By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Jim Derocher always tried to listen to everyone before making a decision while serving on the MHSAA's Representative Council. He wanted to best serve not just the stars but all student-athletes, and not just those down the road but all over Michigan.
Longtime Council member Fred Smith always thought back to something Lake Michigan Catholic coach Terry Rose once told him: when making decisions, do what's best for kids first. Smith did so while trying to consider the needs not just of the student-athletes in his community, but in the many communities all over the state.
Both Derocher and Smith served thousands of students locally over decades of service and provided statewide contributions that continue to guide educational athletics in Michigan today. In recognition of their dedication, Derocher and Smith have been named the 2019 recipients of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Charles E. Forsythe Award.
The annual award is in its 42nd 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. Derocher and Smith will receive their honors during the break after the first quarter of the MHSAA Division 1 Boys Basketball Final on March 16 at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing.
After beginning his career as a teacher and coach at L’Anse, Derocher went on to serve as athletic director and assistant principal at Ishpeming Westwood from 1989-94, then as superintendent at Brimley from 1994-98 and finally Negaunee from 1998-2014. He also represented the Upper Peninsula’s Class C & D schools on the MHSAA Representative Council from 2003-14 and served as its president from 2008-14.
Smith taught, coached and served as athletic director at St. Joseph Lake Michigan Catholic from 1981-91, then served as athletic director at Comstock from 1991-2007, Buchanan from 2007-2015 and Benton Harbor from 2015-17. He represented the Lower Peninsula’s Southwestern Class A & B schools on the MHSAA Representative Council from 2008-17, including serving as vice president his final four years.
“Jim Derocher was an outstanding Council president, always approaching things first as a superintendent and looking at the big picture,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “He provided a statewide perspective through an Upper Peninsula prism, always considering how decisions would impact schools from Monroe to Menominee.
“Fred Smith is simply one of the best athletic directors I’ve gotten to work with during my career in athletics,” Uyl added. “I met him while he was at Comstock; from Comstock to Buchanan to Benton Harbor he was presented with and led his programs through different challenges. And he always served as a champion for those schools in that part of the state while keeping a statewide perspective when helping shape the Council’s work.”
Derocher finished his time at L’Anse earning the Copper Country Conference Coach of the Year award for boys basketball in 1989, and he also served as an MHSAA-registered official in football, boys and girls basketball from 1970-90. While on the Representative Council, Derocher served concurrently on the Upper Peninsula Athletic Committee.
He was a member of the Michigan Association of School Administrators from 1994-2014 and selected as its Region 1 Superintendent of the Year in 2013. He also received MASA’s 20-year Distinguished Administrator Award.
“I believe the experiences our student-athletes get in school athletics molds their future, whether they are the stars of the team or the supporting cast that make a team. This experience is no different for students in Brimley, Negaunee or Detroit," Derocher said. "I was always trying to work with other members of the Representative Council to recognize that these student-athletes are the same all over the state. I wanted to provide the best possible experience while also giving equality to all.”
Smith’s impact continues to be far-reaching. He remains active as part of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA) and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA), having served on the Board of Directors for both and recently named to the Strategic Planning Committee for the latter. He also continues to teach courses for the MHSAA’s Coaches Advancement Program (CAP) and taught the NIAAA’s Leadership Training Course at the national conference and via the internet in 13 states. He has presented at a number of MHSAA New Athletic Administrator In-Service programs and served as the co-chairperson of the MIAAA’s Professional Development Committee.
Smith has been a registered cross country and track & field official for more than 30 years, and while an athletic director at his various schools hosted a multitude of MHSAA Tournament events in cross country, volleyball, boys and girls tennis, boys and girls basketball, track & field, wrestling, baseball, boys and girls soccer and softball. He received the MHSAA’s Allen W. Bush Award in 2014 for his many contributions behind the scenes, was named the MIAAA’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2000 and George Lovich State Award of Merit winner in 2007, and received the Art Jevert/Bruce Jacobs Distinguished Service Award from the Association of Track Officials of Michigan (ATOM) in 2013. He was named Midwest Athletic Director of the Year in 2000 as well by the National Council of Secondary School Athletic Directors (NCSSAD), and recognized by the NIAAA with a special commendation in 1999, its Distinguished Service Award in 2000, its Thomas Frederick Award of Excellence in 2004 and its Frank Kovaleski Professional Development Award in 2012. Smith also is a member of the Battle Creek St. Philip and Comstock halls of fame.
“Looking back on the service, it goes back to something my mom taught me when I was young and tried to impress on my brothers and sisters – it’s better to serve than to be served,” Smith said. “I’ve always tried to serve. I was very blessed with good high school coaches, and I enjoyed my high school experience at St. Philip. I was wanting to give back and fell into that niche, and I really enjoyed it.”
Derocher graduated from L’Anse High School in 1970 and earned his bachelor’s in secondary education, mathematics and physics in 1975 and master’s in education in 1988, both from Northern Michigan University. He also earned education specialist certification in 2003. He was a member of the Lake Superior Community Partnership from 2003-14 and remains a member of the Negaunee Lions Club. He resides in Ishpeming and works as an account executive for SET SEG, which coordinates benefits for Michigan public schools and their employees.
Smith graduated from Battle Creek St. Philip in 1973 and Western Michigan University with his bachelor’s degree in 1979. He received the Certified Master Athletic Administrator designation from the NIAAA in 2004. He remains active through his church, Our Lady Queen of Peace Catholic Church in Bridgman, and resides in Stevensville.
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
PHOTOS: (Top left) Fred Smith, left, congratulates Edwardsburg football coach Kevin Bartz after the 2017 Division 4 Final at Ford Field. (Top right) Jim Derocher, left, presents Tecumseh's Jim Gilmore with the Forsythe Award in 2013 at the Breslin Center.
The 120 finalists for the Michigan High School Athletic Association's Scholar-Athlete Awards for the 2022-23 school year, presented by Farm Bureau Insurance, have been announced.
The program, in its 34th year, has recognized student-athletes since the 1989-90 school year and again this winter will honor 32 individuals from MHSAA member schools who participate in at least one sport in which the Association sponsors a postseason tournament.
Farm Bureau Insurance underwrites the Scholar-Athlete Awards and will present a $2,000 scholarship to each recipient. Since the beginning of the program, 896 scholarships have been awarded.
Scholarships will be presented proportionately by school classification, with 12 scholarships to be awarded to Class A student-athletes, six female and six male; eight scholarships will be awarded to Class B student-athletes, four female and four male; six scholarships will be awarded to Class C student-athletes, three female and three male; and four scholarships will be awarded to Class D student-athletes, two female and two male. In addition, two scholarships will be awarded at-large to minority recipients, regardless of school size.
Every MHSAA member high school could submit as many applications as there are scholarships available in its classification and could have more than one finalist. Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood has four finalists and Kalamazoo Loy Norrix and Midland Dow have three finalists this year. Twelve schools have two finalists: Ada Forest Hills Eastern, Cass City, Fenton, Hillsdale Academy, Holland, Holland Christian, Milford, Negaunee, Northville, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary, South Lyon East, and Tecumseh.
Multiple-sport participation remains the norm among applicants. The average sport participation rate of the finalists is 2.88. There are 74 three-plus sport participants in the finalists field, and all but two of the 28 sports in which the MHSAA sponsors postseason tournaments are represented.
Of 421 schools which submitted applicants, 25 submitted the maximum allowed. This year, 1,440 applications were received. All applicants will be presented with certificates commemorating their achievement. Additional Scholar-Athlete information, including a complete list of scholarship nominees, can be found on the Scholar-Athlete page.
The applications were judged by a 65-member committee of school coaches, counselors, faculty members, administrators and board members from MHSAA member schools. Selection of the 32 scholarship recipients will take place in early February. Class C and D scholarship recipients will be announced Feb. 7, Class B scholarship recipients will be announced Feb. 14 and Class A scholarship recipients will be announced Feb. 21. All announcements will be made on the MHSAA Website.
To be eligible for the award, students must have a cumulative grade-point average of 3.50 (on a 4.0 scale) and previously have won a varsity letter in at least one sport in which the MHSAA sponsors a postseason tournament. Students also were asked to respond to a series of short essay questions, submit two letters of recommendation and a 500-word essay on the importance of sportsmanship in educational athletics.
Farm Bureau Insurance of Michigan was founded in 1949 by Michigan farmers who wanted an insurance company that worked as hard as they did. Those values still guide the company today and are a big reason why it is known as Michigan’s Insurance Company, dedicated to protecting the farms, families, and businesses of this great state. Farm Bureau Insurance agents across Michigan provide a full range of insurance services—life, home, auto, farm, business, retirement, Lake Estate®, and more—protecting nearly 500,000 Michigan policyholders.
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.
2022-23 Scholar-Athlete Award Finalists
GIRLS CLASS A
Daria Igonin, Belleville
Ella Blank, Birmingham Groves
Ella Thomas, Brownstown Woodhaven
Keira Tolmie, Clarkston
Nora Chamas, Dearborn
Miryam El-Saghir, Dearborn Edsel Ford
Abigail Frushour, DeWitt
Rachel Williamson, East Grand Rapids
Naomi Sowa, East Lansing
Adrienne Staib, Fenton
Abigail Cumings, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Central
Ella Eitniear, Grand Rapids Kenowa Hills
Sophia Borowski, Grosse Pointe North
Eva Whiteman, Holland
Ana Dunfee, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
Wendy Miedema, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
Colleen Blackwood, Linden
Kathleen Doneth, Mason
Caroline Colt, Milford
Leah Merriam, Milford
Sophia Hekkema, Muskegon Reeths-Puffer
Jane Barnett, Royal Oak
Kate Mazur, South Lyon East
Amyla Eberhart, South Lyon East
BOYS CLASS A
Henry Jackson, Bloomfield Hills
Connor Anderson, Cadillac
Isaac David Clark, Caledonia
Braylen Himmelein, Davison
Nathan Katic, Fenton
Isaac Postema, Grand Haven
Ryan Lee, Grand Rapids Forest Hills Northern
Brayden Ryan LaCroix, Grandville
Brendan Downey, Grosse Pointe South
James R. Baer, Holland
Treyton William Carr, Hudsonville
James Rocco, Kalamazoo Loy Norrix
James Patterson Jr., Lake Orion
Shubhan Nagarkar, Midland Dow
Danny Safadi, Midland Dow
Jack Bakus, Midland Dow
Gavyn Stout, Muskegon Mona Shores
Abhinav Attaluri, Northville
David Whitaker, Northville
Samuel Gibson, Plainwell
Harsimmer Sohi, Portage Central
Shane Pitcher, Saline
Ian Robertson, Traverse City West
Trevor Wallar, Zeeland West
GIRLS CLASS B
Devin Johnston, Almont
Rylie Haist, Big Rapids
Jordan Richie, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Anna Smith, Clawson
Carney Salo, Escanaba
Ella Wagner, Essexville Garber
Lauren Harrold, Flint Powers Catholic
Tiffany Keller, Frankenmuth
Ainsley VandenBrink, Holland Christian
Claire Filpus, Houghton
Elaina Bortolini, Kingsford
Matelyn Midkiff, Midland Bullock Creek
Rachel Niskanen, Negaunee
Molly McNitt, Paw Paw
Chesney Wilke, Tecumseh
Allison Tate, Whitehall
BOYS CLASS B
Sreejay Ramakrishnan, Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Jacob Pallo, Ada Forest Hills Eastern
Aiden Eric Smith, Adrian
Evan Jose Evans, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
John Kersh, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Nathan Hooker, Bloomfield Hills Cranbrook Kingswood
Jacob Fenbert, Dundee
Michael App, Grand Rapids Catholic Central
James Oosterhouse, Holland Christian
Matthew Bowman, Milan
Philip Nelson, Negaunee
Grant H. Harkness, Newaygo
Nicholas Liparoto, Pontiac Notre Dame Prep
Isaiah Pelc, Portland
Aldo Barba, Tecumseh
Camden Johnecheck, Williamston
GIRLS CLASS C
Tailor Onstott, Beal City
Saylar Cuthrell, Cass City
Kylie McGrath, Cass City
Claire Scholten, Charlevoix
Ruby Sierer, Clinton
Quinn Watts, Fowler
Danni Swihart, Hanover-Horton
Aziza Burgoon, Iron Mountain
Abigail Meyer, Marlette
Alaina Andrews, Ottawa Lake Whiteford
Laina Harger, St. Charles
Samantha Dietz, Watervliet
BOYS CLASS C
Logan Pflug, Cassopolis
Seth Vanderwest, Kent City
Ethan Green, Kingston
Andrew Mleczko, Madison Heights Bishop Foley
Grant Mason, Manistique
Blake O'Connor, Maple City Glen Lake
Brock Murphy, Menominee
Riley DeSarbo, Monroe St. Mary Catholic Central
Ty Kohlmann, New Lothrop
Noah Etnyre, Plymouth Christian Academy
Brennan Cannaday, Royal Oak Shrine Catholic
Dirk Rierson, Unionville-Sebewaing
GIRLS CLASS D
Kylie Quist, Athens
Kasandra Lynn Waldi, Chesterfield Austin Catholic
Megan Roberts, Hillsdale Academy
Emma Case, Kinde North Huron
Monique Brisson, Munising
Makennah Uotila, Ontonagon
Gabriella Wenzel, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary
Macey Springer, Three Oaks River Valley
BOYS CLASS D
Ryan McDonell, Bay City All Saints
Luke Walker, Clarkston Everest Collegiate
Amos Norland, Dollar Bay
Brody Appelgren, Hillman
Caleb Diener, Hillsdale Academy
Matthew Zammit, Marine City Cardinal Mooney
James Blackburn, Martin
Caleb Munson, Saginaw Michigan Lutheran Seminary
PHOTO A group including 27 of last season's 32 MHSAA-Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Award winners take a photo together during the banquet at Breslin Center.