2001 Mintonette Medallion of Merit Award Winner
Biography (Current at time of award):
Karen Keirstead has a distinguished history of community service, and was the key figure in the effort to organize a permanent Volleyball Hall of Fame. In the early Eighties, a Hall of Fame was the dream of the Chamber of Commerce's "Chargers" Committee to promote Holyoke as the "Birthplace of Volleyball". Memorabilia was exhibited at Wistariahurst Museum, creating a Hall of Fame, but no honorees were selected and no distinct Hall of Fame established. With the 1984 US Men's Olympic Gold Medal win, volleyball fever swept the nation and Holyoke and it was time to act on the embryonic plan.
In that same year, Keirstead was recruited by Allan Sonoda, Hall of Fame advocate and current director, to serve as public relations director for the Hall of Fame. Her first responsibility was to organize the inaugural induction ceremony, in 1985. She raised funds for induction, secured local and national support and invited USA Men's Coach Doug Beal to serve as keynote speaker.
Keirstead, tapping into her community service background and connections, recruited community leaders to join what would become a highly motivated, working Board of Directors. And, with the help of Mayor Ernie Proulx, things began to happen. A more comprehensive exhibit opened in City Hall in 1985 and the USA Cup competition came to town, with large crowds flocking to the Civic Center in Springfield to see the USA against the world's best teams.
After these successes, Keirstead and the Board of Directors set out to establish a permanent exhibit hall. The State was building "Heritage State Park" and a historic building was available onsite. The City of Holyoke granted money to the fledging museum and Keirstead and the Board worked on a plan for the new facility. The exhibit hall was opened in 1987 in the same building as the current facility and the USA Cup was brought to town again to help christen the new Hall.
During her tenure, Keirstead served as a Director from 1984-1987, President from 1987 to 1989 and 1991 to 1993 and Executive Director from 1993 to 1998. Keirstead's most important accomplishment was to make the Hall of Fame a professional establishment. She recruited an active Board of Directors, conducted orientation and training sessions, established meeting schedules, and rewrote the bylaws. She wrote job descriptions for officers and committee chairs, created standing committees, developed a goal-setting process and instituted financial oversight.
The culmination of her efforts was seen in the highly successful 1995 Centennial Year. She served on the steering committee that planned and implemented Centennial Year activities, including a Volley "Ball", the Men's NCAA Collegiate Championship, the U.S. Open Championship, the NCAA Women's Division I Championship and the American Volleyball Coaches Association annual meeting.