JACK JOHNSON DISTINGUISHED SERVICE AWARD
JAMES OKLER, CMAA
James Okler, CMAA, graduated from New Boston Huron High School. He completed an Associate’s Degree in Child Development from Schoolcraft College along with a Bachelor’s Degree in Administration and Management from the University of Phoenix.
In 1981, James began his career in education at New Boston Huron, where he served in a number of roles including as a Teaching Aide, Athletic Department Assistant and Coach. In 1995, he became the Athletic Director for Grosse Ile Township Schools and has served in that role since.
James has enjoyed a dedicated and decorated career coaching Cross Country and Track over the past 39 years. He has earned numerous coaching awards, including the Monroe County Coach of the Year and News Herald Coach of the Year in Cross Country. He is a member of the MITCA Hall of Fame. James has served on the Michigan High School Coaches Association board of directors since 2000 and as its Executive Director since 2015. In addition, he has served on the National High School Coaches Association board of directors since 2005 and has been a recipient of the NHSACA Carey McDonald Award, NHSACA Dwight Keith Award, and MHSCA Distinguished Service Award.
Mike Quinn, CMAA, Athletic Director at Lakewood High School, notes that “James is the benchmark that all other Downriver athletic directors are striving to be. He is always willing to give of his time, his expertise, and his facilities to create memorable experiences, not only for Grosse Ile, but also for students throughout the Downriver area. James is a true leader in all measures of the term. The Huron League, Region 12, and all Downriver communities are better because of him.”
James is currently president of the Huron League at both the Middle and High School Levels and was named MIAAA Region 12 Athletic Director of the Year in 2020. He has been a long standing member of the MIAAA Public Relations committee and was a past MIAAA Region 12 Alternate representative. Outside of school sports, he continues to assist with the Grosse Ile Sims Foundation Run and the Grosse Ile Rock CF Run.
James has been married to his wife Christine for 35 years and has two children, a son Jerry and daughter Jamey, along with a stepson Lee and two grandchildren, Isaiah and Sophie.
PREVIOUS JACK JOHNSON DISTINGUISHED SERVICE RECIPIENTS
1983 (†) Mrs. Helen Geovanes, Secretary for MHSAA
1984 (*) Al Bush, Executive Director of MHSAA
1985 (†) Hal Schram, Free Press Sports Reporter
1986 (†) Dick Kishpaugh, Historian of HS Athletics
1987 (†) Bruce Redman, President, Redman’s Awards
1988 (*) Walt Bazylewicz, Parochial Schools Service
1989 (†) Jack Moss, Sportswriter
1990 (*) Vern Norris, Executive Director of MHSAA
1991 (*) Richard Maher, WBA Ruster Foundation
1992 (*) Dennis Kiley, AD, Jackson Schools
1993 (*) Dr. Robert Murray, Trenton Public Schools
1994 (*) Warren McKenzie, Asst. Director of MHSAA
1995 (*) Lyndon L. Cronen, First Agency Inc.
1996 (*) Robert “Doc” Stevens, B C Sports Medicine
1997 (*) Judy Hagman, ‘Mrs. A.D.’ Role Model
1998 (*) Dennis Kniola, AD, Stephensville Lakeshore
1999 (*) Jerome Cvengros, Assoc. Director of MHSAA
2000 (*) Dave Dye, WBA Ruster Foundation
2001 (*) John Dudley, ‘Mr. Swimming Meet Manager’
2002 (*) Joe Mahan, Announcer, Timer & Scorer
2003 (*) Dr. Larry Ulmer, Kalamazoo Area Schools
2004 (*) Suzanne Mart in, Asst. Director of MHSAA
2005 (*) Russ Waldo, Visual Sports Network
2005 (*) Robert a Workema, Grand Traverse Resort
2006 (*) Georg e Lovich, Exec. Director of MIAAA
2007 (*) Jean Bell, Midland Dow
2008 (*) Steve Marsh, Midland Schools
2008 (*) Bill Mick, Midland Schools
2009 (*) Hugh Matson, Saginaw Heritage
2010 (*) Bernie Larson, B.C. Pennfield
2011 (*) Dan McShannock, Midland Dow
2012 (*) Meg Seng, Ann Arbor Greenhills
2013 (*) Jan Sander, Warren Woods
2014 (*) Ken Mohney, Mattawan
2015 (*) Lori Hyman, Livonia Stevenson
2016 (*) Gary Oyster, Lapeer
2017 (*) Wayne Welton, Chelsea
2018 (*) Chris Ceresa, Huron Valley
2019 (*) Tim Kluka, Allen Park Cabrini
2020 (*) John E. "Jack" Roberts, Executive Director of MHSAA