The NIRSA Honor Award Committee is excited to announce the posthumous selection of Mark Fletcher as the recipient of the 2014 NIRSA Honor Award. Mark had been a member of NIRSA since 1977 and was passionately involved in the Association for 32 years, until his passing in 2009. Though his life was too short, his impact and legacy continue to live on. Through his mentoring, leadership, and forward-thinking vision for the Association, he made a number of profound contributions to NIRSA and to the field of collegiate recreation.
Countless students and professionals have benefited from the opportunity to work with Mark through NIRSA and through campus recreation. He mentored students and graduate students, collaborated with professional staff at the University of Utah, University of Denver, and The University of Virginia, and was continuously engaged with his NIRSA colleagues. Steve Young, Campus Recreation Director at Temple University and past NIRSA Foundation Board Chair, recalls, “No one could ever find a better professional to serve as mentor for young or new professionals. For that matter, I would put Mark number one on my list to be a role model for any one of my children.”
Mark strove constantly to support students and professional development. In addition to numerous NIRSA committees, he served as NIRSA State Director for both Utah and Colorado. From 1990-92, Mark served on the NIRSA Board of Directors as Region II Vice President, and he was slated as a candidate for NIRSA President. His contributions were recognized with the first NIRSA Regional Award of Merit in 1990.
His efforts to give back to the collegiate recreation and NIRSA communities lead him to play an integral role in the NIRSA Foundation. He served on the Foundation Board of Directors beginning in 2002, acting as Vice Chair from 2003-04 and as Foundation Board Chair from 2004-05. It is in his honor that the Foundation named its annual Fun Run, which supports the Foundation’s mission. This always highly anticipated event donates all of its proceeds to funding opportunities for members’ scholarship, research, and personal and professional development.
Mark’s dedicated support of the NIRSA Foundation, which operates under the tagline—“Supporting today. Ensuring tomorrow.”—matches his forward-thinking vision for our Association. In 1980, when the collegiate recreation profession began to shift its core focus from intramurals and sport clubs to student programming, he recognized the potential future development of comprehensive recreation centers on campuses and how they could influence student, faculty, and staff recruitment and retention. Mark was also an advocate for NIRSA building a headquarters office. He campaigned for the project and took a very visible role. NIRSA Headquarters (formerly the NIRSA National Center), which broke ground in 1997 in Corvallis, Oregon, came to be, in no small part, because of Mark’s steadfast commitment.
Always a hands-on leader, Mark was dedicated to sharing his knowledge and experiences through NIRSA regional and national conferences. Whether he was serving as presenter, workshop leader, panelist, or host, his presence at conference was guaranteed to be active and valuable. George Brown, Executive Director of University Recreation at the University of Alabama, recalls how “In Region II, Mark was the fixture of knowledge and guidance. He used his classic ‘What’s My Answer’ presentations at conferences to effectively finesse conversations on delicate subjects that would leave everyone better educated at the conclusion.” The always popular presentation had NIRSA members come forward and get asked thought-provoking questions to which they would share different and diverse perspectives. He purposely designed these sessions to engage and involve all levels of students and professionals, and in the end every attendee was better for partaking.
When Mark passed away suddenly in June 2009, at the age of 57, he left behind a University of Virginia Recreational Sports Program that had an impressive 94% undergraduate student participation rate and a plethora of diverse and energizing programming. In 2005, Newsweek had named UVA “the hottest school in the country for fitness.” It was a distinction that gave Mark, and the entire campus rec department, great pride.
Mark’s impact also extended outside of the UVA campus and into his community. In addition to serving on numerous community committees and being an active “Day of Caring” participant, he wasn’t afraid to step in at a moment’s notice and do whatever he could to make things just a little better for the people around him. When the local high school sports fields were deemed unplayable due to an unusually rainy spring, Mark offered the use of the UVA intramural turf field to help them complete their scheduled games. Always a participant and leader through example, Mark attended nearly all of these games, making sure the teams had whatever they needed.
Mark’s dedication and service extended wholeheartedly into his family life. He was active in all of his children’s sports activities, including coaching boys and girls AAU and YMCA basketball, helping with baseball practices, and being a constant presence in the stands, supporting each of their teams. Mark enjoyed a good game of basketball, working out in the gym, or going for a run at home. Like the many other aspired values he lived, he advocated fitness to all around him by example.
Mark’s professional career was fueled by a desire to provide opportunity and community for the students and staff he served. He was a thoughtful individual whose actions reflected his values and integrity. His contributions to NIRSA and collegiate recreation were many. Mark especially treasured the connections and relationships with NIRSA colleagues and students as an integral part of his life and career. The NIRSA family was indeed part of his family.
Basketball coach, John Wooden, once said, “You can’t live a perfect life without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” Mark, without question, lived his life in that fashion. He was an advocate of life-long recreation and fitness for the college and university community. Mark’s legacy of service, mentoring, and exemplary leadership of both strong conviction and character will always be a shining example for us all of NIRSA’s values in action.