Vern Norris

For more than two decades, I’ve kept a photograph of Vern Norris on my office desk. I’ve intended this to be a daily reminder that much of what we are able to do now is due at least in part to people who have come before us.

Vern died recently at the age of 89, nearly 32 years after his retirement, having served on the MHSAA staff for 23 years, including as executive director from 1978 to 1986. He had been in declining health during the past year, but not declining spirit. Many people remember Vern as one who would be willing to help almost anyone at any time.

When, in Kansas City, I read his retirement announcement early in 1986, I sent him a congratulatory note. He responded with a personal call during which he asked of my interest in the job. Given my situation at the time – not on staff, not in the state and not in a school or sports administration – this seemed like a wild pitch. But he encouraged me to think about it and, well, the rest is history.

When I leave this job that I have now held and mostly loved for nearly 32 years so far, I intend to follow Vern’s lead. His was a most graceful exit. We spent only five days together in the MHSAA office; and while his advice since then has been rare, his support has always been well done.

I will miss seeing him at this winter’s tournaments and at the Officials Banquet May 5, an event that he began in his first year as MHSAA executive director, an event where we will honor another of Michigan’s officiating leaders with the “Vern L. Norris Award.”


Tuesday, February 20, 2018 11:28 PM
He was a one of a kind individual and I will not be the first or last person to mention that fact. I will always remember at the boys BB finals greeting him and talking briefly he was a true gentleman and great at remembering names and schools weather lower peninsula or upper Michigan. Yooper from Stephenson Tom Tatrow

Post Comment

Only registered users may post comments.

About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 45 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.