2017 Bush Awards Honor Trio of Leaders

June 26, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Three athletic directors who have taken leading roles in important areas of educational athletics – Rockford’s Tim Erickson, Bay City Central’s Morley Fraser and Mattawan’s Ken Mohney – have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2017.  

Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to prep athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to men and women who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 26th year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.

Among many contributions, Erickson has built a strong reputation in officiating, while Fraser is a hall of fame coach and Mohney is an accomplished instructor of administrators on the state and national levels.

“These three administrators have contributed to educational athletics in a variety of ways, but are especially well-respected in specific areas of expertise – and the quality that binds them together is leadership,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “This award recognizes work behind the scenes, and Tim Erickson, Morley Fraser and Ken Mohney exemplify it. They are worthy recipients of the Bush Award.”

Erickson recently finished his 34th school year at Rockford, where he started his career in 1982 after earning a bachelor’s degree from Central Michigan University; he later added a master’s degree from CMU. He has served as the Rams’ athletic director for the last decade supervising 34 varsity teams and 140 staff members. Erickson also has served as an assistant principal for five years, two years each as student activities coordinator, middle school athletic director and 6-12 intramural director; and taught for 19 years. 

A member of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), Erickson’s vast contributions to educational athletics have stretched far beyond administration. A member of the West Michigan Wrestling Officials Association, he has served as a registered official for 37 years, currently in wrestling but previously as well for basketball, baseball, softball and volleyball. He has officiated an MHSAA Finals in wrestling, and also coached 42 seasons across a variety of sports, including four as the varsity baseball coach and as an assistant on Rockford football teams that won Division 1 championships in 2004 and 2005.

Rockford total has won 32 MHSAA Finals championships across 13 sports during Erickson’s tenure as athletic director. He and his staff also have hosted a variety of MHSAA tournament events at various levels, including 20 Finals. A member of the Rockford High School Athletic Hall of Fame, Erickson also has volunteered locally as a youth sports coach and participates with the Rockford Relay for Life. He’s served as building coordinator for the local United Way and stewardship chairman for his church.

“Tim Erickson continues to provide a wide range of valuable perspectives drawing from his experiences as not only as an administrator, but also as a coach and official,” Roberts said. “Those points of view are especially important as he continues to lead a successful department at one of our state’s largest schools – and as he and his staff continue to provide outstanding leadership as an annual host for a variety of our events, many at the highest levels of our tournaments.”

Fraser this spring completed his 39th year in education and 30th as an athletic director, recently retiring from his administrative duties at Bay City Central although he will continue to coach the football team. Fraser, who earned a bachelor’s degree from Alma College and master’s from CMU, joined the Bay City Central faculty in 1986 and took over as athletic director prior to the start of the 1998-99 school year. He also has served as an assistant principal at Bay City Central.

His Wolves football team returned to the MHSAA Playoffs last fall with a 6-4 record, and Fraser has built a 162-135 record in 31 seasons leading the program. Fraser also coached at Mendon and Bowling Green, Ohio, and was inducted into the Michigan High School Football Coaches Association (MHSFCA) Hall of Fame in 2011. His 1994 Bay City Central team finished Class AA runner-up, and he was named an MHSFCA Regional Coach of the Year that season, 1996 and also in 1978 while at Mendon (and in 1985 earned a similar award at Bowling Green). He was inducted into the Bay County Hall of Fame in 2013.

Also a member of the MIAAA and NIAAA, Fraser has spoken and presented at MIAAA and MHSFCA events and as part of Glazier Coaching Clinics. He’s been a keynote speaker at Rotary Club student leadership summer camps for the last decade and has served in an elementary students and athletes reading program and as part of Habitat for Humanity, assisting with summer projects.

“Morley Fraser has mentored hundreds of his football players over the last four decades, but his mentorship extends beyond the sport he’s coached most,” Roberts said. “Morley Fraser has created a legacy of service, success and stability with his longtime leadership at Bay City Central, and he continues to provide as well a respected voice in the football community across our state.”

Mohney has served as an administrator for 18 years with seven as a teacher and coach after earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees at Western Michigan University and while also serving from 1987-2007 in the U.S. Army. In addition to his work as an assistant principal and athletic director at Mattawan – the school received an MIAAA Exemplary Athletic Program Award in 2005 – Mohney has made significant contributions to his colleagues as a long-serving member of the MIAAA and NIAAA and as an instructor for the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program.

A contributor to the MIAAA Board of Directors and Executive Board from 2002-14, Mohney served as Executive Board president in 2012-13 and on the NIAAA Board of Directors as Section IV representative (for five states) and as chairperson of the finance sub-committee. He has served on various committees both for the MIAAA and MHSAA, and in addition to his CAP instructor contributions has served on the faculty of the NIAAA Leadership Training Institute providing instruction both in Michigan and nationally. Mohney has earned NIAAA Certified Master Athletic Administrator status and MHSAA CAP Masters Elite certification, and also Certified Interscholastic Coach recognition from the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). He was named a Regional Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2008, earned its Denny Kiley Presidential Award in 2013 and its Jack Johnson Distinguished Service Award in 2014 – when he also earned special commendation from the NIAAA for distinguished service on its Board of Directors.

Mohney served as part of an Army helicopter air crew from 1987-91 and then as a flight and leadership instructor for the Michigan Army National Guard from 1991-2007. He received a U.S. Army Air Medal in 1991 for combat missions flown during Operation Desert Shield/Storm, a U.S. Army Achievement Award in 1998 as Michigan National Guard Solider of the Year and a U.S. Army Commendation Award in 2004 as Michigan National Guard Non-Commissioned Officer of the Year.

“Ken Mohney understands the values of education and teaching leadership not only to students at his school, but also those working to provide that education locally and on the statewide and national levels,” Roberts said. “He provides a steady influence among his peers as part of the MIAAA and has been essential in the growth of our Coaches Advancement Program by showing himself to be an exceptional relationship builder in all of his endeavors.”

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.