NFHS Centennial Celebration

The NFHS Celebrates 100 Years

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The National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS) will be celebrating its 100th year of existence throughout the 2018-19 school year, culminating with the 100th Annual Meeting of the organization June 28-July 2, 2019 in its hometown of Indianapolis.


The year-long celebration began July 2 at the conclusion of the 99th Annual Meeting in Chicago, which, coincidentally, was the home of the NFHS for its first 51 years. A two-minute highlight video was shown to attendees from NFHS-member state associations, and they received a commemorative cup, magnet and lapel pin with the specially designed 100-year logo, which will be used throughout the year.


A landing page has been created on the NFHS website to celebrate the Centennial. Information on the history of the NFHS, schedule of activities and monthly videos will be posted throughout the year.


Several special events are being planned for the 100th Annual Meeting next summer in Indianapolis, which will be held at the JW Marriott and the Indiana Convention Center. The five-day festivities will kick off June 28 with the Welcome Dinner/Open House at the NFHS office in White River State Park.


The induction ceremony of the National High School Hall of Fame will be moved to June 30 during next year’s Annual Meeting to accommodate the closing night Centennial celebration on July 2. The Hall of Fame ceremony and all other events will be held at the JW Marriott, while the closing-night Centennial celebration will be held in the Sagamore Ballroom at the Indiana Convention Center.


Former NFHS and state association executive directors will be invited to attend the July 2 celebration. The evening will be built around the three primary homes of the NFHS – Chicago (1920-71), Kansas City (1979-2000) and Indianapolis (2000 to present). The NFHS office was located in the Chicago suburb of Elgin from 1971 to 1979.


“We are excited to be able to showcase the great work of this organization over the past 100 years,” said Dr. Karissa Niehoff, NFHS executive director. “Many of our member state associations have recently celebrated their Centennials, and those associations have been a big part of our history in providing athletic and activity programs for high school students.”





The NFHS was born on May 14, 1920, when representatives from state high school associations in five states (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan and Wisconsin) met in Chicago to discuss eligibility concerns. Four of the five states (minus Indiana) returned to the 1921 meeting to formally adopt the constitution and became charter members.


Originally organized as the Mid-West Federation of State High School Athletic Associations, the name was changed to the National Federation of State High School Athletic Associations in 1923 as more and more states joined the organization. The organization retained that name until 1970, when “Athletic” was dropped to signify the federation’s involvement in fine arts programs – National Federation of State High School Associations.


L. W. Smith (1920-27) and C. W. Whitten (1927-40) – both from Illinois – were recognized as the first executive directors of the organization, although both served in part-time roles.


H. V. Porter, also from Illinois, was hired as the first full-time executive director in 1940 and served until 1958. He was succeeded by Cliff Fagan of Wisconsin, who served 19 years until 1977. Brice Durbin of Kansas followed Fagan as executive director and served until his retirement in 1993.


Bob Kanaby of New Jersey became the fourth full-time executive director in 1993 and served until 2010, when he was succeeded by Bob Gardner of Indiana, who served until August 1 of this year, when Dr. Karissa Niehoff of Connecticut assumed the reigns as the sixth full-time director.


Throughout its 100-year history, the NFHS has been instrumental in writing playing rules for high school sports. Currently, the organization writes playing rules in 17 sports for boys and girls and publishes about 30 rules publications annually, including rules books, case books, officials manuals and handbooks.


As a way of celebrating the Centennial, special covers that included the 100-year logo in gold were printed for all 2018-19 rules publications. The NFHS has also promoted involvement in high school activity programs and led the way among national sports organizations in focusing on minimizing risk for the almost eight million participants in high school sports.


100th Annual Meeting


“Save the Date Cards” were sent to former state association executive directors, assistant directors and staff members from the Kansas City and Indianapolis offices in July. In January, these individuals will be sent registration information and more detailed information on the 100th Annual Meeting.


Attendees will receive gifts at each of the major events during the five-day meeting, culminating with the July 2 closing-night celebration, which is scheduled to start at 6:00 p.m. The July 2 festivities will include a variety of on-stage recognitions of individuals and events from the three locations, along with time between the staged events for interactive games, eating, visiting historical displays and rekindling friendships.

More information on the 100th Summer Meeting will be available throughout the year.


Photos from the Past 100 Years