George Mulry has a vision, one that guides and drives him every day.

In his role as executive director of the International Volleyball Hall of Fame in Holyoke, Massachusetts, he sees his organization as THE one group that can tie the whole volleyball universe together. And he is bound and determined to see his vision come to fruition.

At first blush, Mulry might seem like an odd person to lead the Hall. Before taking the helm of the organization 11 years ago, he had no experience working at a non-profit. His professional background was as a local realtor. Meanwhile, his volleyball background was as an assistant coach for a Holyoke high school boys team.

He was not exactly out of central casting for a role that requires fund-raising expertise, international relations, and political acumen. 

And when he actually took over as executive director, he was thrust into the role, as they say, like a one-armed paper hanger.

“There had not been an executive director for two-plus years,” Mulry said.  “In that time, it was volunteer run. I had to spend some time cleaning things up and getting systems in place.”

That took up over two years of his tenure.

George Mulry

But from the get-go, Mulry actually turned out to be a perfect fit.

“George is one of the most easygoing, consistent reliable dedicated leaders I have ever worked with,” said Steve Bishop, president of the Hall’s board of Directors, and the Executive Director of the Florida Region of USA Volleyball. “George’s calm, confident approach at the helm has been really key and instrumental in helping us move forward. He is very well-respected in the community and is one of those great non-profit leaders that we are proud to have on board.”

How many Angels can dance on the head of a pin? Mulry’s job is vast. For one, he is the only full-time employee at the Hall. He must rely on a bevy of volunteers, both in the community, and on the IVHF Board to help him out, so persuasion is definitely one of his gifts.

“George is an affable guy who relates to folks on all levels,” said editor Lee Feinswog, who is on the IVHF board of directors. “That makes him perfect for his job as he deals seamlessly with former players, media, money people and politicians. And he really loves our sport and has such strong passion for moving the Hall forward.”

Mulry has to navigate the murky waters of international volleyball with the FIVB and member federations. To say nothing of the numerous challenges here in the United States. So, he has grown into an excellent diplomat. Finally, the Hall is 100% funded by donations so Mulry has to get out his tin cup, hat in hand, and try to get blood from a turnip. Yet, despite all of that, or maybe because of all of that, Mulry LOVES his job. Most days.

“I am absolutely motivated!” Mulry said. “The unique thing about being the only employee is that there is something new every day. I never get bored.”

Mulry was born in the Boston area, and his family moved 90 miles west to Holyoke, known as the “Paper City of the World,” when he was 5 years old. Holyoke was, of course, the place where, in 1895, William G. Morgan invented the sport. And while volleyball was naturally a big deal in the city of 38,000, Mulry aside from playing in a gym class, never had played at a competitive level until he tried out for the varsity team as a junior at Holyoke High School. “I was really fortunate to have a coach at Holyoke High who was willing to take a chance on a junior and it set a different course for my life.”

Mulry went to UMass Amherst to pursue his undergraduate degree. A sports management program under the umbrella of the internationally renowned Isenberg School of Management at UMass helped make him “more analytical, seeing how things work,” according to Mulry.

But he was never far from Holyoke roots, and volleyball, in his heart and mind. Right after his college graduation he moved back home and looked for a job that could afford him an opportunity to be the assistant coach for the Holyoke junior varsity boys team. And so, George gravitated to real estate. He got his brokers license and started his own firm within two years after his graduation.

After seven years as the JV coach and four on the girls side, Mulry started a head coach position, his first, at rival Longmeadow High School, 12 miles south. At the same time the Hall, whose board of directors at that time were all from the New England area, (remember this is the INTERNATIONAL Hall of Fame) was looking to be a bigger presence in the local community and wanted someone on the Board who could assist in starting a local girls tournament.

Enter Mulry, stage right. 

Mulry’s tether to the local community has been very important to the development of the Hall. He is a well-known local figure and has the ear of the mayor, Joshua Garcia, a IVHF Board member who has been instrumental in raising money for the Hall. Another key player has been Bishop, the aforementioned board president.

“After the induction of Rita Crockett (in 2011), Steve Bishop helped open the door to bigger thinking outside of Massachusetts, outside of New England,” Mulry said.

Bishop’s efforts helped to diversify the Board which has been crucial in raising its profile. It took the Hall 13 years, in 1998, before it’s first international honoree, legendary Japanese player/coach Yasutaka Matsudaira was inducted. But beyond induction rituals, the IVHF had no substantive relationship with the FIVB.

And there-in lies a huge priority for both Mulry and Bishop going forward. They both would love more international input.

“We would like to have the ability to have some of our induction ceremony activities in partnership with the FIVB on the world stage,” Bishop remarked. “Every couple of years the FIVB has a World Congress, and that would be a great venue to have the inductees recognized. It gives more recognition to the inductees and (in turn) credibility to the Hall.”

Another major task lies ahead as well.

“The biggest step for us at the Hall is to get our archives in order,” Mulry said. “We want our material to be searchable from anywhere in the world on the internet. We have started to catalog and digitize with some new equipment. We want to get those stories out there and tell them in an engaging way. We strive to be the authority on the history of volleyball.”

Under the leadership of Mulry and Bishop, the Hall has “wildly” outgrown its space in Holyoke. The museum itself is 4,000 square feet, considerably shy of the 40,000 that the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame has at its disposal in nearby Springfield, only nine miles south on the I-391. Mulry envisions a larger space ultimately to “host events, tournaments, and showcases. It would be a good way to raise money and awareness of the Hall and leverage the great local support.”

One thing the Hall has that makes it unique in the volleyball world.

“The IVHF is truly an independent organization, the ONE group that can tie the WHOLE volleyball universe together,” Mulry emphasized. “We have no skin in the game financially from any of these organizations so that we can share anybody’s stories. We are a safe space for the sport.”

For more on the International Volleyball Hall of Fame and how to buy tickets for the October 21, 2023, induction celebration:


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