Cover photo for Randall James McCutcheon's Obituary
Randall James McCutcheon Profile Photo

Randall James McCutcheon

March 4, 1949 — February 2, 2024

Randall James McCutcheon



     Over five decades, Randy McCutcheon was a master teacher and speech coach whose extraordinary insight, dedication, and worldly wisdom changed the lives of thousands of  students.

   Renowned for coaching more national champions in extemporaneous speaking than any other coach, Randy was just as proud of the beginners’ labs he sought out at summer institutes where he helped novices overcome their fears of speaking as he was of his students who always won and went on to become well known in their fields. 

   Recent student parent, Erez Kalir, wrote, ”In a world that’s become obsessed with ‘gifted and talented’ superstars, Randy preferred instead to work with kids who were beginners, who struggled, or whose path forward wasn’t easy, linear, or filled with roses.”   

    His teaching career included memorable stops at Lincoln East High School (NE), Milton Academy (Boston), West Des Moines High School (Iowa), and Albuquerque Academy (NM) where he retired. He continued to coach, however, via live stream and led several other students to national titles.  From his hospital bed in Albuquerque, Randy coached his last two students, April and Daphne. 

     His collaboration with fellow beginner coach Bob Marks began in 1975 and spanned nearly 48 years.  Together they shepherded hundreds of students to tournaments throughout the country.  Bob remarks, “Randy was undeniably one of the greatest rhetoric educators in the country. He was also recognized as an intuitive, kind, ethical man. My development as a coach is due in large part to my partnership with Randy. I am so thankful for having had the privilege of being aligned with a man of brilliance and integrity. Randy was my best friend. Randy was my brother”. 

    Randall James McCutcheon was a notable author with three humor-laden guides to becoming a successful student, including, GET OFF MY BRAIN!, CAN YOU FIND IT?, and IT DOESN’T TAKE A GENIUS, co-written with Tommie Lindsey.  He also wrote about a dozen textbooks on speech, communication, and journalism with Jim Schaffer. 

    Randy spent the early years of his life with his father in Oakland, California but a gritty city culture began to make life difficult. He had been spending summers with his beloved grandmother Amy who ran a diner in Superior, Ne., and after his eighth grade year decided to stay with her. ”I was running away,” he said, “but no one else knew it.” 

    Initially misplaced with a group of struggling students, he became a reader, played the role of Hamlet when he was in fifth grade, and as a high school student started a debate team that was soon competing with schools from much larger cities. 

    Randy attended the University of Nebraska, as a theatre major, where he met several professors who changed his life. Their inspiration paved the way for his award-winning teaching career. He was Nebraska’s Teacher of the Year (1985), University of Nebraska Lincoln’s Teachers College Distinguished Educator, and a Martin Luther King, Jr. Service Award winner. 

 His accomplishments as a speech coach, however, were even more remarkable: 

State team championships in Nebraska, Massachusetts, Iowa, and New Mexico 

More than 200 students who qualified for national competition 

25 individual national champions 

An American Legion national oratory champion (and five finalists) 

National Forensics League Coach of the Year 

National Forensics League Hall of Fame member 

   His teaching and coaching accolades carry a common theme: helping young people become successful.  “I became a teacher,,” Randy said, “so that I could enable kids to find something within their lives that would assist them in learning their worth in society, and in life.” 

   “Randy had a special and distinctive way of connecting with young people, earning their trust and enabling them to believe in themselves and realize their own powers. He radiated kindness, a deep and authentic care for kids, and selfless generosity,” said Mr. Kalir. “The world feels poorer and emptier without him, but he lives on in the hearts of the thousands of people whose lives he touched and helped change for the better.” 

   Randy passed away on February 2 in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, at age 74, in the company of his dear friends Frank and Jane Durso. 

   He is survived by two half sisters, Pam Selvidge and Christi Hunt. 

   His funeral Mass will be held at 10 a.m. on February 13 at Saint Thomas the Apostle Catholic Church in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. Burial will follow at Saint Thomas Cemetery. 

   The Randy McCutcheon Memorial Fund has been set up at  www.speechanddebate.org/donate. 

   The second option is the memorial fund. 

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