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MSU community mourns the loss of George Perles

EAST LANSING — Michigan State University has announced the death of George Perles, a man who impacted the university both on the football field and through his administrative duties. Perles, a former athletic director, head football coach and member of the Board of Trustees, died peacefully in East Lansing on Jan. 7. He announced in 2017 that he was battling Parkinson's disease. Read reactions to his passing from the university community below. “Coach Perles exuded confidence, conviction and toughness. He really gave his life to Michigan State, all the way till the end. “He welcomed me back to MSU when I first became the head coach here. Not many people have been in these shoes, but he was one of them, and was always extremely supportive every step of the way. He was someone you could lean on. Many times over the past 13 years he would speak to our team. “George was one of the most renowned coaches in America; everybody knew who Coach Perles was and what he brought to the game. He had tremendous success, winning the Rose Bowl and two Big Ten titles, and developed countless NFL players. I first got to know his reputation when I was a graduate assistant at Ohio State. He always brought a blue-collar mentality and really we’ve embraced a lot of things in our program over the years that came from him. He left a legacy and was an impactful figure. “George was a true Spartan and will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Perles family during this difficult time.” “George Perles embraced me from the moment I arrived at Michigan State. He showed me what it meant to be a Spartan, and how to be loyal. Throughout my career, especially as I was getting started, he was one of the people I consulted on any major decision I had to make. “Lupe and I send our deepest condolences to Sally and the entire Perles family. George is the truest Spartan I have ever met.” “George Perles meant a tremendous amount to not only me, but the entire Saban family. He was one of my mentors in this profession, and he gave me my first opportunity to be in a position of leadership as the defensive coordinator at Michigan State. George was always a great friend and someone who I turned to for advice on many occasions. I learned an incredible amount of both football and life from him over the years. "George did an outstanding job at Michigan State building that program. He was a great leader who impacted that transformation at Michigan State from the top down. Those five years at Michigan State, which culminated with a Rose Bowl victory at the end of the 1987 season, showed us the type of foundation necessary to build a program. We are so very close to his family, his wife, Sally, and their children, Kathy, Terry, John and Pat, and they are in our thoughts and prayers. It is a sad day for the Sabans when it comes to losing one of our great mentors and the fantastic memories that we had with them.” “My heart is with the entire Perles family. Former Trustee George Perles dedicated most of his life to service — service to our country and our university. From the classroom to the playing field, and athletic director to trustee, Mr. Perles embodied what it means to be a Spartan. The university is grateful for his decades of faithful service.” “Trustee Perles was a great advocate for Michigan State University, and a warm, dear friend. He loved the University with all his heart, serving in many different capacities. My thoughts are with Sally and the Perles family at this difficult time.” “This is a sad day for our Spartan family. George’s commitment to service and his passion for all things MSU are how I will remember him. Whether it was contributing to the success of our football program as head coach, guiding our athletics department to provide the very best for student-athletes or bringing his passion for this university — his alma mater — to the board table, George’s impact on this university will be long-lasting. My thoughts and prayers are with his wife Sally and the rest of the Perles family during this difficult time.” “George Perles promised my late mother he would take care of her son and make him a man by the time he left Michigan State University. He gave her son a kick in the rear when he needed it and a hug and advice when he sought it. “I will forever cherish the memories I have of Coach Perles both as a player and as a colleague on the MSU Board of Trustees. But I will mostly cherish the memories of our annual Christmas Eve family dinner tradition together in Detroit while he ran the Motor City Bowl. My late mother loved to cook for coach, and he loved her back. “George touched so many lives. He helped so many people. He was fiercely loyal and never forgot where he came from. “I am forever grateful for the impact he has had on my life. My broken heart goes out to Sally, John, Pat and the Perles family. We lost a giant today. A man who loved Michigan State University more than anyone could ever imagine. “Forever he will be my coach. May he rest in peace.” "George was the same no matter where he was at. He was a guy who was so loyal to people and so caring about Michigan State. "I’d go to practice last season and he would be there. He would be there for certain if we lost a game, to encourage everyone. "He was a true Spartan. Everything he did was always in a way to do his best for Michigan State. He looked for creative ways to make the university better. And he was just so loyal and so helpful to everyone he knew." "If there’s one word that epitomizes George, it’s toughness. We didn’t win every game but I can assure you our opponent came away beaten. "I still think of coach, just sayings that he had run through my head daily. I find myself saying the same things to my kids. "His mantra was work hard, keep your mouth shut and good things will happen. "He lived life to the fullest. He lived a good 85 years and accomplished a lot and, more important, impacted the hundreds and thousands of people he led on the field." "When you come into Michigan State, you come in as a boy and by the time he gets everything out of you — as far as working hard, keeping your mouth shut — you leave as a man. On or off the field, you will learn life lessons those years you were under his belt. "He would always say the phrase 'Treat everyone fairly, but not equally.' Some people, you got to kick them in the butt. Others you look at them and you get results. That’s how it is in life. "One of my fondest memories was when he gave me the opportunity to start my first game in 1990 against Iowa. He really wasn’t sure about it, but he said his gut feeling was to give me an opportunity. I had 28 carries and 175 yards and we won the game and we never looked back." Contact Mark Johnson at 517-377-1026 or at majohnson2@lsj.com . Follow him on Twitter at @ByMarkJohnson .