Bench & Tree in
Memory of Bob Brittain
Post & Mail photo/Becky Hand — Colleagues of Bob Brittain pose at
the Bob Brittain Memorial next to the CCHS library Wednesday. The
tree in the foreground was donated by speech and debate coaches
from northern Indiana, in Brittain’s honor; the bench, purchased
by the CCHS Alumni Association. In front, Tom Lough and Barb
Pentangelo and in back Andrew Thompson, Kristin Rentschler and
“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 —
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
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
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
“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
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,
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