On Call as Doctor, Director, Mom

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

October 31, 2013

Dr. Kiran Taylor is in her 10th year as a practicing psychiatrist and specializes in providing therapy to cancer patients and family members who care for them.

Taylor is the medical director of the Supportive Care Medicine Clinic at Spectrum Hospital’s Lemmen-Holton Cancer Pavilion in Grand Rapids. She's also the Chief of Psychiatry and Behavioral Medicine for the entire Spectrum Health System, which includes 11 hospitals and nearly 200 ambulatory and service sites all over the western Lower Peninsula.

And Thursday, she made sure to schedule a trip to her children’s school for the Halloween parade and costume parties.

Balancing is a daily requirement for Taylor (formerly Khanuja), an MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award winner as an East Lansing senior in 1994. But the skills she learned as a tennis standout for the Trojans and at the University of Michigan are those she relies on still as a doctor, director and Mom. 

“My high school athletic experience impacts all areas of my life,” Taylor said. “I think about the journey of those experiences and how those changed me.

“The discipline and time management skills you have to have as a scholar-athlete, to pay attention to school and pay attention to your sport, those are certainly skills I carry with me today.”

Taylor was one of 20 scholar-athletes recognized that winter by the MHSAA and Farm Bureau Insurance, which continues to sponsor the award program that has grown to 32 recipients. In advance of this March’s 25th celebration, Second Half is catching up with some of the hundreds who have been recognized.  

Taylor advanced as far as the Lower Peninsula Class A No. 1 singles championship match during her high school tennis career, finishing runner-up at the top flight her junior season. She already had an interest at that point in health and an understanding of what went into playing at a high level, and was most interested in sports medicine and orthopedics when she began medical school, also at U-M.

But as she got a little deeper into her studies, Taylor discovered a path that seemed more in line with her personality.

‘Natural fit’

A video bio of Taylor on the Spectrum Health website includes her explaining that she chose psychiatry because it’s an area that allows her to empower patients to help themselves. In her line of work, she not only heals but aspires to help those in her care reach their potential.

“When they’re helping themselves, they’re helping others, they’re helping their communities,” Taylor said, “and the impact is endless.”

While at U-M, Taylor found a mentor in Dr. Michelle Riba, the director of the PsychOncology program at U-M’s Comprehensive Cancer Center. Her work, like Taylor’s at Spectrum, centers on treating patients in their dealing with the emotional issues that come with cancer diagnosis and treatment.

Taylor’s role as chief of psychiatry and behavioral medicine for the entire Spectrum system allows her to affect a patient’s entire care by making more accessible treatment for emotional and well as physical needs.

There are days she comes home after working with a patient facing especially somber circumstances, and through her medical training has learned how to keep those sad situations from affecting her personally.

But there also are days when she’s had to deal with a difficult managerial situation, and during those times she taps into the skills she learned while on the court.

"You manage adversity on a tennis court. It could be a tight match, or you're up 5-0 or down 5-0," Taylor said. "It's a microcosm of the world.

"If I have a challenging colleague or someone with a different opinion in a meeting, I tap into knowing how to deal with adversity." 

Pass it on

Taylor, 37, remains tied to a few from her Scholar-Athlete Awards class. She has known Okemos winner Andy Dhaliwal since childhood and he is now a doctor too, having also graduated from U-M. Jackson winner Harland Holman is a family physician in Grand Rapids and also part of the Spectrum Health system, and knew Taylor's husband through wrestling.

Karin is married to Dr. Joe Taylor, quite a former scholar-athlete himself – he was a standout wrestler at Charlotte before graduating in 1995 and going on to study at U-M.

Thanks at least in part to their parents’ inclination toward sports, the Taylor kids are beginning to try some out. The oldest is 9, the same age as when Kiran first picked up a tennis racket.

For this, Taylor also is prepared thanks to her high school and college careers. Considered together, they give her a long perspective when it comes to kids and sports. 

“(It’s about) letting them figure out what they’re interested in, letting them explore. They want to pay attention to things or don’t; watching them unfold was fun,” Taylor said. “It’s about understanding the road, and that’s what high school athletics did, and going on into college athletics. They helped me understand it’s a long road. You don’t have to start your kid at 4 and have the best at 7.”

And it's a road she advises this year's Scholar-Athletes to appreciate now as they pick up knowledge they'll use for a lifetime. 

“The lessons they’re learning now, and how they conduct themselves – being a scholar-athlete, I think, is about the way you conduct yourself – those are the skills they will take with them no matter what they do at any point in life,” Taylor said. “That’s what being a scholar-athlete has done for me.”

Click to read the series' first installment: 

25 Years Later, Scholar Athletes Shine On

PHOTO: (Top) Kiran Khanuja returns a volley during a tennis match while at East Lansing High School. (Bottom) The MHSAA Scholar-Athlete Award class of 1993-94 included Khanuja, seated fourth from left. 

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.