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Family helps drive Karr’s decision to leave Alaska Fairbanks for Northern Michigan

May 31, 2012
By MATT WELLENS - Journal Sports Editor ( , The Mining Journal

MARQUETTE - In a way, Wednesday was a sweet, yet bitter day for Northern Michigan University's new athletic director, Forrest Karr.

While the Wisconsin native took a step closer to family members in the Midwest, Karr also began saying his good byes to the family he found at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"Personally, it's a little more difficult because I'm leaving people that I love working with," Karr said Tuesday from California. "The last eight years in Alaska have been really special. I certainly won't forget the life changing experiences and the remarkable people I have met there."

Karr was introduced to Wildcat athletics coaches, administrators, staff, supporters and media on Wednesday via a video call inside the Wildcat Room of the Berry Events Center.

Later Wednesday, Karr resigned from his post as athletic director of the Alaska Nanooks, effective June 9. He'll take over at NMU on June 11 with his first days as a Wildcat coming at the a meeting in Detroit among the nine schools who will make up the WCHA come 2013-14.

Karr said he was driven to take the NMU job based on the history of Wildcat athletics, the size of the department and the fact that is has a football program, which the Nanooks lack.

"It's just a good mix of proven coaches, along with talented and up and coming coaches that people are really excited about," Karr said. "Professionally, all the pieces are falling into place. I understand the opportunities and the potential up there. That's exciting."

Karr had a personal drive to become Northern's next athletic director as well because it moved him, his wife Cara and their 2-year-old daughter, Callia, closer to his family.

Karr, 36, grew up just north of Madison, Wis. and his parents still reside in that part of the Badger State just south of Wisconsin Dells on Lake Wisconsin. He has a sister who lives just south of the Wisconsin border in Illinois and a cousin in Minneapolis. Both his sister and cousin have kids similar in age to Callia.

Over the holidays, Karr realized how important it was for Callia to grow up with her cousins, he said.

"Alaska, Fairbanks in particular, for me has been a special and inspirational place," Karr said. "Leaving that and leaving the people I love working with is hard, but I'm going to a place, moving on to this new position, that I'm excited about and it's another great community.

"I'm moving from one great community to another and closer to family. That part of it is very exciting."

Matt Wellens can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 252.



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