Former NMU Athletic Director Ken Godfrey Passes Away

Former NMU Athletic Director Ken Godfrey Passes Away

Release courtesy of Northern Michigan University

MARQUETTE, Mich. – Ken Godfrey, Northern Michigan University’s Athletic Director from 2003 to 2011, passed away Wednesday (April 17) night following a long battle with cancer and suffering from a graph-versus-hosts disease from his bone marrow transplant. He was 64.

The funeral arrangements are being handled by Canale Tonella Funeral Home and will be available soon at

"It is never easy to say goodbye to a Northern Michigan University colleague,” NMU President David Haynes said. “Through his three decades of service to the university, Ken Godfrey impacted the lives of many people, especially NMU student-athletes and coaches, and made a significant mark on NMU Athletics and Recreational Sports. He bled green and gold and was a great Wildcat. Our thoughts and prayers are with Ken's family at this time."

A native of Maywood, Ill., Godfrey, was recently inducted into the NMU Sports Hall of Fame after working over 32 years in various roles in the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Recreational Sports. He started as a graduate assistant in 1978 and was the Athletic Director/Special Assistant to the President through May 2011. 

Director of Athletics, Forrest Karr said, “Every decision Ken made during 32 years working for the university focused on what was best for students, student-athletes and student-employees. His passion for NMU was second to none and he made our community a better place to live, study and work.”

Ken and his wife Kathie have two sons—Ken and Keith—and two daughters—Kristine and Kimberly. All four are Northern graduates. Ken and Kathie also have four grandchildren.

Godfrey was hired as the Director of Athletics in June 2003. He hired six active coaches: Matt Granstrand, Walt Kyle, Troy Mattson, Jenny Ryan, Heidi Voigt and Dominic Yoder.

Godfrey led many initiatives during his time at NMU. He served on the GLIAC Executive Committee and Chair of the CCHA Executive Committee. Godfrey was also a member of the National Intramural Recreational Sports Association, Marquette Kiwanis Club, Lake Superior Community Partnership Board of Directors and Recreational Tourism Commission.

The Superior Dome, Vandament Arena and Berry Events Center all opened during Godfrey’s tenure and his leadership and oversight of the facilities developed them into some of the best facilities in NCAA Division II. 

NMU received two awards for its Fall Sports Kickoff event held before the first home football game of the season, an idea formulated by Godfrey. In 2008, the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA) selected Northern as the inaugural winner of the National Community Engagement Award of Excellence. NMU also received the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Community Engagement award in the 2009-10 season for the same event.

Godfrey earned a bachelor’s degree in social science from Illinois State University in 1971 and a master’s degree in recreation from NMU in 1984. Prior to his time at Northern, he was a junior high teacher, coach and school administrator in Maywood.

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