MUSKEGON, Mich. (WOOD) — If you look up something in the Michigan High School Athletic Association record books, odds are Muskegon native Ron Pesch wrote it and/or has researched it.
“It’s like a mystery,” Pesch said. “…You’re chasing something. You’re trying to get something complete.”
For the past 25 years, Pesch has served as the official historian of the MHSAA by writing articles and by creating, building and helping to maintain the record books.
“Taking submissions from the public, the media and coaches of the various sports. Researching information, trying to verify that this is indeed what happened,” Pesch said. “And then posting it for the public’s consumption.”
It’s a tedious yet rewarding task that evolved out of Pesch’s love of high school football and a Muskegon Community College term paper.
“It was required to complete in 15 weeks,” Pesch recalled. “I decided to do the history of sports at Muskegon, (but) found out that went back to 1895, so I narrowed the field to football.”
At the time, Pesch researched 85 years of Big Reds football.
“My instructors weren’t terribly impressed. They gave me a ‘C-‘ on the project,” Pesch said, smiling. “I’m the first to say it was terribly incomplete. I just accepted the grade as it was and threw the paper in a drawer. I came across it one day and had to choose — am I going keep it, or am I going to toss it?”
Pesch decided not only to keep it, but to complete it.
“I became a computer programmer and decided to computerize the information,” Pesch said, “making it easier to make changes, add information (and) summarize data. Printed that out on old green bar paper.”
After another decade of research, and in honor of his alma mater’s 100th year of football in 1994, Pesch and co-author Marc Okkonen turned the term paper into a book.
“And it became a fundraiser for the Big Red Athletic Foundation,” Pesch said. “And that helped support football here as well as getting the information out to the public. That was the joy of it, to finally see it published.”
While researching in 1984, Pesch met and became friends with well-known Michigan historian Dick Kishpaugh.
“He let me tag along with him and then after about 10 years, he said, well, I’m going to concentrate on the college game, you’re now the state historian for the MHSAA,” Pesch recalled.
Ever since, Pesch has been researching and remembering those of the past for generations to come.
“It’s really … addicting,” Pesch said with a smile. “As you start digging through that stuff, I find great joy in knowing it will be around for generations to come.”