By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
The calm in a storm. The rock, no matter how bad things would get.
That’s how longtime athletic administrator Karen Leinaar described Ken Fletcher, who served as director of Kalamazoo Christian’s athletic department for three decades and was among those from the Kalamazoo Valley Association who mentored Leinaar when she served at Delton Kellogg during the 1980s and 90s.
Fletcher died Sept. 25 at age 77.
He had spent 40 years total in education, also as a teacher and coach, before retiring in 2006.
“Anytime we had an issue in the league, he was the calming voice, he was the voice or reason,” said Leinaar, now athletic director at Bear Lake and executive director of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. “Being a mathematician, he was a very logical thinker – but he had the compassion of a priest.
“You never saw Ken disheveled. You never saw Ken frustrated. He always had a smile and kind word for everybody – it didn’t matter the color of their uniform or if it was an official or spectator.”
Fletcher had graduated from Kalamazoo Christian in 1961 and was part of the boys basketball team that won the Class C championship in 1959. He went on to Calvin College (now Calvin University), where he majored in mathematics and earned a degree in education, and also continued his basketball and baseball careers. He later received master’s degrees in in athletic administration from University of Michigan and mathematics from Western Michigan University.
Kalamazoo Christian’s boys basketball team also won Class C championships in 1983 and 2001 during Fletcher’s AD tenure. But Leinaar noted that Fletcher was a great advocate as well for the school’s girls programs, which often were more frequently successful – the softball team, for example, won six MHSAA Finals titles over seven seasons from 1996-2002. “He just loved kids,” she added.
Fletcher was named his region’s Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 1989.
He is survived in part by his wife of 56 years, Judy, three children and 14 grand- and great-grandchildren. Click to view Fletcher’s full obituary.
PHOTOS collected by the Fletcher family.
A first-of-its-kind mentorship program is greeting more than 100 first-time high school athletic directors who are officially beginning their tenures at Michigan High School Athletic Association member schools with the start of the 2023-24 school year.
The “AD Connection Program” has matched those first-year high school athletic directors with one of eight mentors who have recently retired from the field and will now provide assistance as those new administrators transition to this essential role in school sports.
A total of 102 first-year high school athletic directors are beginning at MHSAA schools, meaning a new athletic administrator will be taking over at nearly 14 percent of the 750 member high schools across the state. Athletic director turnover at MHSAA high schools has reached 10 percent or more annually over the last few years, and it’s hoped that this additional mentorship will support athletic directors adjusting to the high pace and responsibilities of the position for the first time.
The AD Connection Program will build on training received at the required in-service program all new athletic directors must attend each fall. There is also a strong connection to programming from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA), the professional development organization for the state’s athletic administrators.
"When you crystalize it, the AD Connection Program is an attempt for us to give a true year-long in-service to new athletic directors with people who have done it,” said MHSAA Assistant Director Brad Bush, who is coordinating the program and joined the MHSAA staff in January after more than two decades as an athletic administrator at Chelsea High School. “This also connects new ADs with a larger professional group, and it will culminate in March at the annual MIAAA conference, where there will be several face-to-face meetings with all ADs.
“These mentors are meant to become that first-year AD’s go-to person.”
Mentors will conduct frequent meetings with their cohorts. They also will meet monthly (or more) with each first-time athletic director individually via zoom, and at least once during the academic year face-to-face at the mentee’s school.
The eight mentors, noting their most recent schools as an athletic director, are Chris Ervin (most recently at St. Johns), Brian Gordon (Royal Oak), Sean Jacques (Calumet), Tim Johnston (East Grand Rapids), Karen Leinaar (Frankfort), Scott Robertson (Grand Haven), Meg Seng (Ann Arbor Greenhills) and Wayne Welton (Chelsea). Leinaar also will serve as the AD Connection Program’s liaison to the MIAAA, which she serves as executive director.
High school practices at MHSAA member schools may begin today, Monday Aug. 7, for the nine fall sports for which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament. The AD Connection Program was approved by the MHSAA Representative Council during its annual Winter Meeting on March 24.
The MHSAA is a private, not-for-profit corporation of voluntary membership by more than 1,500 public and private senior high schools and junior high/middle schools which exists to develop common rules for athletic eligibility and competition. No government funds or tax dollars support the MHSAA, which was the first such association nationally to not accept membership dues or tournament entry fees from schools. Member schools which enforce these rules are permitted to participate in MHSAA tournaments, which attract more than 1.3 million spectators each year.