Alumnus & leader Lawrence Sierra passes away

May 17, 2017

Lawrence Sierra, a former student athlete, three-time alumnus of the College of Education and leader at Michigan State University, passed away on May 6, 2017.

Sierra came to MSU as a basketball player, later transitioning to soccer, and left with a bachelor’s (1959) and master’s (1960) in Health and Physical Education. He also obtained a doctorate in Higher Education in 1982.

In 1962, he began his 50-year career as a leader for the Intramural Sports and Recreative Services department. In 2012, the department’s name was changed to Recreational Sports and Fitness Services.

As part of his duties, Sierra had oversight of the MSU sailing club from the 1960s-80s. When the board of trustees of the club moved to dismantle in the 1990s, Sierra provided guidance to and documentation for transitioning from a club to the MSU Sailing Center, as it is known today. The center, located on Lake Lansing in Haslett, Mich., expanded during that time, and is now predominantly used as a learning center for classes and other instructional opportunities.

From 1963-94, Sierra was an associate professor in the College of Education, and was instrumental in establishing the master’s degree concentration in Sport Administration in the Department of Kinesiology.

“He is responsible for my career,” said Associate Professor Rick McNeil. Sierra hired McNeil as a student in 1975. The two were very close, seeing each other as family. McNeil has continued his career in Sierra’s legacy as director of MSU Recreational Sports and Fitness Services. “He was more than a mentor and a friend. He touched many people. He left a tremendous, positive legacy for caring for people.”

To celebrate his legacy, during the annual Kinesiology Awards Luncheon, the Lawrence Sierra Award is presented to an exceptional undergraduate student. The award is part of the All-University Awards for Excellence, presented to various undergraduate and graduate students across MSU. Students who receive the award are nominated by faculty in the college, and receive a monetary prize.

While at the university, Sierra also served on academic and athletic councils, among many other academic and professional communities. He was involved in the Big Ten and the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association.

Sierra was a strong believer in equality, and coined the phrase “sports for all,” which is now a mission statement of Recreational Sports and Fitness Services. He believed that regardless of ability, recreational opportunities should be extended to everyone. In recognition for his service at the university, the Lawrence Sierra Sports for All endowment was created to support projects and programs in Recreational Sports and Fitness Services.