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Krannert Executive Forum - Michael Furnish

Michael Furnish

Michael Furnish

President and Chief Executive Officer
Special Olympics Indiana

Michael became involved as a volunteer in Special Olympics in 1973 while working his way through college. He coached a variety of sports, including Team Indiana in the 1979 Special Olympics International Games in Brockport, New York. As a volunteer, he served as a Local Program Coordinator, Area Director, and the 1987 Games at Notre Dame University.

Michael was a member of the founding committee for Special Olympics Unified Sports® where individuals with and without intellectual disabilities train and compete together on a team. He oversaw the first pilot test of Unified Sports® basketball in 1989.

Michael served as a Global Trainer for Special Olympics, Inc. travelling worldwide to assist developing Special Olympics programs. His travel included trips to Russia, Hungary, The Netherland, South Africa, and Grenada.

The organization has grown more than 25% during his tenure, mostly as a result of Michael’s development of a County Management model for outreach that has taken Indiana from involvement of 44 counties to 76. The organization moved to centralized financial management so that standards for athlete opportunities and quality could be funded on a prioritized, statewide basis rather than predicated on only locally generated funding.

Michael pioneered Athlete Leadership Programs involving hundreds of athletes as public speakers, committee members, and coaches. Indiana’s ALPs University is recognized as global model for training athlete leaders through a systematic three-year program of instruction and practical experience. Athletes have served on the organization’s Board of Directors since 1998.

Since 2011, Special Olympics Indiana has become a national pioneer in the development of sports programs for high schools through a partnership with the IHSAA, in which students are engaged in servant leadership and unified teams compete in sanction statewide competition.

Along the way, Furnish has played a role at the national and international level of Special Olympics, currently serving as the Chair of the United States Leadership Council. He is married, has one child and one grandchild. He currently is near the end of a 24 year career as a high school and college football official.