P O W E L L, W y o. - Duane Fish, professor of speech communication and chairperson of the Communication Division at Northwest College, broke new ground in November when he was awarded the 2008 Distinguished Service Award from the American Forensic Association.
Considered one of the highest honors within the collegiate forensics community, the award has previously been given only to faculty who teach at four-year colleges and universities. Fish, who co-directs the NWC Forensics Team, is the very first community college faculty to receive it.
The AFA award recognizes long-term service to the American forensics community and takes into consideration positive impact on the field, educational practices, community development and serving as a model for American Forensic Association professionals.
"When forensics people quote somebody in the field of forensics, it's the people who've received this award that they quote," said Virginia Fish, Duane's wife and herself a former director of the NWC Forensics Program. "It's the Who's Who of forensics. These are the people who write the textbooks and make significant advancements in the field. It's just incredible that a teacher at a two-year college was honored this way."
Fish has contributed to forensics through his research and numerous presentations that call for critical examination of current forensics practices and their impact on the future health of forensics.
In the 1980s, he was one of the pioneers in bringing computer technology to forensics tournament administration and served as the coordinator in charge of product development for one of the first individual events tournament computer software programs. His program was used extensively at numerous tournaments across the nation.
Fish is widely known to the national forensics community through his service to several national and regional forensics organizations, including serving as tournament director of the Phi Rho Pi national tournament.
Many Big Horn Basin residents know of Fish's success with the NWC Forensics Team, which is perennially ranked near the top in the nation and currently enjoys a regular season unbeaten streak that's almost three years long. But probably not as many are aware of all the accolades Fish himself has earned over the years. His honors for service to forensics include the Treasure State Hall of Fame Award, Phi Rho Pi Service Award and Distinguished Service Award, the B. Aubrey Fisher Award, Friend of the Red Rock Award and the Michael Peterson Service to Debate Award.
In addition, he's received NWC's Distinguished Faculty Award and also its Distinguished Alumni Award. NWC named him one of its first outstanding teaching award winners for recognition by the National Institute for Staff and Organizational Development.
The AFA has named a Distinguished Service Award winner annually since 1979. With Fish as the latest designee on the roll, Northwest College now tops a long list of distinguished institutions like Wake Forest University, Baylor University and the University of Alabama.