Past Pillars of Excellence
2012 Pillars of Excellence
Barry has been a high school basketball coach throughout the metro Detroit for 48 years. For 15 years, he had been the Detroit Maccabi head coach, winning two gold, four silver, and four bronze medals. Barry received his BA from Wayne State and taught middle school physical education in the Detroit Public Schools for seven years. He was a four-year letterman and winner on Detroit City Tennis Championship teams, two-years All-City Tennis, and State “C” Squash Champion. As head coach of the Jewish Community Center’s varsity basketball team for 34 years, he earned six Midwest Championships and had three undefeated seasons. In addition to coaching at Roeper, Birmingham Groves, and Oak Park, Barry was the West Bloomfield High School head basketball coach for two years and assistant for six.
Frederick officiated high school basketball for 38 years, from downriver to the Thumb; from Jackson to Utica to Clarkston, from 1974 to present at arenas including the Palace and Silverdome. From 1985-1992, he officiated men’s and women’s college games for the GLIAC, including Wayne State, Lake Superior State, and Saginaw Valley; the MIAA, including Hope, Calvin, Adrian; and independent schools, such as Siena Heights, Tri-State, Spring Arbor, and U of M Dearborn. Fred taught for 35 years in the Detroit Public Schools as a fourth- through sixth-grade homeroom teacher, retiring in December 2011. His proudest moments were officiating at two Division I women’s games: U of D versus Notre Dame and U of D versus DePaul. Fred knew that when he walked off the floor, each game was given energy, effort, and integrity.
Howard holds a Bachelor of Science, Masters in education, and Education Specialist degrees from Wayne State, and taught physical education in the Oak Park School District for 41 years. He coached basketball for 28 years throughout metro Detroit. As a boys’ varsity head coach, he compiled a record of 197 wins and 212 losses, winning the Metro-West Basketball Conference Championship in its charter season. Daily Tribune Coach of the Year and Coach of the Year Suburban Athletic Conference are just two of his awards, along with district championships and regional finalist. His 1992-1993 team was ranked #1 in Oakland County and fifth in the State. He was an assistant coach at Schoolcraft College. Howard is a member of the Basketball Coaches Association of Michigan Varsity Century Club 100 Victories. He coached the Detroit Maccabi basketball team for 11 years with his teams winning a gold medal in 1991, a bronze medal in 1995 and a silver medal in 1997.
Burt Hurshe has officiated four sports – men’s and women’s basketball; football; baseball; and softball at the high school and collegiate levels – for 43 years. He taught physical education for 40 years, 31 of which were in the Southfield Public Schools where he also coached men’s and women’s basketball and baseball. Burt’s post season prestigious officiating assignments include regionals, quarterfinals, semis, and State championships on both the high school and college levels. He also reffed for the Michigan Semi-Pro Football League. Burt has been inducted into the Detroit Catholic League and Cooperstown Youth Baseball Halls of Fame, as well as the Detroit Public School Hall of Honor. He is a 2012 Detroit Metro American Softball Association 25 Year Award winner.
Alan taught in the Southfield Public Schools for 38 years, teaching physical education and receiving PTA Distinguished Teacher awards. He was the athletic director for 10 years, coached boys and girls basketball for 20 years, and track for 15 years. During this time, he also coached boys and girls basketball at Southfield High for seven years and girls softball at Southfield-Lathrup High School for 10 years. Alan has officiated for more than 46 years in basketball, football and softball, officiating college basketball at the Division II and III levels in Michigan, Ohio, and Indiana; and in high school, officiating numerous district, regional and quarter-final championship and state championship games in football and softball. In addition, Alan has been involved with coaching and administering the Maccabi games since its inception.
Rick has been a high school basketball, football, and softball coach and referee throughout the tri-county area for 30 years. For the past ten years, he has been the athletic director at Akiva Hebrew Day School. Previously, he was a counselor at Henry Ford High School, as well as a resource room teacher in Inkster. Rick’s accomplishments include the 1981 Michigan State Squash Doubles Champion and Singles Runner-Up, and refereeing the State High School Basketball Tournament in 1990 (There is something missing here. Almost every official referees in the state tournament. Did he do a championship or other big game?). His record in the Maccabi Games include being named Assistant Coach on the Gold Medal Basketball Team in 1992, and 2005 Coach of the Bronze Medal Basketball Team. He umpired the Girls Catholic League Championship Game in 2007 and State Quarter Final Girls Softball in 2009 and 2012.
Howard was a physical education teacher and coach at Clinton Junior High in the Oak Park School District. His teams won five Little Oak League championships in basketball, baseball, and track and field. He coached Oak Park High School’s varsity tennis team to 10 league titles in 10 years – six were undefeated League Championships; four undefeated overall seasons; two Michigan High School Regional Championships; and two Michigan High School Regional Runner-Up titles. Howard’s overall dual meet record was 157 wins and 7 losses, for a .953 winning percentage. He was chosen League Coach of the Year by his peers five times; an award at Oak Park High School is named after him.
Howard served 12 years as the Director of Athletics and Physical Education for Oak Park. Among the many awards he received while an AD he is most proud of the Distinguished Service Award presented by the Oakland County Athletic Directors’ Association and life membership in both the Michigan High School Coaches Association and the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administration Association. Howard retired in 1993 after 33 years in the Oak Park School District. Since, he has been a substitute teacher in physical education in four suburban school districts, as he believes athletics play an integral part in many of the students’ lives.
2013 Pillars of Excellence
Herb began a love for baseball by taking the Trumbull streetcar to Briggs Stadium and ushering fans to their seats. He graduated from Wayne State with a degree in physical education. He taught in Oak Park and Detroit for 35 years and played softball in multiple city leagues. During that time, Herb enjoyed coaching swimming, baseball, football and gymnastics. For twenty-six years, he coached some of the top Jewish swimmers in metro Detroit as part of the Maccabi Youth Games and including his daughter, Dena, during the 1984 Maccabi games in Detroit.
Ken was born in 1946 in Brooklyn, NY and the family arrived in Metro Detroit in 1950, where it still resides. Ken graduated from Mumford High School where he swam and lettered on the Varsity Swimming Team. After High School, he went to the University of Arizona where he obtained a degree in Finance. After college, he served as an officer in the United States Army and spent a year in Korea during the Viet Nam Era. It was there he became interested in the game of volleyball. Upon his return, he started coaching children softball teams and got involved in B’nai B’rith athletics. It was there where he organized and became commissioner of the B’nai B’rith Slo-Pitch Softball, Volleyball, and Basketball Leagues. In 1976 he was awarded the Sam Robinson Memorial Trophy from the Harry B. Keidan Lodge, along with the B’nai B’rith Presidents Club twice, subsequently. In 1984, Ken got involved in the Macabbi youth games, first as a referee and then as head coach. He coached for over 25 years and more than 350 athletes, and has trained others coaches who went on to coach high school and club teams. His teams have won gold, silver and bronze numerous times and have, in fact, never failed to medal. He has run the Detroit Maccabi volleyball tournament as commissioner four times. Ken has also been co-delegation head twice. Ken has been officiating since 1984. He has officiated the MHSAA finals twice in Volleyball and twice in Swimming, along with Quarter Finals in Softball and Regionals in Baseball. He also has officiated Basketball and Football. He has officiated both Volleyball and Swimming at the collegiate level and officiated club ball as well.
Fred Goldberg (z”l)
Fred was born in 1933 in Detroit and began his love of sports as a varsity basketball and baseball player at Northwestern High. Upon graduating, Fred was awarded an athletic scholarship to Detroit Institute of Technology where he set a school record for individual game scoring as a freshman. After obtaining his undergraduate degree in education and his master’s degree in counseling and guidance from Eastern Michigan University, Fred began his 40-year career as a physical education teacher and coach. Fred was the Southfield High School Athletic and Activities Director, served as director of activities at Camp Tanuga, and coached the North Farmington/West Bloomfield baseball team, winning the State Little League title and Babe Ruth State Championship. After moving to Scottsdale, Arizona, he was a counselor, head boys’ baseball coach and managed youth summer camps. He was awarded Teacher of the Year in Southfield, and in Scottsdale. He passed away in 2009 after a long battle with cancer. Fred was an iconic mentor who used his passion for athletics to inspire children and teens to excel in life.
Karen Sklar Gordon
Karen played varsity basketball, volleyball and softball at Farmington Hills Harrison High School, serving as team captain and was a finalist for the Jack Buller Athlete of the Year Award. She was a walk-on to the Michigan State University softball team and, upon transferring to Wayne State University, also walked on to the softball team. While teaching in California, she played two seasons on the College of the Canyons women’s basketball team holding the single game rebounding record for six years. She has coached freshman basketball and JV volleyball at Southfield High School. Karen has a long history of involvement with the Maccabi Games, serving as Juniors Manager for Team USA 1989, JCC Maccabi Coach, Delegation Head, Games Director, member of the Amy Beth Rosenberg JCC Maccabi Leadership Team and Co-chair for the 2014 JCC Maccabi Games and ArtsFest hosted in Detroit. Karen is a math teacher at Ferndale High School and still plays B’nai B’rith softball and basketball due in large part to fellow Pillar of Excellence, Ken Bertin.
Ed was an accomplished baseball player at Wayne State University in 1963, but his 45 years as a teacher in physical education is how he is best known. Ed developed and directed the Summer Playground Program, Camp Trailblazer, and after-school floor hockey programs for the City of Southfield. Ed won the Distinguished Service Award, the Southfield P.T.A. Area Council Award, and the Golden Apple Award from Metro Parent magazine and was nominated for Outstanding Physical Education Teacher and Disney Outstanding Teacher awards. Ed developed and directed the pilot sports camp program for Camp Tamarack in Brighton. Today, Ed provides physical education experiences for children with special needs having developed an inclusion sports program in floor hockey, basketball and soccer for the Friendship Circle in West Bloomfield.
2014 Pillars of Excellence
Bob graduated from State University of New York at Cortland with a degree in health and physical education. In summer 1949, he was hired as the waterfront director for the New Jersey Y camps, and then started his first full-time job as Assistant Director of Physical Education at the JCC of Rochester, NY. He then become Director of Health, Physical Education and Recreation at the Lynn, Massachusetts, JCC, while earning his masters degree in health, physical education and recreation. In 1959, he was hired to run the very extensive physical education program at the JCC on Meyers and Curtis in Detroit. As plans were formulated to move to the Drake Road JCC facility, Bob suggested the design of the indoor swimming pool with its 60-foot width, the Z-shape of the outdoor pool, and the track above the gym, all of which are in full use today. After 20 years of service to the Detroit Jewish community, he left Michigan to finish his professional career as Director of Health Services at the JCC of Houston. After 43 years as a JCC professional, he retired in 1992 and returned to Michigan to be close to his son and grandchildren.
Irwin was born in Detroit and attended the Yeshiva Beth Yehudah, then located at Dexter and Cortland. Irwin attended Central High School. In 1969, he married Davida Greenberg of Rochester, NY, and in 1972, their daughter, Chani was born. After stints in junior college and business school, Irwin went to work for the Wayne County Treasurer’s office. While there he launched a monthly publication, The Baseball Bulletin. Baseball legends Ernie Harwell and Peter Gammons were hired to give the publication a national flavor. At the end of 1983, Irwin accepted the position of Director of Group Sales for the Detroit Tigers. In his position he also spoke to organizations and introduced many new marketing ideas, including Paws, the Tiger mascot. After the Tigers changed ownership in 1992, Irwin left the organization, began researching local and national Jewish history, and wrote about baseball. In 1999, he pitched a memoir about Tiger Stadium to sports columnist Joe Falls. The result was the three-hour cassette and CD entitled, “Echoes of Tiger Stadium.” Irwin followed this with ten books about the Tigers and their ballparks, local and national Jewish history, and the large iconic local Jewish history, “Echoes of Detroit’s Jewish Communities.”
Al (Z”L) was born in Detroit in 1938. He attended Detroit Central High School and lettered in cross country and track during the 1956-1957 season. He attended Wayne State University on an athletic scholarship where he lettered in cross country, wrestling, and track. In 1959, Al began volunteering for the Red Cross. In 1982, he earned the Red Cross Century Club Award. He ran the Red Cross Learn to Swim program in Oak Park for many years, and served as a Red Cross instructor trainer. Al began his 37-year teaching career as a teacher in 1962. He taught physical education in the Oak Park School District at the elementary school level and then in high school. Al coached several sports for Oak Park High School: bowling (1962), wrestling (1962-68), cross country (1968-72), track (1968-1972), and swimming (1972-1988). He was named Coach of the Year by The Detroit News. Many of his athletes were named to the Michigan All-State Track team, and he was awarded a State of Michigan “Concurrent Resolution of Tribute” for his coaching accomplishments in 1972. In 1999, Al was awarded the Official’s Award from the Michigan High School Athletic Association (MHSAA) for his 30 years of service as an official in track and swimming.
Ted (Z”L) attended Northwestern High School in Detroit and won the Golden Gloves Boxing Championship in the Flyweight Division three times from 1930-1932. While at Wayne State University, from which he earned a Bachelor of Science and Master of Arts in Education, Ted was captain of the fencing team between 1937-1939. During his service in the army in World War II, Ted was a member of the troops that liberated Mauthausen Concentration Camp. In 1944, Ted wed Frances (Burg) and they were married for 50 years. They had three sons and six grandchildren. Ted began his career in the Detroit Public Schools in Physical Education working mostly at McMichael Junior High and Beaubien Junior High. Ted was a forty-year employee of the Jewish Community Center: first at the Woodward Center, then Dexter-Davison, Meyers, 10 Mile, and before moving to the West Bloomfield campus. He was in the Physical Education Department and then an associate director of the health club. Through his fencing classes at the JCC, he instructed and molded many champions on the local and national level. He also developed and ran the popular youth basketball programs and taught a variety of athletic classes, including archery, racquetball, boxing, and trampoline.
Jerry is a native Detroiter who graduated from Mumford High School and Wayne State University. After a brief career with Michigan Consolidated Gas Company as a marketing consultant, he began a twenty-plus year career as a wholesale representative in the clothing business. During that time, he also developed the concept for the Detroit Tiger Fantasy Camps – founded in 1984 – with former Tigers catcher and current radio voice Jim Price. The Detroit Tigers Fantasy Camp in Lakeland, Florida, is considered the most successful professional team camp for adults in all of sports, with more than 225 people attending annually. Many more have attended camps and batting practices at Comerica Park since 2000.
2015 Pillars of Excellence
Steve was born in Detroit in 1947, raised in northwest Detroit and attended Mumford High School, Wayne State University, and Detroit College of Law from which he graduated in 1973. Steve refereed basketball, beginning with girls’ and boys’ middle school, freshman, and junior varsity games, working his way up to high school varsity and then college ball. He attributes his advancement to accepting every assignment and attending many clinics and summer basketball camps, in addition to being mentored by established officials. Steve was fortunate to have some great mentors, including his cousin, Allan “Al” Freund, (Z”L) (MJSHOF, 2007), and the late Will Robinson (Alvin F. Foon Humanitarian Recipient, 1995). Steve officiated MHSAA district and regional contests, and NCAA, NAIA, and NJCAA regular season, holiday, and post-season tournament games. Steve officiated the 1992 Texaco Nassau Sunshine Shootout, and the1994 Grand Bahamas Goombay Shootout, played in Nassau, Bahamas, featuring men’s and women’s college teams from all divisions. He has officiated the Special Olympics, Maccabi, St. Cecelia’s, AAU, Gus Macker, Detroit Pistons Old Timers games, and Detroit Shock tryout camp. After retiring as an official, he was as assistant coach under Howard Golding (Pillar of Excellence, 2012) at Oak Park High School and Maccabi Detroit, and also coached at Isiah Thomas Basketball camps. He is a member of the advisory board for the Detroit Sports Zone, Inc., founded by former Harlem Globetrotter, Ernie Wagner, to promote sports and literacy programs for inner-city children and adults. In 2010, Steve received an Award of Appreciation from the Motor City Youth Initiative, helping to sponsor basketball leagues and train prospective officials. That same year, he received the Hillel Hero award from Michigan State University Hillel that established a fund in his name to support intramural sports programs.
Teacher and Administrator
A native Detroiter, Bob graduated from Henry Ford High School in 1967 before attending Wayne State University, receiving his bachelor’s degree in education in 1972 and a master’s degree in physical education in 1978. Bob began his career in the Berkley School District in 1972 as a physical education teacher at the elementary and junior high school levels. He coached junior high baseball and basketball for many years. He was also the assistant basketball coach at Berkley High School for 13 years. In 1985, Bob became the Berkley School District Director of Health and Physical Education, and served as Athletic Director for 22 years. He won numerous awards for his service and dedication to high school athletics in Michigan, and in 2000 became a certified Master Athletic Administrator (CMAA) through the National Association of Athletic Directors. Bob was the recipient of the Allan Bush Award for outstanding leadership and service to the Michigan High School Athletic Association in 2001 and was named regional Athletic Director of the Year in 2002 by the MHSAA. He taught leadership training classes for the MIAAA and NIAAA, and served as a mentor in the MHSAA Mentor Program for new athletic directors, and was instrumental in the development of the Oakland Activities Association for Athletics. He was a tournament manager for numerous MHSAA events, served on several MHSAA committees, and was very active with the Oakland County Athletic Directors Association and the Oakland Activities Association. He also served as a host for the Program of Athletic Coaches Education. In the Berkley School district, Bob directed a physical education program, which was named an Exemplary Physical Education program by the Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness. He was also a member of the Michigan and American Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance.
Teacher and Coach
Irvin was born in Oklahoma City and attended Central State College in Edmond, Oklahoma. He participated in sports and always wanted to be a teacher and coach. In high school, his football coach was Bob Mistelee, with whom Irvin remained in touch even after Mistelee moved to Michigan. In the summer of 1966, Irvin met with Bob who returned to Oklahoma for a vacation. Irvin discovered that he was coaching at Farmington High School in Michigan and asked him if there were any teaching openings. A week later, Bob called to say Irvin had an interview. Irvin would spend the next 40 years teaching and coaching in Michigan. In 1972, Bill Rankin, became the head football coach at Birmingham Groves and offered Irvin the JV football head coach position. At that time, Irvin was the only person to teach in one district while coaching in another. Later, Irvin coached JV at Harrison High School. In fall 1981, Irvin taught and coached three sports at North Farmington High School: football, wrestling and baseball. While at North Farmington he named its Teacher of the Year and inducted into the Farmington Teacher Hall of Fame. Additionally, he was inducted into both the Michigan High School Football and Baseball Halls of Fame. He retired from the classroom in 2002, but continued coaching until 2007. In honor of his years of service, North Farmington High School constructed an entry plaza to the baseball/softball complex in his name.
Ed is considered the “father of modern distance running” in Michigan. In 1972, he became an officer of the Motor City Striders, and by 1975 he was the race director of the Detroit marathon and president of the club. Ed was the Detroit Free Press Marathon race director through 1995. In all, Ed has directed more than 1,000 races. Under Ed’s leadership, the Striders have raised more than $40,000,000 from their events, contributing to such organizations as American Cancer Society, Arthritis Foundation, DIA, and Karmanos Cancer Institute. Ed was founder and race director of Michigan’s first race for Prostate Cancer Awareness and Education, the nation’s largest event for this cause, and spearheaded the Detroit Race for the Cure, Gilda’s Club Walk, and Detroit’s Corktown St. Patrick’s race. He has been the Amateur Athletics Union Long Distance Running Chairman of the Year, the Road Runners Club of America Club President of the Year, and the Michigan Runner of the Year and Quarter Century. As an officer in the Striders, he has the longest tenure of a major club president in the United States. Ed is a graduate of Wayne State University where he lettered in track and cross country. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Colorado, did doctoral work at Texas A & M University, and earned a doctoral degree at Florida State University. In 1969, Ed began teaching and coaching for the Warren Consolidated School District.
Harold Kutnick (Z”L)
Coach and Handball Champion
Harold was born in Detroit in April 1929 and attended Central High School where he played varsity basketball. Known for his spectacular long shots and fast breaks, Harold was a fiery captain and guard averaging 13 points per game. He received many honors for his play including All-City and an honorable mention for the All-West Side. Harold played at Wayne State University on a basketball scholarship where he captained the team and earned a bachelor’s degree in physical education. After graduation, he began a 36-year teaching career at Bagley Elementary School. Harold directed the land sports program at Camp Michigama and was part-owner of the Thunderbird Country Day Camp. He also partnered in the Cincy Sachs Basketball Clinic. There, he operated as business manager and coordinated events that included games with the Detroit Pistons. Harold refereed and played basketball for the JCC where he received league honors for most valuable player. He also excelled in amateur and professional handball, winning the Detroit AAU City Doubles Championship in 1953 and the Michigan Handball Association State Doubles Championship in 1954. Despite being diagnosed with heart disease in his 20s, Harold persevered and managed to play sports. He was so passionate and had such a love for sports that he was still playing energetically after two heart attacks and two bypass surgeries. Ultimately, this heart disease claimed his life while he was playing his final game of handball with long-time friend and handball partner, Joel Tauber..
Mort Levitsky (Z”L)
Teacher, Official, Camp Tamarack Director
Mort played basketball and football while a student at Detroit Central High School, and was a boxer during his college years at Wayne State University. Mort began his involvement with young people and sports when he became a physical education teacher at MacCullouch Elementary School in the 1940s. After his years as a physical education teacher, he became an assistant principal and then principal in the Detroit Public Schools. Additionally, Mort was a very well respected high school basketball and football official. He and his officiating crew worked the annual football game in Flint between Central High School and Northern High School when the two rivals played on Thanksgiving Day. He officiated every year at the Michigan Basketball State Tournament, some years working the championship finals in East Lansing. Mort served as athletic director, waterfront director, and camp director at Camp Tamarack (Fresh Air Camp) from 1944-1966. Many people still remember Mort and have great stories to tell as they fondly recall their gym teacher, school principal, or camp director. They never fail to mention what a positive influence Mort was on their lives.
2016 Pillars of Excellence
Sid, a native Detroiter, graduated from Central High School, earning six varsity letters in football, basketball, and baseball. He earned a two-year degree from Highland Park Junior College, earning four varsity letters in basketball and softball. Sid finished his Bachelor of Science Degree and master’s degree in Health and Physical Education at Wayne State University in addition to his Education Specialist Certificate in General Secondary Education and subsequent doctorate work in Educational Curriculum and Administration. Sid began his athletics career at the Jewish Community Center as the basketball coach for the high school varsity team before joining the Detroit Public Schools as a physical education teacher and coach for eleven years. He then took on the challenge of starting a new interscholastic athletics program at Roeper School, serving as athletic director and coach for eight years; he was inducted into the Roeper School Sports Hall of Fame. His emergence in athletics quickly steered him to accept the position of the Michigan Amateur Athletic Union Executive Director, where he was responsible for administering a statewide amateur athletics program that included twenty-two Olympic sports, serving 15,000 athletes and 200 clubs, and coordinating and promoting 400 events annually. The highlight of his AAU term was conducting the National Junior Olympic Championships held at the University of Michigan. Sid went on to then serve as the athletic coordinator for the City of Pontiac, managing a comprehensive athletics and special event program. Following a four-year stint returning as Physical Education teacher and coach in the Detroit Public Schools, Sid became the athletic director at University of Michigan-Dearborn for three years. During that brief window of time, its ice hockey program rose to new heights collegiately, competing successfully against such notables as Notre Dame, University of Alaska-Anchorage and Fairbanks, Air Force Academy and Michigan State University. Sid negotiated the first radio contract with WCAR and acquired statewide TV coverage with the PASS Sports Network and the UM-Flint station to further promote the games.
On the heels of his successes at UM-Dearborn, Sid was hired as Athletic Director at Herkimer County Community College in upstate New York. In his nearly decade there at the helm of the athletics department, he provided the leadership for ten NJCAA National Championship teams in Men’s Basketball, Men’s Soccer, Men’s Lacrosse, and Women’s Field Hockey, as well as countless state and regional championships among the fourteen sports offered. Returning to the Detroit area, Sid assisted in the opening of the Onyx Ice Arena in Rochester and served as general manager of the Novi Ice Arena for approximately three years. Subsequently, Sid was offered his current position of athletic director at Schoolcraft College in Livonia, administering twelve sports. In 2015 he was recognized by his peers in the Michigan Community College Athletic Association as Athletic Director of the Year. Sid lives with his wife, Cynthia, of twenty-six years, in Commerce Township.
Rob began playing softball in 1973 when he was 14, and began umpiring two years later. He has been recognized for his consistency and passion in both of these aspects of the game. His knowledge of the game of softball is paramount as he also educates players. Rob feels respect on the field is gained through hustling on each and every play. In 2012, he was assigned the championship game of the Men’s B’nai B’rith International tournament, where 16 teams from the United States and Canada competed. Rob is currently Umpire-In-Chief (UIC) for the metro Detroit Inter-Congregational Softball League. He has been selected to umpire for the West Bloomfield Police and Fire Departments and the Joe Kocur Foundation, which includes past and present Detroit Red Wing players who raise money for charities. Rob earned two varsity letters in baseball at Oak Park High School. He attended Oakland Community College and Wayne State University. For the last 25 years, Rob has made his career as a manufacturer’s representative in the flooring industry. He has been married to his wife, Shelley, for 24 years and they reside in Novi.
Dr. Robert “Bob” Matthews
Born in Detroit in 1935, “Bob” attended Mumford High School, graduated from Wayne State University, and received D.D.S. and M.S. degrees from University of Michigan. He has practiced dentistry in the area since 1961 and has been a faculty member of the University of Detroit Mercy Orthodontic Department for 40 years. The original concept for the Matthews Sports Exhibit was conceived in 2007. The exhibit, located at the Jewish Community Center, encompasses a core philosophy that the joy is not in having the collection – but the real joy is sharing the memorabilia. Visiting the display is like taking a mini-trip to the Hall of Fame. The exhibit is intended as an educational tool for younger generations, introducing them to the significant contributions of Jewish athletes. These icons displayed a competitive spirit, exemplified excellence, and showed respect for others. They became role models with their actions both on and off the field. The exhibit reunites older fans with the sports idols of their youth, reliving fond memories. Visitors can leisurely view the collection, comprised of more than 350 items that are rotated on a seasonal basis. The exhibit makes our Jewish Community Center unique among JCCs in the country.
Blessed with incredible parents who lived and practiced Jewish values, Bob has tried to perpetuate their legacy of helping others. In honor of his parents, the Matthews Family Foundation for in-home support services for older adults was formed in 2000. The foundation’s commitment was to provide assistance for elderly adults in our community. Since, it has partnered with the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit to provide continued support for Jewish seniors. The foundation’s annual grants have allowed many families to remain living with dignity in the comforting surroundings of their own homes. The grants provide homemaker service as well as personal and other necessary home care. The foundation has made a long-term commitment, via a designated legacy gift through the federation’s Centennial Fund, to perpetuate support into the future. Since his retirement, Bob donates dental equipment to local and international charitable organizations. He and his wife, Sandra, live in Farmington Hills.
Don earned an undergraduate degree at Wayne State University and an MBA from Michigan State University. Don began his business career with Chatham Supermarkets. When the chain was sold he joined Danny’s Food, a chain of 11 stores where he was the Director of Marketing/Merchandising. After a brief stint with Kroger, Don began a career in finance as a manager of a mortgage broker business owned by Hansons Window and Siding Co. He was later promoted to Finance Director for the entire Hansons corporation. For many years, he was the girls’ softball and table tennis coach for the Detroit JCC Maccabi Games. As softball coach, his teams earned gold, silver and bronze medals. For the games held in Detroit in 1998, 2008, and 2014, Don was Softball Venue Chairman, Delegation Head, and Transportation Chairman, and served on each year’s steering committee. Don has been a baseball and softball umpire for more than 35 years and was awarded the Oakland County Regional award for umpire excellence in 2015. He has umpired several national tournaments including the B’nai B’rith event held in Novi in 2013. At Adat Shalom Synagogue he serves as chairman of the Hebrew Literacy Program where he teaches Hebrew to adults. For the last few years Don has been one of the course managers for the Detroit Free Press marathon. He also serves on the Board of Directors for the Michigan State Hillel and serves on its finance committee. Don is active with Alpha Epsilon Pi Fraternity both locally and on a national level, and has served as the advisor to the Michigan State Chapter since 1968. He is a past National Treasurer of the fraternity and in 1996 was awarded the Sigmund Steinberg Award for excellent alumni service.
Chuck grew up in Grand Rapids where he graduated from Union High School in 1960 before attending Michigan State University. He met his wife, Maxine, when they were in high school during an AZA and BBG function. Chuck has participated, officiated, and been a national leader for auto racing for 50 years. He began his journey into auto racing in 1968, joining the Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) as a course marshal. He spent the next three years in competitive racing, driving a MGA. In 1973, he was named a national chief steward and then executive steward of the Central Division of SCCA. Chuck served as chairman of stewards for CART racing in 1979 at the Michigan International Speedway; the start judge at the Formula One Grand Prix in Detroit in 1983; and steward at Silverstone in England in 1984, TransAM series from 1991-1993 and the National Sports Car Club of America Championship from 1994-1998. As the chief steward, he can be responsible for as many as 500 cars on the track at a time. He is responsible for all emergency equipment, communication with the corner people around the track, maintaining accurate records, and deciding the outcome of driver disputes. In 1992, he was nominated and then won a national election to serve on the SCCA National Board of Directors. He served as the Treasurer for then-SCCA President Carl Haas. Chuck took up racing again in 1996 driving a TR7 and a Saab. This time cheering him on, he had his daughters and sons-in-law, Sari (Mitch) and Lynn (Harold), along with six grandchildren in his pit crew. Chuck worked alongside his father in the family packaging business, Shapiro Bag Company, which he owned until his retirement. Giving back to the community has always been important to Chuck. He served on the board of Ahavas Israel Synagogue and was the President of the Jewish Federation of Grand Rapids. Currently a volunteer at the Revs Institute for Automotive Research in Ft. Myers, he also participates with the Immokolea Center for Youth. Now living in Florida with his wife Maxine, of 56 years, he continues to officiate auto racing across the country.
Michael began officiating football and basketball in 1972 and in 2016, began his 47th season maintaining a full collegiate football schedule. Michael was born in 1948 and grew up in northwest Detroit. He was educated at Winship Elementary and Junior High (1962), Cooley High School (1965), Eastern Michigan University (BS, 1970) and the University of Michigan (MBA, 1986). Having taken ROTC classes in college, he received a commission in the U.S. Army upon graduation in 1970. Michael married during his time in the Army and had the first of his three children. Upon discharge from the service, Michael and his family moved to Chicago where he began his career in information technology and continued his career as a sports official. A job change brought Michael and his family back to the Detroit area. During this period Michael also worked many league championship and special event games at venues including the Pontiac Silverdome and Ford Field, as well as several Michigan High School Athletic Association post-season tournament games. After a lengthy hiatus he re-established his basketball career by partnering with his lifelong friend and 2015 Pillar of Excellence Inductee, Steve Bernstein. Over the next few years they worked together to become established officials at the high school varsity level and they were eventually partnered with another established official, Gus Hughes. Michael officiated regular season contests in most major leagues in the metro Detroit area including several holiday tournaments, conference/league playoff games and several MHSAA post season tournament games. He has officiated in many tournaments and leagues conducted by the AAU, Maccabi Games, Special Olympics, St Cecelia’s, Gus Macker, and the inaugural WNBA Detroit Shock tryout camp. Michael now has more than a quarter-century of experience officiating collegiate football games primarily in NCAA D-III but also D-IAA (now FCS), D-II and NAIA. He has been selected to officiate in the NCAA D-III national championship tournament on several occasions advancing twice to the national quarterfinal game. He has officiated countless practices and scrimmages for NCAA D-IA (now FBS) universities and the Detroit Lions. By the time his children were in their late teens and early twenties, the family suffered the tragic loss of Michael’s wife, Sally. Michael is now taking the opportunity to start giving back to the officiating community by engaging and evaluating officials trying to move into collegiate officiating, and working as a clinician at the Great Lakes Collegiate Football Officiating Clinic and the Metro Detroit Football Officiating Clinic. Michael is also working regularly as a crew chief in the Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association.
2017 Pillars of Excellence
Jim’s been at home on the basketball court since 1994 – and the football field since 2003 and swimming pool since 2011 – officiating more than 1000 varsity basketball games, and numerous MHSAA quarterfinal, regional, district and league championship games; state football championships, including two Prep Bowls and three KLAA championship games; as well as water polo matches and district championships. He’s also officiated women’s college basketball, four AAU National Championship tournaments, three Maccabi Games and the Special Olympics.
Jim’s most memorable games include a 2013 MHSAA basketball quarterfinal game that featured two players drafted by the NBA last year (Josh Jackson and Monte Morris) and a third professional (European pro Vince Hunter), the 2014 MHSAA state football championship between Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and Muskegon, and in 2016, the first-ever high school football game played in Michigan Stadium. Jim has been an attorney in private practice for 30 years, the last 27 with business law firm Dean & Fulkerson, P.C., where he serves as president and represents many of Detroit’s top sports broadcasters and writers. He’s also an adjunct professor at Western Michigan University Cooley Law School teaching sports law. While in school and during the early years of his law practice, Jim worked as a sports writer for various publications and wire services, winning first place for sports column writing in the1984 United Press International Michigan Newspaper Awards. He covered University of Michigan basketball, the Detroit Pistons in three NBA Finals and the Detroit Tigers in the 1987 ALCS. Jim organized Metro Detroit Athletic Officials, the largest MHSAA-approved officials association in the State of Michigan, and writes the law column for Referee magazine. Jim attended Cranbrook Schools and received business administration and law degrees from University of Michigan. He lives in West Bloomfield with his wife, Dee, and their sons Alex, Eric and Ryan.
For 36 years Shel has been a soccer referee, first for youth games in the Royal Oak Soccer Association of the United States Soccer Association, and then adult games. He has been affiliated with the Michigan High School Athletic Association for 30 years. During the 1990s and early 2000s, Shel also was assigned college matches. When the Maccabi Games were played in Michigan in 1991, he was the center referee for the final match between Mexico City and Long Island. In 1997, the National Federation of Interscholastic Officials Association named Shel its Michigan soccer official of the year. From 1980 to 1988, he served on the board of the Royal Oak Youth Soccer Association, and was the association’s commissioner during that time. For more than a decade Shel has been the president of the Soccer Referees Association, an organization providing referees to public and private middle and high schools in Oakland County. Shel grew up in Detroit and after graduating from Central High School earned his undergraduate degree from University of Michigan in 1964. Upon graduation, Shel became the personnel director for Hostess Cake and took post-graduate classes in personnel administration at Wayne State University. He began law school in 1967 at University of Detroit. While attending law school in the evenings, he worked as a court clerk for Oakland County Circuit Court Judge Arthur E. Moore. Upon graduating law school and passing the Michigan bar in 1970, Shel began his 47-year legal career at Leib and Leib, and in 1977 became a partner in the Southfield law firm of Hiller, Howard, Larky & Hoekenga. In 1983, Shel became a sole practitioner with an office in Bingham Farms specializing in alternative dispute matters as a mediator, arbitrator or facilitator. Since 2006, Shel has been a Michigan District Court magistrate, first serving in the 45th District Court and presently in the 52-4 District Court. A resident of West Bloomfield, Shel and his wife, Barbara, have two sons and three granddaughters.
Al’s tennis career began at an age when most players have a decade or more of practice under their belts. A fast learner, though, Al’s skills earned him a job as a tennis instructor at Camp Walden. At Michigan State, he honed those skills and was playing in tournaments by the time he entered graduate school at University of Denver where he earned his master’s degree. While in the Denver area he coached boys’ and girls’ varsity tennis at Delta High School and organized tennis programs in rural Colorado. Al’s teams at Delta were league champions each year during his seven-year tenure at the school. He also wrote a weekly column called Tennis Tips for the Delta County Independent. Al returned to Michigan in 1984 and began coaching at Rochester Adams High School, and was a social worker for the Rochester Community School District before retiring in 2012. In his more than 30 years at Rochester Adams, 20 of his teams finished in the top ten in the state and 24 won league championships, while 27 of his players earned all-state recognition. One player, Amy Frazier, reached the top 10 on the WTA tour. For 30 years, Al has been the tennis pro at the Bloomfield Hills Swim and Tennis Club where he worked with a junior team program that went from 20 players in 1985 to 90 this year, and he co-founded the North Oakland County Summer Suburban League. Al estimates the number of players he taught and coached is well over 3,000, and the number he’s introduced to the game is at least 2,000. Al received several Coach of the Year honors in Colorado and Michigan, and was voted MHSTeCA Coach of the Year for Division 2 in 2007. He entered the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2010. In 2016 Al achieved the highest honor possible in high school tennis as he was selected into the National High School Coaches Hall of Fame. Al also is a certified pro with a USPTR at the ranking of professional. In 2017, Al received the National High School Coach of the Year by the United States Professional Tennis Association.
Larry’s love of sports was ever present. He spent most afternoons and evenings as a child at the sandlot in his Detroit neighborhood playing baseball. While attending Oak Park High School, Larry was a varsity wrestler in the 120-pound division and won his conference championship in 1969. It’s hockey, though, that was Larry’s true sporting passion. He enrolled his sons in a youth hockey league in Southfield and, given his penchant for teaching, became a coach to their teams until they graduated high school. Larry continued coaching high school hockey in the West Bloomfield and Redford Unified school districts until 2005 and 2007, respectively. He also dedicated his time to promoting hockey in the larger community as a board member of the Southfield Hockey Club from 1994 – 2001, working as treasurer and lead scheduler for 60 teams. He was also founder and chairman of the Storm Hockey Club in 2001, and co- owner of the Motor City Chiefs in 2005.
2018 Pillars of Excellence
Robert began his involvement in athletics at Oak Park High School in 1970 where he managed the football, basketball and baseball teams.
At U of M heserved as student manager of football and hockey teams from 1973-77, and worked as a student assistant in the Sports Information Department.
Following graduation, heworkedfor Detroit Caesars Professional Slo-Pitch Softball Team, and served as Commissioner of the Men’s Professional Slo-Pitch Softball League from 1979 –1982. Robert then became State Director for the Michigan United States Slo-Pitch Softball Association. He was inducted in the Michigan USSSA Hall of Fame in 1991. Robert also served as General Manager of the Detroit Express Soccer Team of the United Soccer League.
Following the league’s dissolution he entered Wayne State Law School. Upon graduation hepracticed business law for 10 years.
In 1997, Robert became Director of Education for New Detroit, Inc., and in 2000 was named Executive Director of Facilities Maintenance for Detroit Public Schools. Since 2006 he’s been legal counsel toseveral large pharmaceutical distributors.
Gary wasa star high school and collegeathlete. AtHenry Fordhe played JVand varsity basketball, and at Oakland University he started at guard, transferring to U of Mas asophomore. Gary served as Athletic Chairman and Social Chairman for Moses Gomberg House.
In 1973, hebegan teaching in Battle Creek, andserved as freshman baseball coach at Harper Creek. The nextyear, Gary became Athletic Director of Wattles Park Junior High.
In 1978 Gary became Girls’ varsity basketball coach at Harper Creek, and during the next four years his teams won 55 games, culminating in winning the Twin Valley League Championship in 1980, Harper Creek’s first-ever basketball championship. In 1987 Gary became Harper Creek JV basketball coach, and in 1989 became Varsity coach.
Gary became Executive Director of Wattles Park Men’s Club in 2001, and today it serves 5,000 boys and girls in baseball, softball, T-ball, floor hockey, basketball, volleyball, soccer, and lacrosse.
Gary retired from teaching in 2004 but remains active inthe district.
Elliot “Butch” Parnes
Butch began his 50-year umpiring career in 1968 while attending MSU, officiating intramurals, before umping slow pitch games while attending Detroit College of Law.
At 27, he was the youngest umpire in the Professional Men’s Slow-Pitch League, and has umpired every National Police Tournament held in Michigan since 1977.
Butch has worked nationallyumping 25 Women’s World Tournaments and 11 Men’s World Tournaments. He has been an instructor at more than40 Michigan Umpire Clinics teaching the “One Man System.”
He was named the Umpire of the Year in the Metro Detroit Softball League in 2005 and 2015. He received the Great Lakes USSSA Divisional Umpire Award in 1986, and was inducted into the Michigan USSSA Hall of Fame in 1988. Hewas inducted into the National USSSA Hall of Fame in 2016.
Butch has been an attorney since 1978. He served as Chairman of the Oakland County Bar Association Juvenile Law Committee, and in 2015 was honored by the Oakland County Family Court Judges receiving the Sandra Silver Child Advocate of the Year Award. In 2018, he received the 40 Years Attorney Service Award.
Richard “Dick” Rosenthal
A star swimmer at Central High School, Dick began his coaching career at the Highland Park Northern Branch YMCA. Following a two-year stint in the Army, Dick coached local AAU age group swimming competitions at the JCC on Curtis.
His success as a coach led him to further his career at Birmingham Public Schools. As a Phys Ed teacher, he coached swim teams at Berkshire Junior High School and Seaholm High School; in a period of nine years, his high school teams won five league championships. He was named Athletic Director at Seaholm in 1981, where he remained until his retirement in 1997. In total he coached more than 30 high school All Americans.
During his early years of coaching, Dick recognized a need for swim time results for spectators, so he introduced his own method for attendees to view result times for each lane. The scoreboards, Lane Timers, were posted on the wall behind each lane. The business expanded to include the manufacture of diving flash cards and pull buoys.
From 1953 until 1996, Dick spent summers at Camp Tanuga, and for the first 18 years was the waterfront director.
Lenny’s been a star track and tennis athlete, ground breaking educator and award winning tennis coach at Berkley High School since the mid-80s.
In 1986, Robert Gershman (2015 Pillar of Excellence inductee) took a chance on thebarely 19-year-old Lenny to coach Norup Middle School Boys Track & Field (the youngest coach in school history).
Further, he created the first-ever both boys and girls junior varsity teams tennis teams, and was instrumental in the formation of a middle school program. The boys and girls programs have earned four league championships, back-to-back state championship appearances with two finishes in the top ten, and the school’s first regional championship in 2017 along with a runner-up regional championship in 2018. The program has also earned All-State academic honors concurrently for the past decade.
Lenny has been honored as a five-time MHSAA Regional Coach of the Year and earned the coveted MHSTCA Coach of the Year award in 2012. The Berkley Board of Education has recognized his program for its athletic and academic excellence five times.
Lance was an award-winning high school and collegiate basketball player, playing for Birmingham Groves and then Stetson University in Florida.
He was Holly High School’s varsity boys’ basketball coach from 2005 – 2018, winning 175 games, the most in school history. He ranks fourth in number of wins in the 50-year history of the Flint Metro League. In 2015, Holly was Class A Regional Champion; first time in school history. His teams also won three Flint Metro League titles.
In 2015, Lance’s team set a school record with 22 wins including 19 straight wins for a 22-3 record. Twenty-three of his players went on to play college basketball. Also, in 2015 he was Oakland County Coach of the Year.
Lance founded Coach Lance’s Holly Hoops in 1997, teaching basketball skills to boys and girls in kindergarten through eighth grade. He grew the program from 25 to 125 kids in eight years. He gave all participants basketballs and was known for giving free hamburgers if he made a half court shot – on his knees – at the end of each Saturday session.
Dr. Jeffrey Kovan
Jeff grew up in a sports-loving home: the family attended games for all of Detroit’s pro teamsand enjoyed friendly competitions of one-on-one basketball games and dunk competitions on their 9-foot hoop in the driveway, to full out competitive whiffle ball in the yard.
Jeff graduated from Michigan State with a Bachelor of Science in 1983 and then immediately began graduate work at the MSU College of Osteopathic Medicine. Upon completing his residency in family medicine and a fellowship in sports medicine, Jeff took on the role as Head Team Physician at Western Michigan University. In 1995 Jeff and his family relocated to East Lansing when Jeff accepted the role as Team Physician and Fellowship Director at MSU.
Shortly after Jeff’s arrival at MSU, he became the Head Team Physician and eventually Director of Sports Medicine and Performance. For the past 24 years, Jeff has worked with MSU Athletics providing patient care responsibilities across all men’s and women’s sports and served as a leader in general health care-related issues at not only MSU, but across the Big Ten and NCAA.
Jeff’s experience at MSU and his desire to venture into additional opportunities allowed for him to serve as a Team Physician for the US Olympic committee at the Paralympic games in Sochi, Russia, in 2014 and the Youth Olympic Games in Nanjing, China, in 2014. He has worked with other MSU faculty on collaborative projects in Ghana and most recently Tanzania on youth sports and utilizing the motivation of sports to enhance student academic engagement.
Jeff maintains a busy academic appointment within the medical college teaching undergraduate, graduate and medical students while serving as the program director for more than 60 Primary Care Sports Medicine fellows since 1993.
Presently, Jeff is involved in a number of research projects involving concussion assessment and treatment, eating disorder questionnaires, ACL knee injuries and post-surgical return to play and the use of intra-nasal insulin to assist with cognitive function in athletes following a head injury.
Volunteerism is another area that Jeff has devoted himself to in his community. For many years he has served on the leadership committee of the National Kidney Foundation in Mid-Michigan. He also volunteers his time for local high school sports coverage, community road races and covers free injury clinics throughout Mid-Michigan.
Jeff continues to serve in his role at MSU as the Head Team Physician, Director of Sports Medicine and Performance and Associate Professor in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
David grew up on the playgrounds of Newton, Massachusetts, and the athletic fields of Camp Alton in Wolfeboro, New Hampshire, excelling in both baseball and football. As a halfback, he starred at Newton South High School leading in rushing. After graduating from the University of Toledo with a degree in journalism, David relocated to Flint where he worked in radio news.
David went on to graduate from Cooley Law School and then opened a private law practice in Flint. David then ventured into the world of politics becoming a Trustee and Clerk in Flint Township for 12 years. In 2004, he ran for and won the position of Genesee County Prosecuting Attorney and is currently serving in his fourth four-year term. A highlight of David’s political career includes being the Democratic nominee for Attorney General in 2010.
In 1998, David read an article in the Flint Journal about the need for football officials in the Michigan High School Athletic Association; he quickly signed up. When David first began officiating it became apparent he had a natural talent for the job and he developed a strong reputation for his knowledge of the game and the rules, and for being a strong authority on the field with an ability to make quick and sound judgments. It didn’t take long before he ended up wearing the white hat as a referee and leading his crew on the field.
David has officiated many league championships in the Flint Metro, Saginaw Valley and Genesee Area Conference leagues involving players who would go on to collegiate and professional careers.
Having officiated dozens of state playoff games, David considers the 2007 Division 3 State Championship game between Orchard Lake St. Mary’s and East Grand Rapids at Ford Field as his most memorable as the game went into five overtimes; it remains the longest game in state finals history.
Billy is Head Strength and Conditioning Coach for the basketball and football programs at North Farmington High School. He was formerly Football Strength and Conditioning Coach at Farmington Hills Harrison High School. At Farmington he’s been part of 11 state football championship teams. In 2010 he shared the Hawks’ state championship with his two sons as they were players on the team.
A former player for Coach John Herrington’s Harrison High football team from 1977-1979, Billy maintains a beloved school tradition: The Leftover Turkey Bowl. This annual event is attended by more than 100 alumni.
Billy is applauded as a youth mentor and actively participates in local reading programs. He cares about the students as if they were his own. He and his wife, Tracy, have two sons.
Joseph Epstein (Z”L)
A 1953 Central High graduate, Joe was varsity football captain as a junior and senior. His family relocated to Detroit from Brooklyn just years earlier; Joe had to leave behind his beloved Brooklyn Dodgers.
He played Division II football at Wayne State while earning his bachelor’s degree in physical education and health sciences. He also earned his master’s degree in secondary education and mathematics from Wayne. Joe taught in Detroit Public Schools from 1957 – 1966, and then moved to Livonia Public Schools until his retirement in 1990. In Livonia, Joe taught physical education and health, and coached football, basketball and girls’ softball. As coach, the Livonia Franklin softball team played in the State Championships in 1985 and won the Class A State Championship in 1986.
His love of children, teaching, and athletics, inspired Joe and his wife, Linda, to start Totempole Day Camp; it operated for several years until it was sold in 1967.
He taught good sportsmanship, fair play, honesty and integrity. And to always have fun. Joe was also an early activist for gender equality in the early days of Title IX and continued fighting for, and finding scholarship funding for his female athletes, a cause he continued to support long after he retired.
Joe died in 2012 after a long battle with Alzheimer’s disease. The words “The Coach” are engraved on his headstone.