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  • Boucher O'Brien Funeral Home

Nicholas F. “Nick” Burnett 1956-2021

Nicholas F. “Nick” Burnett, age 65, passed away peacefully at Kaiser Hospital on December 1, 2021, surrounded by his wife and a few close friends. He will be dearly missed.

Born on July 22, 1956, Nick is survived by his wife of 38 years Debra (Couchon) Burnett of Sacramento, CA, his brother Roger and husband Paul Kenney of Springfield, MA, an uncle and aunt Nino and Pam Yannoni of San Jose, CA and many cousins and close friends across the country. Nick was predeceased by his parents, Roger and Margherita Burnett of Easthampton, MA.

Nick met the love of his life, Debbi, in college, and they married in 1983. They were dedicated to each other throughout their years together and enjoyed entertaining, cooking, gardening and fishing together. Frequent visits with family and friends and two Alaskan cruises were trips Nick fondly remembered.

After graduating from Cony High School in Augusta, ME, Nick attended the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, where he earned his undergraduate and Masters degrees in Communication Studies. He taught at Emerson College in Boston before attending the University of Pittsburgh, where he received a PhD in Communication Studies.

Nick served as debate coach, professor, department chair and Associate Dean during his 30 year tenure at California State University, Sacramento (CSUS) before retiring in 2017. He was a valued colleague, friend and mentor to many. After retirement, he stayed active and continued to serve on the boards of Capital Public Radio, the CSUS Retirees Association, and the CSUS Friends of the Library.

A vibrant and engaging man, Nick enjoyed raising orchids and was an accredited orchid judge with the American Orchid Society and a certified UC Master Gardener. He served on the board of the Sacramento Orchid Society for many years, and was twice elected President. An avid and enthusiastic fisherman, Nick enjoyed many fly-fishing trips from coast to coast. There was nothing he liked better than fishing from a drift boat with a rod in his hand and a fish on the line, rain or shine.

Those who knew him know that Nick was smart and funny and a kind and generous friend. Nick was also passionate about debate. Whether researching, debating, judging, traveling, or coaching, he found great pleasure and success in debate, leading to many long-term friendships and a fulfilling career. He served as National President of the Cross Examination Debate Association from 1992-1993.

Donations in Nick’s memory can be made to support the debate program at CSUS through the Burnett Forensics Program Fund at

A Celebration of Life event is planned for 1:00 p.m. Saturday, April 30, 2022 on the CSUS campus at the Harper Alumni Center, 6000 J Street, Sacramento, CA. For more information, please contact

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