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The North Wind is an independent student publication serving the Northern Michigan University community. It is partially funded by the Student Activity Fee. The North Wind digital paper is published daily during the fall and winter semesters except on university holidays and during exam weeks. The North Wind Board of Directors is composed of representatives of the student body, faculty, administration and area media.

Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Students protest against Israel-Hamas war with campus encampment
Dallas WiertellaApril 30, 2024

Past NMU administrators remembered

Among their co-workers, both former NMU President Dr. Bill Vandament and former athletic director Ken Godfrey were known to have been passionate about one simple thing: students.

For Vandament, who passed away on Saturday, April 20 at the age of 81, that meant direct engagement in the student body.

For Godfrey, who passed away on Wednesday, April 17 at the age of 64, that meant student participation on  campus, whether through employment, athletics or simply taking part in campus events.

According to Steve Reed, who is a longtime friend of Godfrey’s and was at NMU when Godfrey and Vandament formed a working relationship during the construction of the Superior Dome, which was finished in 1991. Vandament served as president of NMU from 1991 until 1997, and helped with the many improvements and additions that needed to be made to the Superior Dome after it’s initial construction.

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“I know for Ken, one of the challenges that he was really faced with was the daunting task of creating the policies and procedures and operational guidelines in the use of the Superior Dome,” said Reed, who is also the senior associate director of NMU athletics. “That was the time period when he worked closely with President Vandament and I know he very much appreciated Dr. Vandament’s support. Dr. Vandament also gave him the freedom by saying ‘OK we really need to do this down there,’ and [Godfrey] was able to put operational policies into place that were so much needed to make that a viable facility.”

Along with the Superior Dome project, the pair also oversaw the construction of the Vandament Arena and Berry Events Center during their time at NMU, which for Godfrey spanned 32 years— from 1978 to 2011. Godfrey retired from NMU in May 2011 as a result of an ongoing battle with cancer. He had served as athletic director and special assistant to the president since 2003, and had also served various roles within the intramural and recreational sports department prior to that.

According to Reed, one could measure Godfrey’s significance and lasting legacy at NMU by the number of former student athletes and employees who not only learned valuable lessons from him while at NMU, but came back to thank him for it later.

“Some of these individuals came back here or wrote a letter, and I know what Ken always valued so much were people saying ‘Do you remember when you disciplined me in this way or when we worked together on this project?’” said Reed, who is also the senior associate director of NMU athletics. “It didn’t matter whether things started out as a negative or a positive — at the end of the day they really learned a valuable lesson at some point and they shared that with him. That’s what meant so much for him was when people would say ‘thank you so much for teaching me something.’”

Vandament’s relationship with students was very similar to that of Godfrey. According to Russell Magnaghi, who was a coworker and friend to Vandament, the former president was strictly “pro-student.”

“When my wife and I were putting the museum exhibits in, we probably could’ve hired student interns for free,” Magnaghi said. “He said ‘absolutely not, everyone gets paid’ and he was paying for it. All the students were paid to work for us. He was just out there and involved with the students.”

Magnaghi shared an anecdote of Vandament, saying that when he was new to the university, Vandament stood in the lower level of the Olson Library — which is now the Starbucks Lounge — and tried to find a way to create a lounge area in lieu of the office space that was planned for it.

“The engineering office wanted to take the open space by (the current) Starbucks and utilize the space as office space and Vandament said no,” Magnaghi said. “He had the statistics and he said ‘I want an open space for the students and now it is the Starbucks area.’ The students that are down there enjoying that now can thank him for that.”

Vandament was also an advocate for sports including the USOEC program and the volleyball team.

“He was for USOEC,” Magnaghi said. “His whole thing is it would help kids. At the time there were obviously people on campus saying it was a waste of money and who cares. He stuck to his guns. He wanted to bring the whole campus together, bring the students together.”

For Godfrey, who created lasting relationships with many past students, bringing students and faculty together and establishing longtime friendships were both things he will be remembered for.

“We met each other when we were both freshman in college at Illinois state university,” Reed said of his friendship with Godfrey, which began in the late 60s. “We both had a love of sports and we attended athletic events religiously down there. I think it was just a unique situation that developed and I don’t think many people are able to have that rare opportunity to end up working together with a close friend for many years during your lifetime.

“We were able to come here to Northern and ended up spending 37 years here. I mean how often do you get to do that?”

According to Reed, Godfrey began at NMU as a graduate student in the health, physical education and recreation department, while Reed himself worked for the intramural sports program initially. Godfrey graduated with a Masters degree in recreation at NMU in 1984.

During his time as athletic director, Godfrey hired six coaches to the NMU athletics staff: Heidi Voigt, Dominic Yoder, Matt Granstrand, Jenny Ryan, Walt Kyle and Troy Mattson.

“Over the years that he was my boss, it was very important to me to be able to just go in and talk with him,” said Yoder, who was hired on by Godfrey as the head NMU volleyball coach in the spring of 2007. “He became a father figure to us —  to me — and he offered a lot of advice and really helped to steer the program (volleyball) in the right direction.”

“I only knew him for a short period of time but he was just very passionate and had a way of motivating staff to be passionate about Northern Michigan University and about athletics and being able to really do your best.”

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