Serving as athletic director at Michigan’s northernmost high school, Calumet’s Sean Jacques has impacted student-athletes not only in his community, but across the Upper Peninsula and all the way to the state’s southern borders as a member of the Michigan High School Athletic Association’s Representative Council. To recognize his far-reaching contributions across several leadership roles, Jacques has been selected as the 2024 honoree for the MHSAA’s Charles E. Forsythe Lifetime Achievement Award.
The annual award is in its 47th 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 at the local, regional and statewide levels. Jacques will be honored during the MHSAA Girls Basketball Finals on March 23 at Michigan State University’s Breslin Center.
A 1985 graduate of Calumet, Jacques taught for one year at Lansing Everett before returning to his alma mater in 1992, when he began teaching primarily technology and metal shop until becoming the athletic director and an assistant principal in 2008. He served in those administrative roles through the end of the 2021-22 school year and currently is an instructor for the Calumet-Laurium-Keweenaw school district’s Upper Peninsula Virtual Academy.
During his tenure as athletic director, Calumet added junior varsity hockey, junior varsity and varsity softball, and varsity baseball, bowling and gymnastics teams. He led facility upgrades including the addition of a turf football field, new locker rooms and an additional gymnasium, creating a home not only for Copper Kings athletes and coaches but for those from all over the northern UP as Calumet is a frequent host of MHSAA District and Regional events plus Coaching Advancement Program (CAP) sessions.
Also under his direction, Calumet became the first Upper Peninsula school to join the MHSAA School Broadcast Program, and he created the high school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2012. In 2016, Calumet became the only Upper Peninsula school to earn the prestigious Michigan Exemplary Athletic Program honor from the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA).
“When I became athletic director, my goal was number one, we were going to run a classy program. We were going to do it right. We weren’t going to be lazy about anything, not take the easy road. I wanted to do right for the kids, the school district and the community,” Jacques said. “We went after a lot of different things. It’s very cliché, but we really did try to put kids first. Every decision we made, we always tried to make decisions with that in mind – what’s best for the kids – and worked hard to be innovative and try to run a quality, classy program.”
His impact hardly has been contained to the Keweenaw Peninsula. He served as president of both the Keweenaw Area Athletic Directors group and Upper Peninsula Athletic Directors Association from 2014-22, in addition to serving as commissioner for the Western Peninsula Athletic Conference from 2012-22 and the Great Lakes Hockey Conference from 2009-22. He began his tenure on the Upper Peninsula Athletic Committee in 2014, when he also was first elected to the MHSAA Representative Council as the delegate for Class C and D schools in the Upper Peninsula. He is serving on the MHSAA’s Audit and Finance Committee currently, and will conclude his tenure on Council in December.
Jacques also served as an MIAAA regional representative for more than a decade and was named Regional Athletic Director of the Year by the MIAAA in 2013 and 2016. The Upper Peninsula Athletic Directors Association named him its Upper Peninsula Athletic Director of the Year in 2019.
Jacques also currently is among eight mentors to new athletic administrators across the state as part of the MHSAA’s first-year AD Connection Program. In this role, Jacques directly works with 16 recently-hired athletic directors as they navigate the job’s many and various responsibilities.
“Sean Jacques brings knowledge of so many aspects of school sports, not only the work done day-to-day as an athletic director but as an innovator who developed an athletic department recognized and respected across the state,” MHSAA Executive Director Mark Uyl said. “His community, the Upper Peninsula and Michigan as a whole continue to benefit from his dedication and leadership – and we’re fortunate he’s sharing that expertise with the next generation of athletic directors as part of our mentorship program.”
Jacques has contributed nearly as significantly on the field of play. He has been an MHSAA registered official for 35 years, in hockey for the entirety and adding track & field in 1994-95 and cross country in 2009-10. He officiated at the MHSAA Hockey Finals in 2016 and has served as a board member for the Copper Country Hockey Officials Association, including as its scheduler for 14 years. He has 40 years as a registered official with USA Hockey, serving as officiating supervisor for the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) for 20 years and as Michigan’s referee-in-chief from 2006-15, and he was a member of USA Hockey’s national instructor staff from 1997-2019. An accomplished college official as well, he worked in that capacity for more than 25 seasons, including 15 at the Division I level in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association (WCHA) and Central Collegiate Hockey Association (CCHA).
His time at Calumet has included stepping into many more roles to help provide student-athletes with the fullest possible experience. He served as public address announcer for football for 16 seasons and Calumet hockey for more than a decade. He also lent his voice to radio broadcasts for Calumet volleyball and coached freshman football at the school for two seasons.
Jacques has served on the boards for the Calumet Hockey Association, Calumet All-Sports Booster Club and Calumet High School Band Parents Club, the latter two as treasurer. He remains president of the Hall of Fame board.
“I’m a Calumet grad, and when you’re the athletic director at the school you’re from, I think it’s something a little bit different,” Jacques said. “You bleed the school colors and put that extra effort in because it’s home.”
Jacques played football as a student at Calumet and served as the hockey team’s student equipment manager as a senior. He earned a bachelor’s degree in industrial education in 1989 from Northern Michigan University, and then a master’s in educational administration from NMU in 2000. He received his certified master athletic administrator (CMAA) designation in 2020 from the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) – becoming the only Upper Peninsula athletic director to achieve that accomplishment.
Jacques also has served his community as a volunteer firefighter since 1991 and as assistant fire chief since 1998.
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
2023 - Karen Leinaar, Frankfort
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 1.4 million spectators each year.
PHOTO Calumet athletic director Sean Jacques, second from left, presents the Class C girls basketball championship trophy to Copper Kings coach Jeff Twardzik in 2015.
There is a basketball court 5,000 miles from Sterling Heights with “MHL” painted on the center court.
It’s not the name of a local basketball league in the village where it is located – Siricino, Macedonia. Instead, it stands for Madison, Haleigh and Lola, the three daughters of longtime Michigan basketball coach, referee and athletic director Loren Ristovski.
“My dad loved going back (to Macedonia),” said Madison Ristovski. “He’s probably gone every summer since about 2017. His whole family still lives there. He loved going and visiting and seeing everyone.
“It was always a goal of his to give back to where he came from. He and Mom donated to the village to build a soccer field and basketball court with lights and everything. It was a pretty big deal. It’s something he wanted to do for them back home. We were very proud he did that.”
Loren Ristovski, athletic director for Taylor schools, died earlier this month while on leave to have surgery on his foot. It was a shock to his family, friends, and the Taylor community.
“It was a heavy blow,” said Matt Joseph, girls basketball coach at Utica Ford and a longtime friend of the Ristovski family. “It was like getting kicked in the gut. Basketball was his passion. Next to his family, basketball was definitely No. 1. He loved the game and all the intricacies of it. He loved seeing kids excel.”
Ristovski emigrated from Macedonia to Michigan when he was 9. He went to high school at Hamtramck St. Florian, where he excelled at basketball. He went to Wayne State University to get a degree in criminal justice and had plans to become a lawyer.
Before he could take the Law School Admission Test, however, basketball came calling.
“He started coaching at Henry Ford High School and Fuhrmann Middle School,” Madison said. “Once he realized how much he enjoyed coaching, he decided to go into education. He stayed the entire time. He never went to law school.”
Loren Ristovski became the head coach at Harper Woods but gave that up when his daughters were ready to start playing in high school.
“He gave up coaching varsity at Harper Woods so he could be at every one of my games,” Madison said.
He also coached them as youngsters, often teaming with Joseph to coach an AAU team.
“I met him when Madison was 5,” Joseph said. “He and I decided to put our daughters in the same parks and recreation team, and next thing you know we were coaching AAU.”
With Ristovski’s tutoring, Madison, Haleigh, and Lola all excelled at the game, each playing Division I college basketball after standout careers at Grosse Pointe Woods University Liggett. In 2012, Liggett reached the Class C Final with all three starting. They combined for 55 of Liggett’s 57 points in the championship game, with Madison scoring 42 after earlier that week receiving the Miss Basketball Award.
Lola and Haleigh played at the University of Detroit Mercy, and Madison played at the University of Michigan. Today, Haleigh lives on the west side of the state and plays recreational basketball. Lola is a referee in the Catholic High School League as well as for the Division II Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, and also works area Division III college games.
Madison is a teacher and the varsity girls basketball coach at Sterling Heights Stevenson.
“He taught us the game when we were very, very young,” Madison said. “We grew up in the gym with him and watched him coach his team. He coached me my whole life. He was very instrumental – he taught us all those things you need to become an athlete, and more importantly the things you need to do to succeed in life.”
Her dad is the reason she became a coach.
“Watching my dad coach and seeing the impact he had on his high school athletes and even the kids in our church community – it inspired me to want to coach as well and give back like he did,” she said. “I watched him with my teammates and the impact he had on them. I thought it would be so cool if I could do the same for others.”
Loren Ristovski left a legacy at Taylor, too. School officials recounted several stories of how he balanced athletic budgets with the needs of student-athletes. He would lead fundraising efforts, created the Bitty Ball program for youth basketball players and cheerleaders and helped students become certified officials – and then would hire them to officiate games.
“He didn’t say no,” said Taylor boys basketball coach Chris Simons. “We made it work. We didn’t go out and ask people for a bunch of money. We would just do it. We all pulled together and made it work. Loren did everything he could to make things as pretty and presentable as he could with the budget we had.”
Ristovski also put on summer camps at both Taylor and at the Joe Dumars Fieldhouse in Sterling Heights, where he lived. He commuted about an hour to Taylor every day.
“He loved Taylor,” Madison said. “He loved who he worked with and the students. He included us, too. My mom would run the ticket table or do the scoreboard clock. I don’t know how many times I sold tickets for volleyball tournaments with him. He loved his people and loved having us there with him.”
Loren Ristovski, who played professional basketball in Europe during the late 1980s, ran well over 20 marathons in his life, including the Boston Marathon. He was a registered MHSAA official for 16 years, and in the weeks before his passing he refereed a varsity game in Rochester with his daughter, Lola.
“He looked at basketball, I think, differently than other people do,” Madison said. “He saw it as a way to have relationships with other people, to help people achieve their goals and to find meaningful relationships with others. It was more than just a game to him.”
Doug Donnelly has served as a sports and news reporter and city editor over 25 years, writing for the Daily Chief-Union in Upper Sandusky, Ohio from 1992-1995, the Monroe Evening News from 1995-2012 and the Adrian Daily Telegram since 2013. He's also written a book on high school basketball in Monroe County and compiles record books for various schools in southeast Michigan. E-mail him at [email protected] with story ideas for Jackson, Washtenaw, Hillsdale, Lenawee and Monroe counties.
PHOTOS (Top) Loren Ristovski, far left, and wife Svetlana support their lineup of Division I basketball-playing daughters – from left: Madison, Haleigh and Lola. (Middle) Loren Ristovski heads an all-family officiating crew with Lola and his brother Dean Ristovski. (Below) The daughters’ initials “MHL” glow on the court the family funded in Macedonia. (Photos courtesy of Madison Ristovski.)