Flynn, Guzzo & Thayer Named 2021 Bush Award Recipients

By Geoff Kimmerly senior editor

November 18, 2021

Birmingham Groves’ Thomas Flynn, St. Joseph’s Kevin Guzzo and Bay City Western’s Michael Thayer are leaders of Michigan high school athletic programs who have put education and providing a positive student experience at the forefront of their work, while also becoming known among colleagues for their guidance and assistance to others striving to build the same foundations at their schools.

To recognize not only their work within their districts but their impacts on many other leaders in athletic administration, Flynn, Guzzo and Thayer have been named recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Allen W. Bush Award for 2021.

Al Bush served as executive director of the MHSAA for 10 years. The award honors individuals for past and continuing service to school athletics as a coach, administrator, official, trainer, doctor or member of the media. The award was developed to bring recognition to people who are giving and serving without a lot of attention. This is the 30th year of the award, with selections made by the MHSAA's Representative Council.

Tom FlynnFlynn has begun his 21st year as Birmingham Groves High School athletic director and 32nd overall at the school after beginning as a teacher. He has served as a host of MHSAA Tournament events in team and individual wrestling, girls and boys diving, girls and boys tennis, girls and boys basketball, baseball and softball, football, ice hockey, volleyball and girls and boys soccer. Flynn also has served on MHSAA Committees for wrestling, gymnastics, swimming & diving, tennis and various officials topics. He made Groves the home of all Metro Detroit Officials Association meetings and has received recognition for his service to the Oakland County Wrestling Officials Association.

Flynn has served as president, vice president, secretary and treasurer for the Oakland County Athletic Directors Association, and as the Region 11 representative for the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA). A certified athletic trainer, he also is a longtime member of the National Athletic Trainers Association. The MIAAA named Flynn a Regional Athletic Director of the Year in 2012.

He graduated from Hillsdale High School in 1984, then earned a bachelor’s degree in biology with an emphasis on sports medicine from Grand Valley State University in 1990. He received a master’s in sports administration from Wayne State University. Flynn also has served on the Birmingham Bloomfield Community Coalition. 

“Tom is a guy who is willing to do anything to assist the MHSAA. He’s hosted an Individual Wrestling District for 20-plus years, and that’s far-and-away the most difficult event to host – and he wants to do it every year,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “Tom is not afraid to do the dirty work, but he’s also not afraid to speak up, and that’s something I’ve always admired and appreciated about him.”

Kevin GuzzoGuzzo has begun his 26th year with St. Joseph Public Schools and 18th as athletic director after previously serving as a coach and teacher. He earned his elite certification in the MHSAA Coaches Advancement Program in 2014 and has served as a CAP instructor and as an instructor for the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) Leadership Training Institute. He also has served as chairperson representing the MIAAA on the Five State Exchange Committee. A frequent contributor as well to MHSAA Committees for sports, officials, classification and site selection, Guzzo recently contributed as part of the MHSAA Multi-Sport Task Force.

He received his certified athletic administrator (CAA) designation from the NIAAA in 2007 and was named an MIAAA Regional Athletic Director of the Year in 2015. 

Guzzo graduated from Bessemer High School in 1991, then earned his bachelor’s degree in secondary mathematics at Western Michigan University in 1995 and master’s in math education from WMU in 2001. He has been active in the St. Joseph Lions Club, First Tee of Benton Harbor and the local Senior PGA Tournament Committee.

“Kevin has become a real leader in the southwestern corner of the state, and in many rooms has grown into a veteran voice of reason on many topics and issues,” Uyl said. “He’s taken what he’s learned over the years and incorporated it into his teaching as a Coaches Advancement Program instructor, and we are thrilled that we have many beginning coaches who one of their first mentors is a person like Kevin through CAP.”

Mike ThayerThayer has begun his 25th year as an athletic director and also serves as an assistant principal at Western. He served at Merrill Community Schools from 1995-2007 before arriving at Western with the start of the 2007-08 school year. He also is a frequent MHSAA Tournament host and has been a valued voice on a variety of MHSAA Committees, including the Multi-Sport Task Force and selection committee for the MHSAA-Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Awards. Additionally, he has served as the MIAAA’s historical records chairperson and as part of its public relations committee.

He is active with the NIAAA and Michigan Association of Secondary School Principals (MASSP) and National Association of Secondary School Principals (NASSP). He was selected for a Regional Athletic Director of the Year Award by the MIAAA in 2017, and also that year received the MIAAA’s George Lovich State Award of Merit.

Thayer graduated from Muskegon Orchard View High School in 1986, then earned his bachelor’s degree in business teaching from Central Michigan University in 1990 and master’s in educational administration/school principalship from CMU in 2003. He also is a CAP elite-certification graduate. He has served as a trustee for Thomas Township – with membership in the Michigan Township Association – and been active in the Shields Lions Club.

“Mike has been one of the true leaders of the Saginaw Valley League for a long time, and he’s really become the point guard of that league over the last five years,” Uyl said. “If ever someone should be defined for quiet, steady leadership, it’s Mike Thayer. It’s always about substance with Mike. He’s as reliable an athletic director as there is in the country.”

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

By Geoff Kimmerly 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.