Cliff is the consummate sports contributor in the area of secondary athletics and activities in Washington state. He dedicated his professional life to students and their activities. He began his career as a teacher and coach at Monroe High in 1951 and later served in several administrative positions including principal at Monroe, Snohomish, and Mariner high schools. He began his Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA) service as a member of its northwest association’s executive board from 1961 to 1968. He was on the WIAA Executive Board from 1968-75. He served as an administrative assistant with WIAA before being named its Executive Director in 1982, a position he held for 11 years until 1993. He served on the National Federation of High School Associations (NFHS) Executive Board from 1988-91 and was that Board’s President from 1990-91.
As WIAA Executive Director, the state restructured the football playoffs, developed the High Five drug education program, placed a renewed emphasis on sportsmanship, and developed a student scholarship/participation recognition program. For his outstanding work, Cliff has received numerous awards including the NWIAA Hal Moe Meritorious Award, WIAA Meritorious Service Award, WIAA Gareth Giles Award, WSU Alumni Achievement Award, Everett Herald Outstanding Achievement in Sports Award, and National Federation Citation Award. In 2004, he was an inaugural inducted in the WIAA Hall of Fame. The Cliff Gillies NWIAA Student Award is presented each year to two senior athletes at each high school. It honors Cliff’s commitment to education and student activities with criteria recognizing scholarship, citizenship, and participation in student activities.