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Vern Norris, a long-time executive with the Michigan High School Athletic Association, died Monday morning at the age of 89.

The MHSAA announced the death on its website.

Norris was the MHSAA’s executive director from the fall of 1978 through the summer of 1986, according to an article written by Geoff Kimmerly on mhsaa.com.

“He was genuinely interested in people and their backgrounds and their families,” said Jack Roberts, who succeeded Norris as executive director, and remains in that post today. “He had good friends. He was good at being a friend, and colleague. I think he genuinely cared about relationships between people.”

An award has been given in Norris’ name since 1992, handed out to a veteran sports official.

“Vern was respected and admired widely by contest officials, and it was because of that that I asked the Representative Council to approve an award for leaders who were especially involved in mentoring and training officials,” Roberts said. “A total of 26 officials have received the Norris Award, and more than 10,000 officials have been honored at our annual banquet recognizing a group of contributors especially close to his heart.”

Norris started at the MHSAA in 1963, as assistant state director of athletics. He was promoted to associate executive director in 1968, and executive director in 1978.

After leaving the MHSAA, Norris was commissioner of the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Association from 1987 until he retired in 1992.

Norris was a graduate of Grand Rapids Godwin Heights High School, earned a bachelor’s at Western Michigan and a master’s at the University of Michigan.

Visitation will be from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Estes-Leadley Greater Lansing Chapel, and a service will be at 11 a.m. Friday at Trinity Lutheran Church in Lansing, according to the MHSAA.

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