GARY ELLIS - Allegan

When Bruce Grotenhuis was given a Distinguished Service Award in 2007, it wasn’t just because he established and manages a very valuable website, our resource for a wide range of information. When he should have been fishing or playing golf, he actually volunteered (still does) to help run state tournaments, a task that too often involves hyper-pushy parents and coaches. He also manages the MHSTeCA table at our workshops in place of the delinquent membership officer. In other words, he does so much more.

Yes, Gary Ellis is our secretary-treasurer. He takes the minutes of our meetings and transcribes them into something readable. He is our official communicator, often with the MHSAA’s Dan Hutcheson regarding issues and controversies. He takes in the money, pays the bills, and accounts for the expenditures.

But he does so much more. As a former athletic director (a valuable resource in itself: just ask Bob Wood), he knows the rules and can quietly and competently explain them. “I have watched in amazement as he addresses an issue before an angry high-profile coach and calms him down with reasoned discourse,” says Ed Waits.

Perhaps his most important asset to our association is his knowledge of how to get a rule enacted or changed. That’s because as an athletic director, he knows both the process and the people. It’s certainly not just a matter of voting for something at an MHSTeCA board meeting. The MHSAA Tennis Committee, of which Gary has often been a member, is very much involved. The Representative Council which meets in May is the final decision maker. Gary knows how to approach both. He has the contacts and the insights and the experience.

As it turns out, Gary’s impact reaches far beyond our sport. This past winter, he received the Charles Forsythe Award from the MHSAA, a really really big deal. A partial list: He has hosted various MHSAA events besides tennis at the district, regional, and quarterfinal levels. He has served on baseball/softball site selection and Scholar Athlete Committees. As an administrator, he was named his region’s Athletic Director of the Year in 2011 by the Michigan Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association (MIAAA). He was also named Community Person of the Year in education by the Allegan Area Chamber of Commerce and received the Allegan County Outstanding People for Education Award. He has served as an MHSAA registered official for 39 years in volleyball through the 2011 season and basketball for 26 years through the 1998-99 boys season.

“In 1998, I was honored to received a Distinguished Service Award from President Karen Page alongside Tiger Teusink,” says Ed. “I may be slow, but I ain’t stupid. When you get an award with Tiger, you go over and stand next to him. It’s called ‘Basking in reflected glory.’”

“The same applied in 2007 when I was inducted into our Hall of Fame with Gary,” continues Ed. “This man is the real deal. I am a Type A and so is he but he is genial about it. He has accomplished so much and additionally, he is so well-liked and respected. I know this from experience because I worked with him when he was our president and again as the membership guy who communicates with him on an almost weekly basis. Again, this honor was an occasion for me to stand close by a star in our midst and bask.”

Alas, we have come late to the party. Gary gets the Charles Forsythe Award but not our Distinguished Service Award? Part of the reason for this is the fundamental principle on the part of a certain (ahem!) officer that a current coach should not be given a DSA. Service should be simply part of being an officer or on the board of directors. But Gary is an exception in that he is and has been so exceptional.

In other words, this award is overdue.

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