'Mentor' to Receive Forsythe Award

March 14, 2017

By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor

Long before he became superintendent for multiple Oakland County school districts, George Heitsch was a young athletic director first at Westland Huron Valley and then West Bloomfield High School.

And thankfully, there were veterans like Auburn Hills Avondale’s Chuck Nurek to show him the ropes.

“Chuck was a gracious mentor taking the time to encourage, support and, at times, direct a ‘newbie,’” wrote Heitsch in recommending Nurek for the MHSAA’s Charles E. Forsythe Award. “Chuck has a passion and dedication for the Avondale interscholastic athletic program and high school sports in general. … Chuck had dedicated his life service to not only the students in Avondale but to bettering the student-athlete experience for everyone in Michigan.”

That career of service, and especially dedication to the training and educating of athletic directors and coaches throughout Michigan, has earned Nurek this year’s MHSAA annual honor for outstanding contributions to the interscholastic athletics community.

The Charles E. Forsythe Award is in its 40th year and named after the MHSAA’s first full-time and longest-serving chief executive. Forsythe Award recipients are selected each year by the MHSAA Representative Council. Nurek will receive his honor during the break after the first quarter of the MHSAA Class A Boys Basketball Final on March 25 at the Breslin Student Events Center in East Lansing.

Nurek served as athletic director at Auburn Hills Avondale High School from 1978-1999 after previously serving as assistant athletic administrator beginning in 1968. In addition to his leadership at that school – Avondale named its fieldhouse after him in 2012 – Nurek also was active in county and league leadership and statewide as part of the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA).

In all three roles, Nurek helped to provide tools, training and mentoring for those charged with directing high school sports programs and teams. One of his far-reaching impacts came as a longtime member and chairperson of the MIAAA Convention Program Committee, growing and planning an event that regularly draws more than 500 athletic directors, secretaries and assistants. Nurek also served as an early steering committee member of the MHSAA coaches education program that has evolved to educate and certify thousands over the last 30 years.

“Chuck Nurek has dedicated decades to educational athletics and particularly to the training of those who in turn lead our programs in their daily pursuits,” MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “He has impacted multiple generations of school leaders in our state, both through his assistance in building up our coaches education and then his work in making the MIAAA conference one of the most valuable teaching tools of its kind. We’re pleased to present Chuck Nurek with the Charles E. Forsythe Award.”

Nurek coached varsity basketball, cross country and subvarsity football at points during his Avondale tenure, and also taught physical education for all but the final few years of his time as an athletic administrator.

It was during his time as athletic director that Nurek saw the need for education, both to combat heavy turnover among school athletic directors and also to provide framework for an influx of coaches who did not work fulltime in schools.

He first began in coaches education as part of a small group of athletic directors building a program for Oakland County. That group merged with another, and in 1987 Nurek contributed in the creation of what became known as the MHSAA’s Program of Athletic Coaches Education (PACE), the predecessor of the current Coaches Advancement Program (CAP).

A frequent past speaker at MHSAA athletic director in-service programs, Nurek also served as part of an MHSAA mentoring program that paired veteran or retired athletic directors with new administrators. And he played a significant role in designing the MIAAA convention, which includes various training sessions for high school and middle school athletic directors, their assistants and secretaries while also serving as a significant source for networking and professional development.

“Just being able to work with all the great people over the years that I worked with, whether it be the leaders in Oakland County or leaders at the MIAAA,” Nurek said of his favorite memories over four decades, “and especially just the outstanding people on the conference committee, putting together one of the best conferences in the country.”

Nurek also served as part of the MIAAA’s State Sportsmanship Committee and Exemplary Athletic Programs Committee and as a representative to the 5 State Exchange Committee, chairing that group for a year.

At Avondale, Nurek co-sponsored a successful Substance Abuse Awareness Conference and organized a group of students to develop standards for sportsmanship both for the student body and the school’s parent group as well. At the league level, Nurek served as North Oakland Activities Conference president in 1980 and Metro Conference president from 1986-87, and later as president and secretary of the Macomb-Oakland Activities Conference. He also created a program to recognize academic excellence both for his league and all of Oakland County.

Nurek was named “Athletic Director of the Year” by the MIAAA for 1998-99 and his region’s award winner in 1991, and received the MIAAA’s George Lovich State Award of Merit in 2004. He also was named “Athletic Director of the Year” by the Oakland County Athletic Directors Association in 1996 and served as that body’s treasurer from 1983-99.

Nurek has been a member of the MIAAA since 1980 and National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (NIAAA) since 1985. He also has been a member of the Michigan Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (MAHPERD) and American Alliance for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (AAHPERD).

He graduated from Avondale in 1958 and then earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Northwest Missouri State University in 1966. He also earned a master’s in education from Eastern Michigan University in 1971 and received Certified Athletic Administrator certification from the NIAAA in 1994. Nurek maintained a strong presence in the Avondale community, speaking at the district’s annual parent fairs and serving as a board member of Auburn Hills’ Boys Club for a decade. Nurek also was involved with the local Little League program for a number of years and worked as part of the Avondale football scholarship golf outing committee.

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

PHOTOS: (Top) A sign over the doors at Auburn Hills Avondale's gym announces the former athletic director for which it is named. (Middle) Chuck Nurek stands for a photo inside the building named after him. (Photos courtesy of Avondale High School.)

Finalists Announced for 2022-23 MHSAA-Farm Bureau Insurance Scholar-Athlete Awards

By Geoff Kimmerly
MHSAA.com senior editor

January 18, 2023

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.