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Politics

George Karas, WWII Vet and First Employee of Oakland University, 94

March 9, 2020

ROCHESTER, MI – George Karas, the first employee of Oakland University, passed away on February 26. He was 94 years old. Private funeral services for Mr. Karas have already been held.

Born and raised in Beaver, Pennsylvania, Karas enlisted in the U.S. Navy in July 1943. Among other assignments, he served on the U.S.S. Oxford during the Allied Liberation of Guam in July and August of 1944. He received an honorable discharge from the Navy and enrolled at Michigan State University (MSU) in the fall of 1946.

Later employed by MSU to help manage university facilities, Karas accepted an offer on January 1, 1957, as Physical Plant Director to help build a new university to be called Michigan State University – Oakland (MSUO). He fondly remembered working with Chancellor Woody Varner and MSUO campus planners Milt Baron and Harold Lautner to move the prospective campus from north of Deer Lake on Adams Road to its current location.

In his role as Physical Plant Director, Karas was also responsible for maintaining Meadow Brook Hall and Meadow Brook Estate. He and his wife lived in a cottage on the estate for seven years.

Karas coordinated construction of the Foundation Halls and the student center, and helped plan for the additions of the library, intramural buildings for athletics and Dodge Hall of Engineering. He retired in July 1987 after serving Oakland University for 30 years.

Afterward, he began a career in local politics, accepted a position as groundskeeper for the Detroit Lions, and helped organize the Concours d’Elegance during its 31-year run at Meadow Brook Hall.

Dr. Ora Hirsch Pescovitz, Oakland University President, said of Karas, in a statement released on March 5, “I had the pleasure of meeting him when he visited campus in the summer of 2018, and quickly sensed his love of and dedication to this campus community.

“The University community extends heartfelt condolences to the Karas family and friends during this very difficult time.”

Karas was predeceased by his wife of 66 years Trudy Karas. He is survived by Michael Karas and Phylis, Peggy Philippi and Ken, Paul Karas, and Martha Guella and Jeffrey, as well as his five grandchildren: Kelly Dittmar, Corrie Dillman, Christian Guella, Krystal Karas, and Matthew Guella.

To view an online obituary and to share your condolences, please visit the Modetz Funeral Homes website. Memorial contributions can be made to Meadow Brook Hall/Gardens, 480 S. Adams Road, Rochester, MI 48309, to benefit the outdoor gardens.

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