Dave and Sue Keilitz have watched many things change at Central Michigan University during the last six decades. Dave, a former baseball player, coach and athletic director, and Sue, a former CMU staff member, can remember a time when only 5,000 students came to campus, compared to today's nearly 20,000.
One thing that hasn't changed: their love for the university, especially CMU Chippewas baseball.
"The quality of the people and the love and the passion that all the people have for Central are what make it extra special." – Dave Keilitz
The couple recently pledged more than $750,000 to CMU's Fire Up for Excellence Campaign, bringing their total giving to the university to over $1 million. Their most recent gift will support both the Keilitz Fund for Athletic Excellence and the Dave and Sue Keilitz Family CMU Baseball Endowment, established in 2010 to enhance CMU baseball facilities such as the clubhouse, stadium and equipment.
The Keilitzes were recognized for their support at a baseball game April 7. Dave's former jersey, No. 34, was retired, and the baseball field received a new name: Keilitz Field.
Dave and Sue Keilitz were recognized for their support at a baseball game April 7. Dave's former jersey, No. 34, was retired, and the baseball field received a new name: Keilitz Field.
An instantly perfect fit
Dave Keilitz met his future mentor, former CMU coach Bill Theunissen, as a high school senior graduating from Midland High School in 1960. He knew immediately he'd found his path forward.
"The second-best decision I ever made in my life was to come here to school," he said. "The best decision I ever made was marrying my wife, Sue."
Keilitz played baseball at CMU from 1961-64 while earning a bachelor's degree in history with a minor in physical education. He would later receive a master's degree in physical education, a specialist's degree in education and in 2005 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree.
"CMU presented me all the opportunities that I've had for my whole life since coming here. Everything started for my professional career, and for everything else, in 1960 by making the decision to come here."
Coaching others to succeed
When he was offered a chance to coach the junior varsity baseball team, Keilitz jumped at the chance to remain connected to CMU and its baseball program.
"I could teach, I could coach, do the things l loved, it was a full-time job, and I could stay at Central, stay in Mount Pleasant, a place I loved. The timing was just absolutely unbelievable," he said.
That position turned into a career that spanned nearly three decades. Dave was promoted to CMU's varsity head coach in 1971 and then to athletic director in 1984. Sue served as a staff member in various offices around campus. Their two sons, Craig and Brad, were raised in Mount Pleasant, cheering for the CMU Chippewas, he said.
Dave's enthusiasm and kindness won the hearts of his players.
"Whether you were a freshman walk-on or a four-year senior starter, he treated everybody the same. He always knew your name and never forgot anybody, whether you were a superstar or the last player on the team," said Dan Rohn, a CMU alum who played baseball under then-Coach Keilitz in 1977.
"He had a tremendous way of getting the best out of you without you ever knowing it," he recalled.
Keilitz led the CMU Chippewas to the NCAA tournament six times and into pre-eminence in the Mid-American Conference. He was named MAC Coach of the Year four times.
A cause worth supporting and celebrating
Keilitz and his family have remained engaged with the university since his retirement in 1994, when he became executive director of the American Baseball Coaches Association. He served as homecoming grand marshal in 2002 and as a commencement speaker in 2005.
In addition, the Mount Pleasant Area Chamber of Commerce recognized Keilitz in February with the 2017 Outstanding Citizen of the Year Award.
Helping to advance the institution is nothing new for the Keilitzes. Dave has been an active member of CMU's Advancement Board for 13 years, and this fall he will become chair.
He also is a member of the Fire Up For Excellence Campaign National Steering Committee.
Along with the baseball program and other athletic teams, the Keilitzes have financially supported programs and departments around the university, such as University Libraries, the School of Music and other academic programs.
"We have a tremendous passion for this university," Keilitz said. "I owe my whole professional career and everything else to this place. We're in a position that we can give back, and we're very happy and proud to be able to do so."
The couple say they have been proud to watch CMU evolve over their 58 years of involvement with the school but are proud that some things stay the same.
"The one thing that has always been constant is the quality of the people," Keilitz said.
"CMU's faculty, staff, administrators and coaches are just outstanding. The quality of the people and the love and the passion that all the people have for Central are what make it extra special."