MARQUETTE - From the time former Northern Michigan University athletic director Ken Godfrey went on medical leave up until his resignation on May 10, university president Les Wong took on more and more of a visible role with the Wildcat athletic department.
When news broke - whether it be a change in league affiliation or change in coaches - Wong was at the forefront, not just as a cheerleader, but as the face of the university and athletic department.
Behind the scenes, however, was the soft-spoken, late-night grinding duo of Steve Reed and Bridget Berube.
"I think no one will ever understand the call of duty that those two did," Wong said. "The work that they did was priceless and I think the staffing will be stronger because of that experience."
For 19 months, Reed and Berube split the Godfrey's duties, with Reed officially taking the title of interim athletic director until the hiring of Forrest Karr from Alaska-Fairbanks.
There was nothing interim - or temporary - however, about Reed's tenure as head of the athletic department, which ran from Oct. 18, 2010, until Karr's first day on the job on June 11.
During that span, NMU hired a new football coach, switched hockey leagues and lost two beloved, longtime department members, among other things.
"It's been a busy 19 months," Reed said.
Equipment manager John Tessaro passed away on Nov. 11, 2010. That same month, sports information director Dave Faiella suffered a heart attack, which resulted in his death on Dec. 1.
College hockey's summer of conference realignment began in March 2011 with the announcement of the Big Ten hockey conference and the resignation of CCHA commissioner Tom Anastos days later.
In July, NMU made its move in the college hockey shuffle by announcing its intentions to leave the CCHA for the WCHA in 2013-14, just days after the formation of the National Collegiate Hockey Conference. By the time the puck dropped on the 2011-12 season, NMU learned four more current conference rivals would be joining it, and the CCHA would cease to exist following the 2012-13 season.
On Nov. 29, the athletic department announced it would not be renewing the contract of head football coach Bernie Anderson and less than 24 hours later, defensive coordinator Randy Awrey had resigned and offensive coordinator Chris Ostrowsky was promoted to head coach.
The United States Olympic Education Center went through its fair share of changes as well in Reed's 19 months as AD with the B.J. Stupak Scholarship being cut, the retirement of director Jeff Kleinschmidt and the departure of two programs - boxing and women's freestyle wrestling.
NMU associate athletic director of programming Brian Gaudreau took over as interim director of the USOEC, while at the same time, retaining his role as the head of the recreation department.
"Every day was a new adventure, a new challenge," Reed said. "I think we've tried to move deliberately. Sometimes we've asked people to be patient so we could research the facts and decide what was the best course for Northern Michigan University athletics. I think we've done a good job of that. I'm proud of the efforts not just of our administrative and management team, but every individual in our department."
Berube said because of the team approach under Godfrey, things weren't too different. People just had to take on extra responsibilities.
For instance, Reed, the school's associate AD of operations, took the lead on game management and the random requests that would typically land on Godfrey's desk. Berube, the department's senior woman administrator and associate AD in charge of compliance, took care of the day-to-day AD functions. She also oversaw the sports information department and assisted there before Calvin Larson was promoted to take over the department.
When it came time for any major decisions within the department, Berube said the department put its head together and came to a consensus as a group.
"You have to respect the tremendous undertaking," NMU head coach Walt Kyle said.
"They were not only doing their jobs, but they were doing Ken's job. For them to take that on, they did it because of how much they care about the university and the athletic department here.
"They made difficult decisions and it takes a lot of courage to do that when you're in that kind of position."
Reed and Berube said they both learned a lot about themselves in the past 19 months, but most of those lessons come on the personal side of the spectrum.
For Reed, his term as interim AD validated his time in Marquette and at NMU. Reed said he's not sure he could have landed in a better place.
As for Berube, she said she's learned to put down the cell phone and embrace life outside of work.
"You say it all the time, 'It could have been any of us,'" she said. "I've been stepping away from it because literally what people have seen with Ken, it could have been any of us and it could be any day. It's like, 'Don't sweat it.'
"Last year in his first year that he was gone, we all kind of said, 'You can't complain about your job or the hours you work because he wishes with everything he has he could be working and doing those hours and taking everything on.'
"We've tried to learn from it on the personal side of things and leave the cell phone at home, not trying to check it all the time."
Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org