smith family, who have known much too much sorrow and loss. Please take solace in the marvelous job you did to raise, nurture, and love this bright, intense, wonderfully edgy son of Wake Forest and colleague to all of us in the Department of Communication.

Jill McMillan

July 20, 2009 – 06:37 PM

A good and caring man. My condolences to the Smith Family.

Danny Budasoff

July 20, 2009 – 07:11 PM

My thoughts and prayers go to Jayne, Alex, and the rest of Ross’ family.

Tosh Siao

July 20, 2009 – 07:24 PM

My deepest thoughts go out to the entire Smith family. Ross was a fine teacher and a wonderful coach. We will all miss him a great deal.

Rae Lynn Schwartz-DuPre

July 20, 2009 – 07:45 PM

My condolences to the Smith family. I enjoyed working with Ross on the CBAC. You are in my thoughts.

Carolyn Redding

carolyn redding

July 20, 2009 – 08:24 PM

Kathy and I send our condolences to the Smith family, the Department of Communications, the WFU Debate community, and the WFU community as a whole. Ross’s legacy lies in the exceptional success that the WFU Debate Team enjoyed under his guidance, and in the many lives he touched.

David Levy

July 20, 2009 – 09:43 PM

A faculty member with an exemplary capacity for teaching and mentoring. My sympathy is extended to the Smith family and all of Ross’s friends and colleagues.

Allison Perkins

July 20, 2009 – 09:48 PM

If Ross were not the person he was, my sense of loss would not be so deep and my life would not have been so enriched with his being. And in my sorrow, I look in my heart to celebrate the wonderful person I know and will forever remember. My condolences to Ross’s family, and a hug to everyone.

Kathy Kellermann

July 20, 2009 – 10:20 PM

I am a debate coach, but there was a time in 1997 (my first year as a director) when I thought I didn’t have what it took. I shared the concerns with Ross that I was not sure how he did it. Managing all those students and doing it for as long as he had. He told me that he could tell I cared about my students, the activity and the people in it. He expressed to me that any coach who has any success has those doubts. I remember that less daily and might not be coaching today if ti weren’t for Ross.

I know my story is not unique and that’s what made Ross so great. He cared not just about what our activity is, but the types of people it produces. I am glad to call a large number of Wake alums my friends and I can see the influence of Ross in each of them.

My condolences to Ross’ family, friends and debaters.

Mike Davis

Mike Davis

July 20, 2009 – 11:01 PM

Our thoughts and prayers are with the Smith family and the entire debate community.

David and Lori Baker
Dallas, Texas

David and Lori Baker

July 20, 2009 – 11:11 PM

Ross coached my teammates and my teammates’ rivals, people who played a defining role in my collegiate debating experience. As he became more engaged in political life, he took the time to drop me a line and send his regards as he saw my writing online. He produced debaters who continue to be people of enormous character, and he’ll live on through them more than anything else.

Michael Roston

July 21, 2009 – 12:13 AM

Ross was a truly inspiring and kind individual. My prayers go out to his family, friends, and the debate community.

Elena Gottreich

July 21, 2009 – 12:36 AM

I can’t imagine debate without Ross. He was an institution in and of himself. His lost will be felt by all in the debate community, but especially by those future generations of debaters who will not be touched directly by his teaching. But, those of us who have had that privilege now have the responsibility to carry his legacy forward. Thank you Ross.

Shanara Reid-Brinkley

July 21, 2009 – 01:11 AM

I was so impressed by the hospitality extended to the participating schools on my first visit to the Wake Forest Early Bird Tournament last fall. The high school Speech and Debate community will truly miss you, Ross! Your family is in our thoughts and prayers.

Linda L. Oddo

July 21, 2009 – 02:35 AM

I was a student at the Wake Debate Institutes, and Ross was one of my instructors. I never thought about Debate the same after that summer. I saw him recently at the Glenbrooks. He and I shared war stories about the Obama campaign. He was always one of those people who was in my corner. My condolences go out to his family and the Wake Debate family. He will be deeply missed.

Perry Green

July 21, 2009 – 03:24 AM

This news is completely devastating. Ross was so indispensibly central to my debate and academic career at Wake Forest, I don’t quite know even how to respond. But more than that he was an incredible friend. I’m in Alaska this week and don’t know if I can get to W-S for the service Thursday, a fact which is only adding to my sense of wholesale derailment. I can only say that my heart is broken, and I can scarcely imagine how those like Jayne and Alex and the many others in the wider Wake Forest debate family are adjusting to the sudden void torn open by Ross’ absence. My thoughts are certainly with all those who tonight are desperately saddened by this loss. With love, David Cheshier

David Cheshier

July 21, 2009 – 05:37 AM

A fresh idea, a spreading smile;
always time to just chat awhile. He savored talk, coaxed it with care;
on the road, at the bar, or in mountain air.He painted debate with zest and precision; an eye for detail, a big-picture vision. The canvas was human, so others could share;
his life as art, a form most rare.

Gordon Mitchell

July 21, 2009 – 07:29 AM

It’s been a tough summer. First I lost my coach who inspired me to be a debate coach. And now, Ross, who convinced me that the decision was one that I should stick with. I never really considered the decision to become a debate coach permanent. Ross told me that I was good at this, the community needed me, and I should be proud to be a debate coach. I don’t think I have ever seriously thought about doing anything else since.

Ross was also the person who figured out how to successfully manage the NDT/CEDA merger. I sat through many meetings where everyone was paralyzed by the small details. I remember Ross walking into a meeting and saying, the only thing that separates us is the topic. Let’s just agree to debate the same topic and the rest will work it’s self out. And he was right.

I know how shocked and saddened I am. After losing Gossett I know how all the Wake Forest debate community is feeling right now, and you all have my sympathies. I cannot begin to imagine how Jayne and Alex are handling this. You have my condolences and my thoughts.

Sherry Hall

July 21, 2009 – 07:41 AM

I learned from Ross from afar. He was never directly my teacher. But Ross taught everyone through his actions and his energy. One should throw themselves into their life and show that they love what they do. That lesson is true for me whether I am in debate or another part of the world. Often things I’d notice from watching Ross across a room were things that were both very true in the debate community, yet also good rules of thumb in the larger community of the world.

Remember the good times. And Ross would show us how to throw grief into teaching even more vigorously.

David Rhaesa

July 21, 2009 – 07:57 AM

What a shock it was to hear about Ross. He was always so pleasant to work with and I will miss my interactions with him concerning the Debate Team.

Teresa Hill

July 21, 2009 – 08:48 AM

I didn’t know Ross personally, but wanted to extend my sincere condolences to the family.

God Bless you during this difficult time.

Sonya Cook

July 21, 2009 – 09:18 AM

My sincere condolences go out to everyone in the Wake family.

Keith Woods

July 21, 2009 – 09:25 AM

I offer my sincere condolences to the family and the Wake Forest community. You will be in my prayers.

Stephen Williams

July 21, 2009 – 09:39 AM

How To Remember . . . With Thanks

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 in the debate world who should remember him fondly 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 following his receipt of the coaching profession’s highest honor:

“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. My profound sympathy to Ross’ family.

Bill Smelko

July 21, 2009 – 09:51 AM

I sorry to hear of your loss, you are in our prayers.

Mazie Lewis

July 21, 2009 – 09:53 AM

It speaks volumes that I don’t know a single person who doesn’t love Ross Smith. I met him when I was 15, which I now realize is more than half of my lifetime ago. I thought he was about the smartest man I had ever met.

He voted against me in the last round I ever I debated. As usual, and unfortunately for me, he was correct.

Aaron Moburg-Jones

July 21, 2009 – 10:30 AM

I first met Ross when I went to Grad School at Wake in 1980 – one of the few in the broader debate community who can say they had Ross as a waiter.

Since then, I was around Ross as a participant in volleyball, ping pong, and basketball games; as a spectator for professional and college sports; as a co-conspirator for practical jokes; as a consumer of fine (and often not so fine) food and drink; and as a participant in often heated discussions on everything from 1960s rock music to political philosophy. Most importantly, at least for me, as a colleague in the debate community. No matter the activity or forum, Ross gave his all, and through it all, Ross remained a true friend, as all in the broader debate community can attest.

Since I left everyday involvement in debate in 1997, I was only able to see Ross once a year at the National Debate Tournament. However, it was always like we had just seen each other the week before, rather than an entire year ago. Ross was always always the same, still committed to the debate activity, but more importantly, to the individuals involved in the debate activity.

Jayne, Alex, and family – take comfort in the fact that Ross had such a profound impact on the thousands of lives he touched. We will miss him, but are all better for having been with Ross for a brief time.

Arnie Madsen

July 21, 2009 – 10:44 AM

Ross Smith was one of the most dynamic coaches in the history of American debate, but he was also a visionary person who really understood collaboration. He, Bill Newnam, and Roger Solt were contemporaries and dear friends. His son, Alex, grew up at the Wake tournament–gave out trophies as a toddler; grew up to attend the NC School of the Arts. His wife Jayne is awesome–a teacher and lovely human. We all remember when we lose our ability to have a last conversation with someone we truly loved. I am no different; so many stories. Ross was short on judges when my son Patrick was a baby and the sitter didn’t show at the Wake tournament; he strapped on the baby carrier, gave me a ballot, and wore Patrick like a necklace for the next 2 hours while entering tournament data. I have 25 years of stories of Ross–from judging him to collaborating with him to our annual bottle of wine at the KY RR Run for the Roses–what became a deeply personal relationship. There are hundreds folks who share that history with Ross.

Many Emory debaters got MA degrees at Wake and worked for Ross: Shannon Feldman, Jason Jarvis, Joe Bellon, and Bill’s wife Carol Winkler. Joel Lemuel debated for him before he came home to GSU. Scott Segal was one of his dearest friends. Ross was the first person who didn’t run from me as I headed out at tournaments like a shark to find folks willing to give UDL kids debate camp scholarships in the early 90’s–he asked me if 5 would be enough. His was the first non-Emory camp to hire Ed Lee and other UDL grads as faculty; tried to reruit Ed to Wake when he left Alabama (OK, who didn’t). He inspired David Heidt when he and Kate Shuster went 0-8 at the KY RR–told him they were good and could win the NDT. Dave acknowledged him in his opening speech in the final round of the NDT at Wake that year–and Ross smiled with as much appreciation as if Dave were his own student. Kara Grant got an MA degree at Wake and her husband, Mark, debated for …

Melissa Maxcy Wade

July 21, 2009 – 10:55 AM

Ross’s legacy speaks for itself and is unlikely to be matched. The legacy looks equally good on paper, in attendance at his tournaments and wins by the teams he coached, and in the words and on the faces of the people he knew, taught, advised, and worked alongside.

Doyle Srader

July 21, 2009 – 11:09 AM

Although I never had the good fortune of working with Ross directly, I know that I gained much respect for him through his debate program. “It is what you make it.” Ross continued the greatness of the Wake program and worked to make it even greater! I was sincerely saddened to know that a stalwart in our community is no longer with us; however, his presence lives on through the lives of his debaters and the memories we have of and with him. My prayers are with his family!

–Deon Garner,
Morehouse College ’95-’99

Rev. Deon M. Garner

July 21, 2009 – 11:40 AM


provided me with more opportunities than I ever hoped for,
supported every project I ever undertook and every important decision I ever made,
guided me to more coaching success than I otherwise would have achieved,
energized me to work harder than I ever thought possible,
encouraged me as I grew to be a better judge,
inspired me to make debate more accessible and fair,
fostered some of my most significant friendships,
corrected me when I was wrong,
demonstrated patience with me when patience was needed,
enabled me to achieve more than I ever thought possible,

learned to cut his losses teaching me to golf,
invested in my son by giving him 6 golf balls at age 1,

afforded more opportunities for more summer campers than many ever realized,
engaged people where they were and took them to places they probably never would have gone,
exhibited a gruff exterior and a will to win but cared about the well being of every person as much as anyone I have ever known,
improved an already great activity in monumental ways,

exemplified integrity,
lived 100 years in 54.

provided, along with Jayne, Alex, and Dr. & Mrs. Smith, endless hours of entertainment, great conversation, and a comfortable and relaxing home to stay in many times over the years

, I’m going to miss you, probably more than you may have realized. I’m glad I had a chance to say goodbye before you left Kentucky this summer.

Stefan Bauschard

July 21, 2009 – 12:04 PM

My condolences to the Smith family and the WF Debate family. The high school and college debate communities are quite void now without Ross. There was never a conversation I had with Ross that was not insightful, encouraging, and funny. He will be deeply missed.

Shunta Jordan

July 21, 2009 – 12:18 PM

About 10 years ago I was on a panel with Ross at the NDT. The decision was a 2-1 and Ross and I were two.

This debate was particularly stressful to judge…two first round teams who were in contention for a bye in the first elim debate.

After I was done explaining my decision, Ross began to go through his decision. I was sitting directly in front of and to the left of Ross, who was delivering his RFD in his usual passioned manner, arms flying around as he read off his legal pad.

About five minutes into his decision explanation, Ross, passion dripping from his forehead, smacked me directly in the back of the head, hard. It hurt.

The funny part was that Ross had no idea he had actually done it, but as soon as it happened, everyone in the room busted out laughing, myself included.

After we left the room, he pulled me aside and asked why people started laughing during his RFD, concerned that he had said something wrong. I asked him, “Didn’t you know you smacked me in the back of the head when you were giving your decision?” He just smiled and told me that next time I shouldn’t sit so close.

Although I have been out of debate for almost a decade now, I will always remember Ross for being one of the most passionate, articulate, innovative and caring people I have ever met.

It is truly a sad day for everyone who has ever had the good fortune to cross paths with Ross Smith. I take solice knowing that he has touched so many lives in such a short time.

Monte Stevens
Tallahassee, FL

Monte Stevens

July 21, 2009 – 12:41 PM

One of my favorite moments in debate was sitting at the Dixie coaches’ party listening to Ross tell stories about the “olden” days. He was a one of the reasons why the college debate community is so great.

Sean Harris

July 21, 2009 – 12:45 PM

I will never forget the party that went late into the night at the 1997 NDT at Liberty. Ross was a great guy.

Jeff Clayton

July 21, 2009 – 01:15 PM

You will be missed so very, very much.

Matt Stannard

July 21, 2009 – 01:17 PM

Ross Smith taught me what it means to be a Demon Deacon. Although, I wasn’t much of a debater he was always kind and encouraging. He developed the debate family by getting everyone to speak at squad meetings and by carrying on so many squad traditions. When I think about teamwork, I think about Ross telling me, “many hands make light work.” My frosh year I remember him telling me that I would love Wake Forest, and I soon did.

You will be missed.

Nichole Burnap

July 21, 2009 – 01:37 PM

As a long time high school coach, I didn’t have the contact many in the college community did with Ross. I do, however, remember our last two, abeit brief conversations, at the U of Ky tournament last fall and discussing the 2008 presidential race at MBA. I appreciate the wonderful service Ross and the WFU debate team provided for high school students at the National Earlybird and the summer institutes. One of my former HS debaters-Sydney Pasquinelli of Wayne State-will be coaching and studying for her MA this fall at Wake. I only regret that Ross will not be teaching and mentoring her during her time at Wake. My condolences go out to Ross’ family and the entire WFU community.

John Lawson

July 21, 2009 – 01:39 PM

Ross was a role model to my role models, a mentor to my mentors. I never knew Ross very well, yet my life would be unrecognizably different without his influence; that, to me, is the mark of a genuine hero. He lives on through the innumerable lives he has touched, one way or another.

To be teachers, to be students, to be friends – to
leave the world a better place than we found it. That’s Ross’s legacy, and, God willing, that’s the one we’ll carry forward as well.

Jamie Berk

July 21, 2009 – 01:49 PM

Nothing in debate compares to a Ross Smith speech at the Wake Forest banquet. I am so grateful that I could be there for a few of them, and to otherwise share some good time with Ross.

My thoughts go out to his family and the Wake Forest debate community.

Ryan Burke

July 21, 2009 – 01:56 PM

Ross Smith is not a name I associate with nonsense of any kind. He treated all arguments that were made properly clear to him as a person might treat a stranger upon first meeting. In my dealings with him, Ross was a mind that treated argument like a scientist.

A number of cigarettes smoked, wry jokes made, debate rounds judged. Even though Ross rarely voted for me, I always was excited to have him in the back of the room. He had a biting wit, full with experience, and despite the institutional cynicism that can be accrued from years involved with policy debate, maintained deep political commitments and a profound sense of hope. Probably the most animated I saw him was when describing his work with the Obama campaign.

Ross was an intellectual figure for generations of debaters, and I am one in one generation. I’ll miss him.

Edmund Zagorin

July 21, 2009 – 02:40 PM

I still cannot believe that Ross is gone. More so than anyone else, Ross helped me become the person I am today. He embodied the real meaning of mentor and teacher and coach, with his sharp intellect and equally sharp wit, his ability to encourage and motivate, his unwillingness to accept anything less than the best, and his unwavering friendship and compassionate heart. I feel truly blessed to have known Ross. My thoughts and prayers go out to Jayne, Alex and the rest of the Smith family, and the Wake Forest and debate communities.

Gloria Cabada-Leman

July 21, 2009 – 02:44 PM

When I was a freshmen in college you welcomed me to this community. I feel honored to have known you. It’s not surprising that so many people feel the same way. I was hard not to love Ross Smith, damn near impossible.

Tony Johnson

July 21, 2009 – 03:01 PM

I will miss you, my friend.

Brian Prestes

July 21, 2009 – 03:16 PM

Ross can only be described as bigger than life. Our community has lost one of its brightest lights. I hope everyone of us can keep the lesson Ross taught us– that we ought never lose sight of our dignity or humanity even in the deepest pits of competition–close to our hearts as we carry on without one of our very best.

Travis Cram

July 21, 2009 – 03:41 PM

I think we would be remiss if we did not add to the impressive list of Ross’s accomplishments the fact that he was a heckuva poker player. You will be missed mightily, Ross.

Edward Schiappa

July 21, 2009 – 04:20 PM

Apart from expressing my sympathy for Jayne and Alex, for whom this must be incredibly horrible, I just don’t know where to begin. Ross had such a huge impact on my life and the person I became that his untimely passing really hits me in the gut. The world seems that much more grey and dull now. I can’t begin to say everything I am feeling right now, but then Ross did always teach me you have to pick and choose your main points.

On the one hand, Ross taught me self-confidence and ambition. There is no point in doing something if you don’t give it your all. I still remember when I first came to meet with Ross for the Shirley Scholarship interview and he asked me about my goals. I think I said something fairly modest and vague, like to clear at the NDT, and he was like – what? Why not win the NDT? That was empowering, and he always had that sort of attitude and intensity. Ross had this amazing ability to be gruff and scruffy and hard-nosed, but encouraging and supportive all at once.

At the same time, though, Ross also taught me how not to take myself too seriously. Ross had nothing if not a fabulous sense of humor, and definitely a sense of humor about himself and about life in general. I picked up a lot of my own sense of whimsy, and ability not to take myself too seriously (insofar as I manage that) from him.

Just to take one of countless humorous antecdotes, I recall Ross’s line that the 4 food groups are actually nicotine, fat, alcohol, and sugar (or was it salt?!). Then he had a version that was a food “pyramid” to go with the times. That also epitomized another very Ross-ish trait – knowing how to enjoy life, and live it with zest.

Work hard, play hard=Ross.

Ross also seemed to know how I felt more than anyone else after my last debate, and knew just the right way to handle that, which was hard for me at the time, as I suppose it often is.

With great sadness,


Mike Ridge

July 21, 2009 – 04:33 PM

It was a great honor and privilege to serve with Ross when we were “mere” assistant coaches at Wake in the mid-1980s. And it was with great admiration that I watched as this gentle giant of a man became a towering giant in the debate community…and in Winston-Salem. With great sadness, and love, we bid you farewell

paul leader

July 21, 2009 – 06:47 PM

I would be lying if I said I will not miss Ross’s presence. Ross and I may have had differences in opinion about the significance of debate, but there is no doubt that we both grew to accept and love one another. I will forever thank him for hearing me speak and seek ways to (de)construct my arguments and style; his squad was one of the few that truly attempted to engage us. For this, I am eternally thankful. It was in this manner that we grew to respect each other. The moments that I had to get to know him may have been short, but there is no doubt that I will never feel the same at a debate tournament knowing that his physical presence will not be there. I know his spirit will always be with us, but only guiding us from better times, places, and heavens. I love you amigo.

All the way from Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico,

Luis M. Magallon

Luis M. Magallon

July 21, 2009 – 06:55 PM

Condolences, prayers, and kindest thoughts at this difficult time. My all those who suffer this loss be granted patience.

Robert Buscho

July 21, 2009 – 09:28 PM

I am so very saddened at Ross Smith’s sudden death and extend my deepest sympathy to his family and many friends. I was a debater at Northwestern back in the 1970s when Ross debated for Wake Forest. Although we were intense rivals, we were also good friends and remained so over the following decades. I remember Ross for his sharp intelligence, his credibility, and his great sense of humor. He proceeded to be a top debate judge and one of the best coaches in the country. I last saw Ross in April where he devoted his time to working at the National Urban Debate Championship for inner city high school students. Ross will be greatly missed.

Stuart Singer

July 21, 2009 – 09:38 PM

I’ve been speechless for a few days now… where to start, and what to say, other than what so many others have said: Ross is such a part of who I am today, and I will always be grateful for his willingness to indulge somebody who came to Wake with no policy debate (and no clue, really). Ross always managed to make me want to work harder, and be better, at the same time conveying that it was good to have fun. It was an amazing gift.

In my brief time coaching debate in grad school, Wake was always my model of how a debate team ought to be run, and I got the idea when I traveled that everybody else thought so, too.

Apparently when Alex was 4 or 5 (I didn’t hear this directly, but both remember being told, and can imagine the scene), he and Ross were arguing about something or another, when Alex popped out with “Daddy, we’re debating!” Without missing a beat, Ross said, “no, we’re not.” That’s always struck me as perfect Ross – somehow managing to get that balance between living and believing everything that debate is and should be, and also knowing when he’s not debating.

It was an honor, and a privilege, to have known him. My heart goes out to Jayne, Alex, and the rest of his family.

Gordon Hull

Gordon Hull

July 21, 2009 – 09:55 PM

I regret never telling Ross how influential he has been in my debate career. I met Ross at camp in high school, and spent two wonderful summers under his instruction. He was witty and always polite in lecture/lab, and always encouraging.

When I graduated into college debate, Ross was a wonderful face among the crowd of people I didn’t know. He always greeted me with a smile and by my name. When he didn’t vote for me, he always managed to teach me after the decision to look deeper into the debate. I will always respect him as a great mind in debate and life, and will miss his presence terribly.

My deepest regards for the squad who has lost an incredible mentor, and his family who has lost such an amazing person.

—Sarah Beth Thomas

Sarah Elizabeth Thomas

July 21, 2009 – 10:09 PM

Ross will be deeply missed. He was an exceptional mind who coached talented students. He filled an entire room with his smile and his wit. He was an inspiration to both of us as high school debaters, as college debaters and as high school debate coaches. Thank you for the memories.

“Tyson and Alison Smith, Iowa City, Iowa”

July 21, 2009 – 11:13 PM

Ross was one of the kindest, most caring people I encountered during my years in the debate community. Ross’s deep concern for making the debate community and people around him better were obvious, even from someone that knew Ross mostly as a judge and coach of the competition. After being away from the debate community for a while and coming back to a tournament to judge, one of the first people I saw was Ross. He immediately smiled at me, with that distinct smile of his, and said “Welcome back.” It was that sort of enthusiasm and welcoming kindness that Ross exuded. He will be sorely missed, and will certainly not be forgotten by anyone that got to know him, even casually. My deepest condolences.

Craig Wickersham

July 22, 2009 – 12:27 AM

I met Ross 24 summers ago, and the experience literally changerd my life and made me who I am today. Not a day has passed in that 24 years that I did not try to live up to his expectations for me or strive to help someone else in the selfless way he taught me to. That will continue, but those moments of his sharing successes and letting me know however slightly that I was beginning to live up to his expectations for me, I will now forever miss. Thank you Jayne and Alex for sharing him with me and with all of us.

Alan Coverstone

July 22, 2009 – 12:34 AM

I miss you, coach.

Seth Gannon

July 22, 2009 – 01:51 AM

I cannot say more than those near and close to him have already said but I have never known a world of debate in which Ross Smith did not exist and was not a leader. He is a legend whose legendary status has been immortalized too soon. Ad patres.

Michael Souders

July 22, 2009 – 02:31 AM

Tomorrow and Thursday we all get to be with you. We get to be with you in JP’s quiet moments, in Seth’s happy mirth, in Gedmark’s constant brilliance, in Jarrod’s consistent reasonability, in Brad’s bad puns, in Beth’s amazing resourcefulness, and in Alan’s kind heart. We all miss you no matter how much evidence there will be that you haven’t really left us.

Paul Johnson

July 22, 2009 – 03:04 AM

I have spent the last several days wishing I had taken more opportunities to interact with Ross. He was that kind of person-you never could get enough of him. I was lucky-we were all lucky-to get as much as I did. I hope Ross knows what he meant to me-it’s hard to put into words.

Jamie Carroll

July 22, 2009 – 03:59 AM

I am very proud of my degree from Wake Forest and my involvement with the debate program. I am most proud of Wake’s commitment to giving back to the debate community and I believe we probably, at one time, had more alums teaching and/or coaching high school and college debate than any other institution. Ross was universal in promoting our obligation to share with others what we had learned.

I met Ross the summer he came to Wake Forest to work at the Debate Institute for the first time. The workshop was divided into four groups, each headed by a team leader with three other instructors working with the leader. Ross was assigned to my group, so I was his supervisor, a position of power I never allowed him to forget. He was a geeky, gangly transfer student, brilliant beyond his years. I began my “Education by Smith” in the mid seventies and continued it until the last time I saw him in May. I never failed to learn something from Ross, be it when he added a minute to rebuttals at the Dixie and I stole it for The Glenbrooks, his insights, his intelligence, his grasp of arguments; he loved debate and never stopped trying to make it better.

I loved for Ross to judge my high school debaters, obviously because of his fairness and understanding of the arguments, but almost as importantly, the reaction my students would have the first time he came into the room. We must all admit, he was a little excentric. He would pace, flail his arms, clap his hands, extend his neck, all Rossisms we came to know, but for a first time high school junior or senior, the shock was worth a king’s ransom. Then when they heard what he had to say, his grasp of the arguments, his ability to filter out the chaff and get directly to the wheat was a thing of beauty. He was an icon, a symbol of what we all strive to be. We were debate colleagues, though he coached in college and me in high school, but more importantly, we were friend.

My condolences to his family. His is a …

Ted Belch

July 22, 2009 – 08:49 AM

A terrible loss for Wake Forest, Winston-Salem,and beyond. Deepest sympathies.

Candide Jones

July 22, 2009 – 10:32 AM

Ross has been one of the lions of the debate community for decades. He has touched so many, and will be sorely missed. To my Wake friends through the years, my condolences. May you relish the memories of one of the great debate personalities and teachers.

Marc Wilson

July 22, 2009 – 11:40 AM

It is nearly as difficult to express in words all that Ross meant to the debate community, the activity, and me, as it is to accept that his smile and laugh will no longer fill the hallways of our competitions. Ross was an unwavering pillar of passion and joy. His commitment to innovation, reasoned argument, and fun brought integrity to those he touched. Ross was a man I was proud to have my father meet – he was a role model not just to individuals, but also to the activity of debate as a whole. My deepest condolences go to his family and all who will miss him the world around. Thanks Ross; for the unforgettable banquets, the felt lined boxes, the always good-natured humor, the brilliant and instructive RFD’s, the too-many-to-count innovations in argument and tournament structure. May we strive to live up to the standard of excellence that you’ve so lovingly put forward.

Michael Burshteyn

July 22, 2009 – 01:26 PM

On Behalf of the Board of Directors and the staff of the Migrant Clinicians Network may I convey our deepest sympathy to all Ross’s family and friends.

Karen Mountain

July 22, 2009 – 03:01 PM

As I struggle to find the words to adequately express my sadness at the loss of Ross Smith, I am stuck on the question of which superlative he would want foregrounded. This is because Ross was undoubtedly both one of the most incredibly caring and fun people I have ever met as well as the best damn debate coach on the planet. All debate coaches inevitably combine some combination of personability and competitive drive, but inevitably deviate to one or the other. Ross had the magic balance between these equally admirable traits. One minute he would be spearheading an intense strategy session the next he would be clowning around in the squad room poking good natured fun at the debaters and graduate assistances (often me). I haven’t had the pleasure of knowing Ross as long as many people in the debate community, but as is the case with individuals of his stature it does not take long to know you have encountered a truly legendary figure. You are missed.

Joe Packer

July 22, 2009 – 03:03 PM

Ross was a tremendously fair and principled man who strove for excellence and achieved it. Plus, he was tremendously funny — all in all, a truly rare combination.

His contributions to the debate community will not soon be forgotten. He will live on in all of us who were lucky enough to know him.

My thoughts are with his family, friends, and the Wake community.

Jack Minnear

July 22, 2009 – 03:19 PM

I enjoyed competing with Ross in the seventies. I had a great time working with him at the Wake camps in the eighties. And we had fun catching up with each other at Glenbrook this past high school season.

A good man. His family and students will be in my thoughts and prayers.

Dwaine Hemphill

July 22, 2009 – 04:47 PM

You and your family have my deepest sympathy. Mr Ross was a very kind hearted caring person.
-Sonya E. Henderson
former studentMy heart is heavy.
Be assured of prayerful remembrances.
Chaplain Larretta Rivera-Williams

Larretta R. Williams

July 22, 2009 – 04:52 PM

“policy debate is training ground for life – it helps one make effective decisions” he helped thousands who have impacted millions do this in many lines of work (politics, business, education, medicine, just to name a few). perhaps deep down inside he knew it was struggling/talking/laughing/competing/innovating with those that you embrace as part of your family that makes that life even more meaningful with whatever choice you make. even if the body has passed, the spirit of the man will keep on living…thanks Ross

Justin Green

July 22, 2009 – 04:53 PM

“policy debate is training ground for life – it helps one make effective decisions” he helped thousands who have impacted millions do this in many lines of work (politics, business, education, medicine, just to name a few). perhaps deep down inside he knew it was struggling/talking/laughing/competing/innovating with those that you embrace as part of your family that makes that life even more meaningful with whatever choice you make. even if the body has passed, the spirit of the man will keep on living…thanks Ross

Justin Green

July 22, 2009 – 11:14 PM

Ross was the first thing I really knew about Wake Forest. In meeting him, I learned that it was going to be a challenging experience and that was the point. He taught me to think critically and think on my feet. I will forever be in his debt.

My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and his extended debate family.


Paula Walker

July 23, 2009 – 06:48 AM

Ross was an incredible human being. His passion, wit, and zeal for the activity were unmatched. A consummate educator and fierce advocate of debate, he was deeply committed to his own students, but no less so to any other students in the community. What always impressed me, besides his intelligence and good humor, was his unwillingness to ever settle for the status quo, whether that meant introducing innovations in round or tournament structure that many deemed radical but came to be seen as obvious or indispensable, or running for school board, or helping elect President Obama. Unlike many, Ross didn’t just talk about doing good in the world; he went out and did it. It is impossible to imagine who could take his place at the top of our pref sheet, or who else’s smile could fill a hallway at a debate tournament with such warmth. His passion, caring, and humor will be sorely missed.
My thoughts are with his family, and with all those in Winston-Salem today.

Eli Anders

July 23, 2009 – 09:05 AM

Ross Smith was a remarkable man who welcomed so many of us into his life. I knew Ross from all his work in the Democratic Party. He was such a funny full of life man who made you think about why we were Democrats and how we (each and every one of us) can make a difference in our world! I will miss Ross, but it gives me peace knowing he has just entered a new journey to explore! Safe travels my old friend!

Mary Laura Teague-Austin

July 23, 2009 – 12:07 PM

I am stunned and deeply saddened by your loss. I work in Carswell – and so for many years I would simply see Ross outside on the Quad with Alan and a group of students… and then the Obama campaign happened. Ross was singlehandedly responsible for drawing me into that campaign in ways that will remain the most important work i have done in my life. I have many funny memories of Ross and the way he persuaded me to give up my car, host a worker etc… But I mostly remember the force that he was on the campaign – and on campus more generally. He really was “larger than life”. I hope that the richnesss of his life will provide great comfort to his friends, students and family in this time of great loss. My thoughts are with you as you celebrate his life and mourn your loss.

Peace be with you, Ana

Ana Maria Gonzalez Wahl

July 23, 2009 – 05:58 PM

My condolences and prayers are with the Smith family.

Matthew Plush

July 23, 2009 – 08:59 PM

What can we add to what has already been said about Ross and the impact he made on our lives. We have similar stories to tell – late nights at Pizza Garden, endless rounds of beer pong, long days at debate tournaments, and the van rides to and from tournaments. Ross was a serious sports enthusiast especially for Demon Deacons basketball and a strict but understanding coach and teacher who expected a lot from those he worked with. What all these stories together say is that Ross was genuine. You always knew where you stood with him. He had a passion for debate and advancing the activity that was infectious and made all us of better because of it. As we look back on knowing Ross for more than 20 years, it is hard to imagine that he is gone. We are glad that he touched our lives as he has touched so many others. We are better people as a result of our time with Ross.

Jayne, you were such an important part of Wake Forest debate when we were there. Know that you and Alex have our profound sympathies. We hope that knowing what an important and special man Ross was will ease your pain and sorrow in the days, weeks and months ahead.

Ron & Linda (Hippler) Wastyn

July 23, 2009 – 09:39 PM

My thoughts and prayers are with the members of Ross’s family. He was a wonderful man and a true Democrat. We all loved him and will miss him. The world is so much better because of all the work he did.

William H. Freeman

July 23, 2009 – 11:51 PM

I just rolled back into Washington from the services in Winston and I have had some time to think about what Ross meant to me.

I can’t tell you how much I will miss him. Jayne, Alex, and the Wake community, you have my love and respect. And you always will.

For me, Ross combined a boundless enthusiasm – not just for debate or Wake or Wake Debate – but for friends, for challenging assumptions, for change and innovation, and for a belief that people of good cheer can tackle tough problems and even change the world.

I first got to know Ross (and Jayne) over 25 years ago working with at the Wake institute. I would not trade those moments in the sultry North Carolina heat for anything. In an atmosphere of intellectual stimulation, good cheer, and mutual respect, Ross made us all better than we were. He created the basis for friendships that will last a lifetime.

Later, Ross (and even Alex) would come up to DC and visit. We would stay up late into the night discussing the major issues before the Congress and the Administration – and the many points of intersection between politics and debate. It was an exercise in cross-fertilization, and Ross was at its center. I will miss those rare moments of clarity that only late night discussions with Ross could muster.

My dear friend, thanks for all of it. I will carry vibrant memories of you with me for the rest of my days.

Scott Segal

July 24, 2009 – 12:29 PM

It is very difficult to imagine the debate community without Ross. Not only did he make invaluable contributions to Wake Forest, college debate, high school debate, and urban debate, but his remarkable enthusiasm and charm endeared him to everyone. What a terrible loss.

Jonathan Massey

July 24, 2009 – 01:03 PM

I have not been in contact with Ross since the mid-1980s, and at that time knew him only in the sense that hundreds of others in the debate community did. But the lasting impression he left on so many, even those of us who were just passing through and on the periphery, is something that most educators can only dream about. He will be sorely missed, but leaves a wonderful legacy.

Edward Swaine

July 24, 2009 – 07:26 PM

Ross was an incredible mentor for two of my former debaters and incredible support of my entire team. He will be missed.

Jon Cruz and the Bronx Science Family

July 25, 2009 – 05:59 PM

My thoughts and prayers are with Ross’s family and his colleagues at Wake Forest. He made a real difference in the lives of so many students and was respected by his fellow coaches. He left this world much too soon and he will be missed.
Lucy Keele

Lucy Keele

July 26, 2009 – 10:20 PM

Words cannot lessen the pain of losing someone you’ve known a long time. I hadn’t spoken to Ross Kennedy Smith for several decades yet played in the sandbox with him, went Scouting with him, and probably shared those things that formed some his character.
I believe he left many indellable ideas in everyone he met as he certainly did with me

Stephen W. Jordan

July 27, 2009 – 07:07 AM

I just reconnected with Ross earlier this year and have known him since the mid 1980’s. I even had the opportunity to see him at three different events this year (NDT, NAUDL and TOC). I am honored to have shared this small amount of time with him before his passing and and was fortunate to be able to tell him so. My sympathies are with his family and and thank you Ross for the countless times you touch lives in a positive way. I hope we can all strive to be like that in some small way.

Mark Whitehead

July 27, 2009 – 02:18 PM

Ross personified class. I found his contributions, both professonal and personal, to be invaluable. He will be missed.

Shaun Martin

July 27, 2009 – 06:10 PM

If the love of people we leave behind is any testament to the value of our lives, and I believe that it is, Ross Smith left a legacy beyond measure. I did not know Ross well, but students I taught and entrusted to him at summer institutes, and at Wake, admired him and loved him dearly. Obviously an intellectual passionate about ideas and policy, he could transmit that enthusiasm to others, and inspire them to discover abilities they did not know they possessed. However, what was most remarkable about Ross are the simple virtues he embodied: he was kind, and patient. He always worked to make the debate community more open and he welcomed new coaches and debaters to the Wake High School tournament as if they were old friends. He was never too busy to stop for a question and would patiently explain what seemed a Byzantine process to a newcomer. We will miss that warm smile and easy laugh more than I can say. Thank you for sharing him.

Lisa Willoughby

July 28, 2009 – 12:18 PM

Ross was a great friend, judge, and colleague when I debated and coached NDT in the 1980s. His many achievements and legacy of great debaters speak for themselves, far better than anything I could write here. He accomplished far more than most do in far longer careers, and will be greatly missed.

Steven Dolley

July 28, 2009 – 09:22 PM

I was at Wake for 4 years, actively debated for only 1 season and yet some of my fondest and most vibrant memories are of Ross and the debate team. Things like cutting cards, creating briefs, being critiqued by Ross after a practice round, as well as Ultimate frisbee, all night beer pong, the debate holiday party, Derby Day and cigarett loads randomly exploding.

Ross helped create these memories by engendering a team spirit and culture of intense enthusiasm coupled with a balanced view/approach to fun and work. And all along the way he was teaching debate and critical thinking.

All I can say is thanks, unfortunately, this is not enough.

Jane and Alex, my deepest sympathies.

David Gainey

July 29, 2009 – 10:00 PM

My condolences to Ross’ family, the Wake family, and the debate community. I last saw Ross on Fox news and he was the same captivating and inspirational teacher as he always had been, regardless of where one debated. I am saddened to hear this news. The world is vastly richer for all the lives he touched.
Karrie Schwartz
Emory ’92

Karrie Schwartz

July 30, 2009 – 02:21 AM

Ross was an amazing teacher, coach, and person. Bigger than life. He had such a brilliant mind and such a huge heart; a wonderful combination. I was on the debate team for my freshman year, before I defected to the theatre dept. But the impact Ross had on my life at Wake was huge, and I am forever grateful to have had the opportunity to work with him.

He taught me so much about debate, critical thinking, letting yourself play as hard as you work, and about the importance of community. My thoughts and deepest condolences are with Jayne and Alex and all of Ross’ family and friends in this time of great loss. May the memories shared here and elsewhere be of some comfort.

Pidge Meade

August 03, 2009 – 11:31 AM

My condolences to the Smith family. I worked in the Communication department for 3 years during college and have many memories of Ross being there at what seemed all hours of the day and night. The dedication he had to the debate program and the students was awe-inspiring.

Kate Rojas

August 12, 2009 – 10:30 AM

So sorry to hear about this- my condolences to friends and family.

Amanda Graham

August 12, 2009 – 06:01 PM

May Professor Ross Smith rest in peace! He was a brave genius whose ideas have reached many students and influenced their education.

I am proud to have met him through BFTF program and I have to admit that the few days of classes with him had the most impact in my view of debate and communications.

My sympathy to his family and friends.

Best regards,


August 12, 2009 – 11:41 PM

I spent some time with Ross in Chicago in 2008 and was sad to hear about his passing this summer. He was a warm, bright and funny and well liked by his colleagues and students. He will be sorely missed.

Jason Tyson

August 16, 2009 – 11:46 PM

I was in his camp Summer of 2000. I learned sooo much. God Speed!

Deitrick Goodwin

August 17, 2009 – 12:42 PM

Ross Smith was a wonderful person in my life. Ross mentored, taught and led by example. My life was made better by his presence and I’m deeply saddened by this loss.

As a debate coach he should be remembered for his competitive success, debate innovations and love of community.

As a person I’ll remember him as one of the most caring, and intellectually thoughtful people I’ve known. Thanks Ross.

My condolences go out to Jayne and Alex.

Maxwell Schnurer

August 18, 2009 – 01:41 PM

I am stunned to hear of Ross’s death. When I was a graduate student in speech communication, he was the debate coach. I helped with research and traveled some with the team. I will always remember the wonderful times and all of the things I learned through those experiences. Ross Smith was one of the best debate coaches I have ever known. He will be greatly missed by all who knew him. My sympathies to the Smith family and to the Wake Forest family.

Lots of love,

Peggy Beach, M.A. 1994
Raleigh, NC

Peggy Beach

August 26, 2009 – 10:36 AM

I am shocked and saddened to tears to have discovered, and only now, that this great and good man has left us. Ross and I were rough contemporaries; I remember, for example, how he hit my partner and me over the head (figuratively) in the last preliminary round at the 1978 NDT in Denver. But what I remember most particularly about Ross was his unassuming manner. His kindness, his almost-deferential care for others, his folksy demeanor, disguised a sharp intellect and incisive mind which often caught others off-guard. I remember him with deep affection, and am devastated by my failure to keep up with him in recent years. To his family I send both my fondest thoughts and deep condolences. I hope their grief is tempered at least a mite by the realization that Ross’s great good nature, his heart, and his keen mind have left a lasting and positive impression on hundreds and thousands of people they may never meet.

John M. Bredehoft

August 31, 2009 – 08:42 PM

Just last week I learned of Ross’s passing. I live in LaGrange.Il where the Smiths were my neighbors when Ross was about 5 and the Smith family was
only, Dr Smith, Marguerite, Ross, Gibson and Jenny. He was my daughter’s playmate and we were all family. Sarah was supposed to call me but the last time we talked, she called to tell of her father’s death, so I guess she didn’t want to pass on more bad news.
Nate Jr. Sarah and Andrew were all born while they still lived in the area, but they moved back east and
didn’t have the opportunity to share their adulthood. Dr Smith sent the Christmas cards and he didn’t brag of the children’s accomplishments. I
called Marguerite just a week ago and she gave me the news. I just thought I would “Google” Ross and see what might be on line about him. I am so impressed and sorry I didn’t get to see him in action. He always had a leadership quality and he had wise and loving parents to guide him. I never met Jayne nor Alex and only saw Ross for a short time 10 years ago on my way home from Florida when we stopped in Winston Salem to visit Marguerite and Nate. They mentioned Ross and his debate teams, but I guess they didn’t really brag enough.
My deepest sympathy to Jayne and Alex.
I know you and his family will always miss him.
God Bless!
Frankie Kramer

Frankie Kramer

September 09, 2009 – 12:45 AM

Jayne and Alex,wish I could quit crying to type this.

Hope ya’ll are well. Keep thinking I!!! introduced jayne to Ross.

Arm going, but please give best to Mrs. Smith.

Best time with Ross was at Aunt’s house near Ashville, and I got him to Sliding Rock, 60 miles south of Ashville. Greater than any NDT!!!

Jayne, remember Luke and Laura—-the Ice Princess???

Tod Woodbury

September 11, 2009 – 07:47 PM

We received the Wake Forest Magazine (Sep 2009) and learned of Ross’ death. We worked with him on the Obama campaign. What a great guy! I have thought of him frequently over the months since. We pledged to have dinner after the winning election. I’m so sorry!

Ellen Blair

September 12, 2009 – 11:25 AM

I didn’t know Ross Smith, the highly regarded and nationally acclaimed debate coach and maker of champions. I knew him as a committed and enthusiastic Obama campaign worker who inspired me to turn my few hours a week as a volunteer into many 10-hour days. I understand why he will be sorely missed by so many. My condolences to the family.

Tom Blair

September 17, 2009 – 05:42 PM

I just learned of Ross’ passing from the Lyons Township High School alumni newsletter. He and I were good friends in high school and we were both members of the LTHS debate team. One of my fondest memories is partnering with Ross on the JV team and going 4-0 against some of the best high school teams in the Chicago area, including New Trier East, New Trier West and Arlington High. I was paired with Ross two days before the event. He made me practice the opening monologue with a tape recorder and orchestrated the whole thing. We lost touch after high school and I am both shocked and saddened by his passing and happy that he achieved so much in his too-short life. Our prayers are with his family. Vaya con Dios, amigo.

David Emberson