Mike Mushett always assumed he’d grow up to be a teacher and a coach.
The 1970 St. Paul graduate headed to Xavier University in Cincinnati on an athletic scholarship after starring on the football field for the Flyers and figured he would follow the education and athletics path.
But while at Xavier, Mushett worked with children with disabilities while student-teaching at nearby Indian Hills High School in Cincinnati.
That set Mushett down a new path, one that has become a distinguished career that includes more than 30 years of organizing and implementing Paralympic and adaptive sports programs at the community, state, national and international levels.
His career achievements led Mushett to the St. Paul Hall of Fame.
Being inducted with Mushett on Saturday will include the late Harvey Keller (distinguished), the late Charlie Roth (distinguished), Mike Gfell (athletic), Bill Bader Jr. (distinguished) and Jordan Centers-Mayer (athletic).
Inductees will be honored at halftime of Friday’s St. Paul football home game vs. Mapleton, with the induction ceremony slated for Saturday at 5:30 p.m. inside the Social Hall.
“It’s certainly unexpected, but very exciting and humbling,” Mushett said. “I decided at that point as a student-teacher that it was where I wanted to point my life’s work — and after I finished my bachelor of arts (in education), I got my masters in recreation therapy at Central Michigan. That got me started.”
Today, Mushett is the chief executive officer at Turnstone, one of the only free-standing not-for-profit organizations in the United States that provides comprehensive supportive services addressing the needs of people with disabilities. It is located in Fort Wayne, Ind.
Prior to his current position, Mushett was the executive director of Wheelchair and Ambulatory Sports USA — which deals in the implementation of competitive athletic programs for individuals with physical disabilities.
He also served as the director of Paralympic Sports Outreach and Development for the United States Olympic Committee, where he designed and managed programs targeting youth, teens and adults with physical and visual disabilities — including injured veterans and members of the armed forces.
Mushett also directed delegation support operations for the U.S. at the 2008 Beijing, 2010 Vancouver and 2012 London Paralympic Games. He also worked with the Ohio High School Athletic Association in helping set up the first track events for wheelchair athletes, which began at the 2013 state track and field championships in Columbus.
Among his other endeavors, Mushett served as the associate director for Disabled Sports at Georgia State University in Altanta and was instrumental in setting up one of the first intercollegiate wheelchair tennis programs in the country, while also developing and leading numerous conferences and seminars related to sport and physical activity for those with physical disabilities.
“The quality of people is exceptional,” Mushett said about his field. “I guess it’s work but work that I very much enjoy. I pretty much go into work every day of my career looking forward to that particular day.
“I consider myself fortunate to do something that I truly enjoy,” he added.
Among his career highlights, Mushett served as the senior vice president and chief games operations officer for the 1996 Atlanta Paralymic Games.
“That was a big job, but a very rewarding job,” Mushett said. “It’s all been very rewarding, but that is certainly a time period that stands out.”
Mushett, who also holds a certificate from the Olympic Sport Leadership Program from the Northwestern University School of Management, was a standout athlete on one of the greatest St. Paul athletic teams.
After going 10-0 and outscoring teams by a 183-49 margin in 1968 — the Flyers dominated even further in 1969. They outscored their 10 opponents by a 352-56 margin, and were voted the Associated Press Class A state poll champions.
Certainly, the teamwork aspect was huge,” Mushett said of his high school days. “That team was not the biggest, we had two guys that played who weighed over 200 pounds. Of course, that’s not a lot different from today. I don’t think we had that one superstar, but a lot of good players that worked hard and played together as a team. We were close off the field as we were on it.”
“There were a lot of smart guys from that group who are all over the country now doing very successful things,” he added. “A lot of it goes back to Coach Mike (Gottfried). Many of us look at him as a mentor, and I’ve stayed in touch with him throughout my life, as many of my teammates and classmates have. He has a special place in his heart for Norwalk and those of us played for him to a person have a special place for him. He taught us an awful lot and we accomplished a lot more than what was expected.”
On top of his All-Ohio honors in football, as well as earning multiple varsity letters in basketball, baseball and track — Mushett was also regularly on the merit and honor rolls at St. Paul and elected senior class president.
A pioneer in the development and implementation of sport and athletic programs for the physically disabled, some of Mushett’s many honors include the Rotary International Humanitarian Services award, the Nassau County (N.Y.) Medal of Honor, and the Michigan Jaycees Outstanding Young Man of the Year.
As the CEO at Turnstone, Mushett is quite pleased where his career has taken him.
“I think certainly my current position has really allowed me to wind up my career in a great community, and at Turnstone with a wonderful staff and board of directors, a place where I’m able to use the skills and relationships I’ve developed throughout my career,” he said.
“From my perspective, it’s pretty neat that I’ve been able to land in a place I can pull everything together,” Mushett added. “From the relationships, experiences, and continue to collaborate with the Olympic committee, I’m able to tie it all together here at Turnstone. I think that has been pretty special.”
COMING THURSDAY: Mike Gfell will be featured in the fourth part of this series.