'Distinguished' Garvey Serves Hackett Well

By Pam Shebest
Special for MHSAA.com

March 28, 2017

KALAMAZOO — Mike Garvey’s high school sports career took him to Switzerland, England, West Germany, Belgium and France.

As unorthodox as that was, it set the foundation for his life’s work as a director of athletics, currently at Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep.

For his work in high school athletics, Garvey has a collection of honors and awards, including his latest: a 2016 National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association Distinguished Service Award, presented at the national banquet in Nashville, Tenn., in December.

“It was pretty neat,” said Garvey, who prefers talking about his coaches and athletes instead of himself.

“I don’t have a job; I have a mission and my mission is to serve the kids, which is really why this one means so much to me, because it’s a distinguished service award.”

The award, based on service to the NIAAA and interscholastic athletics at the local, state and national levels, followed his 2015 Allen W. Bush Award from the MHSAA for “giving and serving without a lot of attention,” he said. “Mr. Quiet and Humble,” he added with a laugh.

“While Mike’s first priority is at his school and the students there, he involves himself in league, state and national organizations, sharing his knowledge and experience with others so they can become better at what they do,” said Gary Ellis, athletic director at Allegan High School for 17 years before retiring in 2013.

“His willingness to mentor others has had a positive effect on many districts within his conference and throughout the state.”

Coaches enjoy working with Garvey, said Jesse Brown, who is starting his 12th season as Hackett’s head baseball coach.

“The great thing about Mike is that he is focused on the kids first,” Brown said. “As a coach, we put kids first. It puts us on the same page immediately.

“It’s that relationship building he has, even with his coaches. I look at him as a mentor for me. He’s very, very open and is willing to help you grow. He pushes you to do that, too.”

With none of 27 varsity head coaches working in the building, Garvey has an interesting dynamic, keeping in touch with them through emails or phone calls when they are not on campus.

“We have an awesome staff here, and that makes my life easier,” Garvey said. “Our head coaches own their programs. I tell them, ‘If I wanted to be the head coach in your sport, I would have hired me. So go run it.’ I think they like that.”

Garvey recently finished his term as the liaison between the state and national associations, and he is MIAAA coordinator for leadership training.

At the national level, he teaches “Coaching for Character,” starting each class with a quip: “‘I thought this class was characters in coaching.”

New initiatives at Hackett

Garvey was instrumental in starting two initiatives for athletes at Hackett: The Captains Clinic and, this year, an award called Scholar Athletic of Distinction.

He instituted the clinic because with no varsity head coaches in the building, “I felt like throughout my career, I watched coaches and their captains but it really didn’t mean anything,” he said.

“You’re the most popular kid, and you’re going to get one of those little captain’s bars at the end of the season. That wasn’t good enough.”

The clinic is a three-hour session and this year totaled 57 athletes. Any captains who do not attend lose that status.

“This year, we talked about what it means to be a good teammate,” he said. “They appreciated the pizza at the end. Free T-shirt and pizza; I got kids right there.”

Sophomore Natalie Toweson not only attended the clinic but helped design the T-shirts.

“His big thing is quotes,” Toweson said of Garvey. “I think I learned a lot from seeing other leaders and what they take out of certain situations. He has senior captains come in and share their experiences and how you can follow their lead because they’re really big role models to the underclassmen.

“Mr. Garvey brings a lot of energy and experience. He gives us new experiences, like playing Class A schools we’ve never played before, but is also very supportive and is at every game he can be.”

For the scholar-athlete award, Garvey has a rubric where athletes get points for years on freshman, junior varsity and varsity teams; bonus points for extra service hours, a higher GPA, all-conference, serving as captains and captains clinics attended.

Long way back to Michigan

Growing up in Detroit, Garvey attended Catholic schools, but during his first month as a freshman at Birmingham Brother Rice, his father was transferred to Geneva, Switzerland, for his work with Chrysler.

Mike’s sophomore year, his dad was transferred to the office in London, where Garvey honed his athletic skills.

“I was in an American school, so we did have sports,” he said. “In Europe the school sports aren’t that big because the parents don’t think they’re that good, so we competed with other American schools, which meant that for tournaments or competitions, we’d go to what used to be West Germany.

“We’d go to Belgium; we would go to France. It was really cool. When I moved back at the end of that last year, I had been in way more countries than I had been in states.”

Garvey competed in soccer, rugby, wrestling, baseball and swimming, which “was not my best sport,” he quickly added. “I just kind of had a jock heart and loved sports.”

After high school, he spent the next year in Europe and finally decided he had to choose a career.

“My two options in my brain were teach PE (physical education) and coach or be a dentist,” he said. “Vastly different. The year after I graduated, I stayed to help my previous coaches in London, and I was sold.”

After graduating from Western Michigan University, Garvey took a job in Illinois where he taught four hours of French, a language he learned while in Switzerland, and two hours of religion.

He was also head coach of wrestling and baseball and a football assistant coach.

Four years later, he moved back to Michigan, teaching at Lawton High School. That led to his first job as director of athletics, spanning his last five years there.

Garvey went from Lawton to Delton Kellogg, where he spent seven years as AD.

“I really felt like I grew there because I was away from my comfort zone,” he said. “It was stand up and be the guy. That’s where I got real involved with the state AD association.”

When Delton added assistant principal duties to his job description, Garvey decided he did not want to play the good guy (AD)/bad guy (assistant principal) roles and took a job at Otsego High School.

“I got to be involved in the building process,” Garvey said. “I loved Otsego and the people I worked with, and I worked with an awesome principal (Herve Dardis).

“I was involved in all the building stuff: the stadium, the ball fields, the tennis courts, the building. It was really fun.”

In 2010, Garvey had the opportunity to return to his Catholic roots when the AD position became available at Hackett.

“I went through the interview process, and I decided I had to come home,” he said. “My kids (Erin and Kristy) went here and I knew 20 years ago I was going to finish at a Catholic school.”

As conflicted as he was at making the choice, Garvey knew he made the correct one.

“It was really hard to leave Otsego because as an administrative team we had put together the facilities, which were outstanding.

“But I just couldn’t say ‘No’ to a Catholic school. I just couldn’t do it.”

And he remains up to the two toughest challenges in his work leading Hackett’s athletic department.

“No. 1, keep all our programs strong because we don’t have that many kids, yet we offer a crazy number of opportunities for them,” he said. “To keep those programs viable, we need bodies.

“The other hard part is I’m married to my best friend (Jennifer) and it keeps me away from her.  When this becomes a job, then I’m done.”

Pam Shebest served as a sportswriter at the Kalamazoo Gazette from 1985-2009 after 11 years part-time with the Gazette while teaching French and English at White Pigeon High School. She can be reached at pamkzoo@aol.com with story ideas for Calhoun, Kalamazoo and Van Buren counties.

PHOTOS: (Top) Kalamazoo Hackett Catholic Prep athletic director Mike Garvey holds up his NIAAA Distinguished Service Award; adjacent, attendees of a “Captains Clinic.” (Middle) Retired Allegan athletic director Gary Ellis, Hackett baseball coach Jesse Brown, sophomore athlete Natalie Toweson. (Below) Garvey enjoys some down time with grandson Dylan Alexander (left) and granddaughter Maya Wilson. (Photos courtesy of Mike Garvey; plaque photo and head shots by Pam Shebest.)

2023 Forsythe Award Celebrates Leinaar's 40 Years Dedicated to School Sports

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

March 8, 2023

Few people in Michigan have had a longer-lasting influence on the rules and policies of educational athletics than Frankfort’s Karen Leinaar, who has served in several roles locally, statewide and nationally over more than 40 years contributing to the school sports community.

Thank you, Bill Baker.

The longtime teacher, coach, principal and superintendent during a career that stretched across multiple schools – including Leinaar’s growing up, Delton Kellogg – made an impression on the standout multi-sport athlete before she graduated from high school in 1977. Baker’s philosophy and work led Leinaar to study education at Michigan State University and then brought her back as Delton’s athletic director to begin four decades of making the same impact on children in her hometown and eventually in hometowns all over Michigan and beyond.

Baker died in 2009, but not before continuing to mentor Leinaar through many good times and tough ones.

“The man had two daughters that I grew up with, his wife was a teacher, and he demonstrated to all of us – he never missed an event – that we were important to him. That even though we weren’t his kids, we were his kids and athletics was a way to help kids become better people – and for some kids it was the only thing that they had positive in their life,” Leinaar said. “And he made it known just to that individual kid how important their participation was and their involvement, and how that helped them become the person that they were.

“That to me was such an example of how to help people be good people, that I just took that role on.”

It’s a role in which she continues to serve. Leinaar began her career as an athletic administrator in 1982, and as the interim athletic director currently at Frankfort High School is serving her fifth district in that position. Since June 2019, she also has served as executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional organization for school sports administrators in the state with a membership of nearly 700.

Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998. To recognize that longtime and continuing impact, Leinaar has been named the 2023 honoree for the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.

The annual award is in its 46th year and named after former MHSAA Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe, the Association's first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council, based on an individual's outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

Leinaar also served 22 years on the MHSAA’s Representative Council and a four-year term from 2009-13 on the Board of Directors for the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), and just last week was named to the 2023 class of the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Hall of Fame.

“It is impossible even to estimate the number of students, coaches, administrators and others who have been affected by the work Karen Leinaar has done to make school sports the best they can be – not only in her communities, but across Michigan and throughout the country,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “There are few who have equaled her dedication and her support and promotion of the ideals of school-based sports. She has always placed an emphasis on being in the room, on the field or at the arena, actively participating in her leadership roles, and our programs are better for it.”

Leinaar first served as athletic director at Delton Kellogg for nearly 17 years, from March 1982 through October 1998. She spent three years at Gaylord, then 8½ at Benzie Central before taking over at Bear Lake in November 2010 and spending the next decade organizing athletic programs for students in grades 5-12 before retiring in January 2021. She came out of retirement to return to the athletic director’s chair this past fall as interim AD at Frankfort. She has completed nearly four years as MIAAA executive director, moving into that position after previously serving nine years as an assistant to the executive.

Leinaar began her service on the Representative Council in Fall 1999 and completed her last term as a statewide at-large representative at the Fall 2021 meeting.

She has been honored several times for her contributions. She received the MHSAA’s Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998, a Citation from the NFHS in 2000, and she was named MIAAA Athletic Director of the Year in 2001. She received an MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 – recognition given for work done generally behind the scenes and with little attention.

“This is the top of the mountain, per se. This one does mean so much,” Leinaar said of the Forsythe Award. “The names that are associated with this over the years, I never thought I’d be put in that group.”

Leinaar remains a continuous source of support at a multitude of MHSAA championship events, and during her time on Council was one of the most frequent representatives handing out trophies and medals to champions and runners-up at Finals events. She began while athletic director at Delton Kellogg hosting the MHSAA Volleyball Finals in Class B and Class C and continues to assist with those championships now played at Kellogg Arena in Battle Creek.

She also hosted Competitive Cheer Finals at Delton Kellogg in 1996 and 1997, Ski Finals while at Gaylord, and many more championship events across the Lower Peninsula. She continues to assist at the MHSAA’s Lower Peninsula Cross Country and Track & Field Finals.

After attending Delton Kellogg High School, Leinaar earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education, health and recreation, with a minor in driver education, from MSU in 1982. She completed a master’s in athletic administration from Western Michigan University in 1994.

Leinaar has been a member for 40 years of both the MIAAA and NIAAA, and has served as chairperson of the MIAAA Annual Conference and awards chairperson for both the state and national bodies. She’s also served as chairperson of the MIAAA’s Exemplary Athletic Program.

Past recipients of the Charles E. Forsythe Award 

1978 - Brick Fowler, Port Huron; Paul Smarks, Warren 
1979 - Earl Messner, Reed City; Howard Beatty, Saginaw 
1980 - Max Carey, Freesoil 
1981 - Steven Sluka, Grand Haven; Samuel Madden, Detroit
1982 - Ernest Buckholz, Mt. Clemens; T. Arthur Treloar, Petoskey
1983 - Leroy Dues, Detroit; Richard Maher, Sturgis 
1984 - William Hart, Marquette; Donald Stamats, Caro
1985 - John Cotton, Farmington; Robert James, Warren 
1986 - William Robinson, Detroit; Irving Soderland, Norway 
1987 - Jack Streidl, Plainwell; Wayne Hellenga, Decatur 
1988 - Jack Johnson, Dearborn; Alan Williams, North Adams
1989 - Walter Bazylewicz, Berkley; Dennis Kiley, Jackson 
1990 - Webster Morrison, Pickford; Herbert Quade, Benton Harbor 
1991 - Clifford Buckmaster, Petoskey; Donald Domke, Northville 
1992 - William Maskill, Kalamazoo; Thomas G. McShannock, Muskegon 
1993 - Roy A. Allen Jr., Detroit; John Duncan, Cedarville 
1994 - Kermit Ambrose, Royal Oak 
1995 - Bob Perry, Lowell 
1996 - Charles H. Jones, Royal Oak 
1997 - Michael A. Foster, Richland; Robert G. Grimes, Battle Creek 
1998 - Lofton C. Greene, River Rouge; Joseph J. Todey, Essexville 
1999 - Bernie Larson, Battle Creek 
2000 - Blake Hagman, Kalamazoo; Jerry Cvengros, Escanaba 
2001 - Norm Johnson, Bangor; George Lovich, Canton 
2002 - John Fundukian, Novi 
2003 - Ken Semelsberger, Port Huron
2004 - Marco Marcet, Frankenmuth
2005 - Jim Feldkamp, Troy
2006 - Dan McShannock, Midland; Dail Prucka, Monroe
2007 - Keith Eldred, Williamston; Tom Hickman, Spring Lake
2008 - Jamie Gent, Haslett; William Newkirk, Sanford Meridian
2009 - Paul Ellinger, Cheboygan
2010 - Rudy Godefroidt, Hemlock; Mike Boyd, Waterford
2011 - Eric C. Federico, Trenton
2012 - Bill Mick, Midland
2013 - Jim Gilmore, Tecumseh; Dave Hutton, Grandville
2014 - Dan Flynn, Escanaba

2015 - Hugh Matson, Saginaw
2016 - Gary Hice, Petoskey; Gina Mazzolini, Lansing
2017 - Chuck Nurek, Rochester Hills
2018 - Gary Ellis, Allegan
2019 - Jim Derocher, Negaunee; Fredrick J. Smith, Stevensville
2020 - Michael Garvey, Lawton
2021 - Leroy Hackley Jr., Byron Center; Patti Tibaldi, Traverse City
2022 - Bruce Horsch, Houghton

PHOTOS (Top) Karen Leinaar, left, awards the 2022 Division 4 volleyball finalist trophy to Indian River Inland Lakes coach Nicole Moore. (Middle) Leinaar accepts the MHSAA's Women In Sports Leadership Award in 1998.