North Central College - Naperville, IL

Faculty Up Close

Impromptu Guru

Call it fate. Or maybe God. Richard Paine, professor of speech communication/theatre, isn’t sure just which it is, but it’s led him to his life’s work.

“For someone who teaches the importance of rationality and careful thought and forward planning and organized research,” he laughs, “none of my life decisions were made that way.” But today those events don’t seem like accidents at all. “I believe that if we don’t ruin it, there’s a path our lives will be happiest on.” It’s abundantly clear that teaching and coaching speech are what make Paine happy.

Paine’s Rolodex is full of alumni he keeps in touch with, some for decades, and he can often be seen on campus surrounded by a gaggle of students.

Outside the classroom, Paine’s great passion is forensics — aka speech competition. When he arrived at North Central in 1983, he pumped new life into a moribund program. Since then, North Central teams have brought home over 2,700 individual awards, and the College has been in the top 20 schools in the country in the National Forensics Association Championships almost every year since 1988. Quite an accomplishment for a small college that regularly goes up against powerhouses like Bradley University, Eastern Michigan, Illinois State and Western Kentucky.

But while Paine still enjoys the winning, today he gets most of his satisfaction from something else. “As the years go by, you see what happens to the students when they’re five years or more out of school, what it does in terms of giving them life competencies.” Corporate trainer Kari Kaczmarski ’88 Gilkeson would say “amen” to that. “Even if you win the lottery and never have to work again, you’ll still use the skills you learned from Richard Paine.”

In the end, for Paine, it’s all about the students. “When you drive five hours to a tournament, talking and sharing your lives, and come back another five hours and next day start getting ready for the next tournament … you develop very tight relationships and you see students change and grow in ways that are obvious and vivid.

 “At North Central, instructors understand that how you teach, matters. The thing that keeps me in teaching is my investment in the students’ lives and their investment in mine. That’s what I value most.”

Richard Paine

Professor of Speech Communication