M Letterwinners Club Fall Tailgate
By Dan Goldberg
It was a perfect day for the M Letterwinners Club Annual Fall Tailgate held on Saturday September 24th at Crisler Arena. More than 150 M Club members and their guests turned out in the warm sunshine for an afternoon of music, food, fun, and an opportunity to reconnect with fellow letterwinners. The highlight of the event was the awarding of Honorary M’s to Carey Larabee, John Rotche, and Marcia Pankratz, followed by the prestigious Ufer Award presented to Stephen Ross. President Bob Stites spoke about the positive contributions that each individual has made to UM athletics. All of the award winners reflected on how their time at Michigan has shaped their lives both personally and professionally. A resounding 49-10 victory over Penn State made it a great day to be a Michigan Wolverine.
Honorary M Award Recipients:
Carey Larabee: Carey quite simply, lives, sleeps, and breathes Michigan sports. He is a friend to many, and you can often spot Carey by the tunnel, or corner of the ice rink greeting the many Wolverine fans. Before enrolling at UM, Carey was a patient at C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital undergoing an intensive occupational therapy program. It was at this time that he received a visit from some UM athletes through the Michigan from the Heart Program. This interaction with the student-athletes left a strong impression on him. After seeing how much happiness the program brought to the many pediatric patients, he knew he wanted to be a part of it. Once released from the hospital, Carey continued to give back by volunteering on a weekly basis, and he continued in this capacity for a period of 8 years. The impact on the large number of student-athletes who have interacted with him has been immeasurable. Upon receiving his honorary M Letter Jacket, Carey was quoted as saying “I’m pretty sure they infused me with maize and blue blood!” Carey currently resides in Orlando, Florida and works as a guest services representative at Disney’s Wide World of Sports. He still strives to put smiles on children’s faces by making their sports dreams come true.
John Rotche: John’s path to Michigan started in high school when he committed to play football in 1985 for legendary coach, Bo Schembechler. Before arriving on campus, he suffered a spinal cord injury that ended his playing career and left him a quadriplegic. He eventually regained full movement and was able to walk out of the hospital. Rotche commented, “When I got hurt, the only coach I heard from was Bo.” Coach Schembechler told Rotche, “I still want you on the team.” Bo made him a member of the coaching staff, where he was one of the youngest coaches in the NCAA. Rotche eventually graduated from Michigan with a degree in Sports Management, along with a Rose Bowl ring.
Following graduation, Rotche created Team Blue, which provided internships and real-world training opportunities within the football program. After holding executive level positions at Domino’s Pizza and Krispy Kreme, John purchased a small air duct cleaning business from his brother-in-law in 2002. He saw the importance this business could have, especially for children who were suffering from asthma and other breathing problems. He eventually took this company public and within a few years grew DUCTZ to be the largest air duct cleaning business in the nation. Two years after selling DUCTZ, John’s next venture was the creation of HOODZ, a kitchen exhaust cleaning company. HOODZ also became the largest company of its kind in the nation. In 2012, John was named President of Title Boxing Club International. Title Boxing Club is one of the fastest growing group fitness clubs in the country and John currently serves as Chief Executive Officer. Finally, John also holds the title of Associate Director of Football Operations under Michigan Head Coach Jim Harbaugh. In this role, John was tabbed to help mentor incoming football players, and to assist in the players’ transition to post football life. He also resurrected the Team Blue program, which now has over 80 interns. Team Blue provides both scholarship and academic credit for those students enrolled in the internship. In 2012, John was honored with the International Franchise Association Entrepreneur of the Year Award joining past award winners Fred DeLuca (Subway), J.W. Marriott (Marriott), Tom Monahan (Domino’s Pizza) and Frank Carney (Pizza Hut).
Marcia Pankratz: When you think of sustained coaching excellence at Michigan, Marcia Pankratz’s name certainly comes to mind. Coach Pankratz is currently in her 17th season as Michigan’s Head Field Hockey Coach, where she has compiled an overall record of 242-110 and 82-34 in Big Ten play, making her the winningest coach in the program’s history. She has won seven Big Ten regular season titles, and has been named Big Ten Coach of the Year five times. Pankratz has also received NFHCA West Region Coach of the Year honors on 4 occasions. She has produced 20 All-Americans and has had 15 athletes named Big Ten Player of the Year. Michigan Field Hockey reached a pinnacle in 2001 when Pankratz led the team to the national championship, posting a 2-0 win in the final game over Maryland. This was the first national title by a women’s team in the history of UM athletics. Pankratz was a fine player in her own right, earning All-American and All-Big Ten honors at the University of Iowa. She also participated as a member of the U.S. National Team at the 1988 Seoul Olympic Games, and 1996 Atlanta Olympic Games, where she was the leading U.S. goal scorer. She was inducted into the U.S. Field Hockey Hall of Fame in 2004. Michigan’s rise to prominence as a national field hockey power is a direct result of Coach Pankratz’s expertise, dedication and tenure as head coach. Pankratz, upon receiving her honorary M Letter Jacket commented “I am so proud of this jacket and to join those who have earned it.”
Ufer Award Recipient:
Stephen M. Ross: These few words can’t capture what Stephen Ross has meant to the University of Michigan. He has given both his time and his financial resources to help Michigan continue its tradition of excellence as “leaders and best.” He has, to date, donated more than $313 million dollars to Michigan, making him the largest donor in school history. Through his generosity he has transformed UM’s academic and athletic facilities into some of the finest in the nation. In 2004, when he made his first $100 million donation to the business school, the school was renamed The Stephen M. Ross Business School. “What people may not know is the Ohio State business school is named after my uncle,” (Max Fisher) Ross said. “When then dean, Bob Dolan, asked me if I would be interested in the business school, of course I wanted to one-up my uncle. My mother went to Ohio State, so what better way to show her that I succeeded?” He has since given another $100 million to the school bearing his name.
In addition, his lead donation of $5 million led to the establishment of the Ross Academic Center, where current student-athletes can study and receive academic assistance. Another $100 million donation to athletics followed, which helped provide state of the art facilities suitable for training and hosting high-level state, national, and international competitions. As a result, the athletic campus is now named the Stephen M. Ross Athletic Campus.
Mr. Ross was raised in Detroit and attended Mumford High School and the University of Florida. He eventually transferred to the University of Michigan Business School where he earned a degree in accounting in 1962. He later earned a J.D. at Wayne State in 1965. He is currently Chairman and Majority Owner of The Related Companies, a global real estate development firm he started in 1972. The Related Companies are the largest owner of luxury residential properties in New York. In addition, he has developed the Time Warner building and the Hudson Yards Redevelopment Project. An avid sports fan, Mr. Ross is the principal owner of the Miami Dolphins and Hard Rock Stadium. At the M Club Tailgate Ross told the audience, “being on campus is great, but there’s nothing better than giving back.” He has certainly held true to his promise.
Congratulations to all of the award winners and thank you for all that you have done for Michigan. Go Blue!
The Letterwinners Club was formed in 1913. The oldest living letterwinner is 97 years old. There are currently over 9,200 living letterwinners . A letterwinner resides in every U.S state and in 41 countries. Join us!