Local residents earn spots on the Michigan Sports Legacy Conservancy

By: Mark Vest | C&G Newspapers | Published March 22, 2021






BIRMINGHAM/WEST BLOOMFIELD — The Michigan Sports Legacy Conservancy recently elected two local residents as chairman and vice chairman on the organization’s board of directors.

Birmingham resident Andrew Harris was elected chairman, with West Bloomfield resident Vincent Kirkwood elected as the vice chairman. Both are volunteer positions.

The two were elected via Zoom at the group’s 2020 annual meeting in December.

The Michigan Sports Legacy Conservancy is a nonprofit organization, and according to Kirkwood, its main purpose is to interpret, preserve and educate on the history of sports in Michigan.

“That looks like several things,” Kirkwood said. “It looks like artifacts. It looks like coming into an area and talking about the history of Michigan sports. That looks like education, where we can do programs inside schools that focus on the preservation and history of sports.”

Harris was on the Birmingham City Commission 2015-2019, but he opted not to run for re-election due to the challenge of devoting time to the work.

“I was looking for a different public service endeavor that would align with my passions and learned of the MSLC and what it does to preserve our rich sports history in Michigan, to leverage the benefits of sports to young people throughout the state,” Harris said. “To be able to now be on the board, be chairman, and lead our efforts is very exciting.”

Harris, who is married and has two sons, graduated from Birmingham Seaholm High School before going on to attend the University of Michigan and Wayne State University’s law school, where he earned a master’s degree in law.

He is currently a commercial litigation attorney.

Kirkwood, who is also married with two children, currently serves on the West Bloomfield Parks and Recreation Commission.

Prior to earning bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Wayne State, he graduated from Berkley High School.

Kirkwood is working on earning a Ph.D. in sport leadership from Concordia University in Chicago, primarily via online class work.

He works as an associate professor of sport management and promotion at Cleary University in Howell, and he also does some teaching at Wayne State.

Kirkwood said he is a big sports fan and has previously worked in the professional ranks, including with the Cleveland Cavaliers of the NBA.

Despite all he has going on, Kirkwood was drawn to the opportunity to be part of the MSLC, which he joined in 2020.

“The Michigan Sports Legacy Conservancy was right up my alley when I heard about it, heard about the mission,” Kirkwood said. “My roots are here in Michigan. I said I’ve got (to) be part of this organization that is preserving so much of the rich history that we have here in Michigan, from Tiger Stadium to the Pontiac Silverdome. Not just those facilities, but those players that played during that time — the memories, the artifacts and things like that.”

From Harris’ perspective, one of the primary benefits of sports is the sense of community it can provide, regardless of somebody’s race, economic status or political affiliation.

“I think a lot about American culture,” he said. “There are so many divisions that just appear to get wider and wider. I think about what brings people together, whether it’s your Little League team or a different youth sports team, your connection to your college team, or on a broader scale, your connection to a professional team. (It) really brings people together in a good way. … I’m hoping in the years ahead, we can leverage that community benefit and do our part to enhance a sense of community through sports, whether it’s in the schools (or) through historical artifacts.”

Kirkwood said artifacts are stored at the MSLC’s office in Farmington Hills, at two displays located at the Detroit Police Athletic League, and storage spaces.

Since being a student manager for Wayne State’s men’s basketball team more than a decade ago, Kirkwood said he has never been out of sports.

“It started as a volunteer situation back in 2006 (with Wayne State),” he said. “Now here we are, 2021. I’m an associate professor of sports (and) I’m working on my Ph.D. in sport leadership. To be able to do the things that I do as a career, and even as a service person with parks and rec and the Michigan Sports Legacy Conservancy, it’s really important to me.”

Harris said the MSLC was started in 2017. He shared something he would like to accomplish during his time with the organization: “an opportunity for people in Michigan to share with us, whether it’s online, recording or writing, their best memories of sports, whether it involves themselves, family or community, and compiling the best of those someday and making (them) into a book to really illustrate how special these Michigan sports stories can be,” Harris said. “That’s kind of a long-term aspiration.”

Something that has already been achieved by the MSLC is providing 10 grants to 10 local high schools, each $500.

Kirkwood said it is called the Everyone Can Play Foundation Grant Program.

The money can be used for equipment and personal protective equipment supplies during COVID-19.

“When I go look at the schools, give out those checks and raise money for MSLC so that kids can play during COVID, (there’s) nothing like it,” Kirkwood said. “It’s more fulfilling for me than even working with the Cavs and being amongst professional athletes. Doing stuff like that makes a huge difference in the community, in Michigan as a whole. I think the MSLC’s doing a great job with that.”

Harris shared his rationale as to why preserving and sharing the history of Michigan sports are important.

“I think it’s aligned with why history is important in general,” he said. “Sports fans’ memories are some of the most cherished thoughts and feelings that they have. ... (It) really enriches people’s lives when you reflect on it yourself. If you really are a fan of sports and interested in what other people’s passions are, I think learning about that from other people is also meaningful.”

For more information, visit mislc.org.