By Geoff Kimmerly
Second Half editor
Allen W. Bush was a military man and had a military way about him.
And those traits no doubt were invaluable as the former U.S. Marine became a respected national voice during arguably the most transformative era in high school athletics.
Bush, who served as Executive Director the Michigan High School Athletic Association from the fall of 1968 through the summer of 1978, died Monday in Traverse City. He was 90.
Bush oversaw some of the most significant developments in MHSAA history, chiefly the addition of girls sports – MHSAA tournaments existed for nine girls sports when he retired – plus the addition of football playoffs in 1975 and MHSAA tournaments in baseball, ice hockey and skiing.
“He led the MHSAA during simultaneously one of the most stressful and most exciting times as schools responded to federal legislation promoting opportunities for minorities and females,” current MHSAA Executive Director John E. “Jack” Roberts said. “Al Bush was among leaders who saw the opportunities instead of burdens of those laws.”
He began his tenure at the MHSAA on March 1, 1960, as Assistant State Director of Athletics to Executive Director Charles E. Forsythe. Bush’s designation changed to Associate Director in 1963, and on July 10, 1968 he was appointed to replace the retiring Forsythe as leader of the association.
An award bearing Bush’s name is bestowed by the MHSAA each spring to an administrator, coach, official, trainer, doctor, or member of the media who has at least 15 years of experience in Michigan interscholastic athletics with unusually frequent and significant contributions to the MHSAA.
Prior to joining the MHSAA, Bush taught mathematics, coached four sports and served as athletic director at different times during tenures at Battle Creek Central, Kalamazoo University, Dearborn and Bay City Handy high schools. Bush was a graduate of Kalamazoo University and later earned multiple bachelor’s degrees from Western Michigan University and a master’s in school administration from the University of Michigan. He was captain of the football team at WMU and received its Most Valuable Player and Athletic-Scholarship awards as a senior, and later was named Man of the Year in 1975 by WMU’s Alumni W Club.
Bush also studied at Princeton University and the University of Arizona and served six years of active duty with the U.S. Marine Corps during World War II and the Korean War. He was discharged with a rank of first lieutenant.
While at the MHSAA, Bush was a frequent contributor to the National Federation of State High School Associations. He served as chairperson of the committee that wrote the NFHS’s first swimming and diving rule book and also was a representative to the U.S. Olympic Committee.
A memorial service will take place at 11 a.m. Friday, Sept. 13, at Central United Methodist Church in Traverse City.
A summation written by late MHSAA historian Dick Kishpaugh during 1978 said the following of Bush's service to member schools:
"Through all of these varied and complex changes, the MHSAA has met its commitment to a high standard of excellence," Kishpaugh wrote.
"Al Bush is fallible, as we all are, but he needs to make no apologies. The accomplishments speak for themselves."