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Leo Burnett Creates Scholarship to Honor Colleague

It is such an honor to receive a scholarship in memory of someone who was such a leader

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A dedicated family man. Funny—really, really funny. Someone who truly loved what he did. A mentor. A Spartan: loud and proud.

These are some of the qualities people remember about George Katsarelas (’82, CAS). It was during George’s MSU days that he developed his passion for smart marketing and big ideas—which launched into an advertising career full of them. And yet as good as George was at creating and developing great ideas, he was equally adept at doing the same with colleagues. As an executive creative director at Leo Burnett Advertising Agency Detroit Office, he was renowned for his ability to lead, nurture and mentor others.

Katsarelas died in 2009 and his co-workers sought a special way to remember a very special colleague and friend. An MSU scholarship made perfect sense. With a $30,000 leadership gift from the agency, the MSU George Katsarelas Endowed Memorial Scholarship was established to benefit MSU Advertising students. 

Senior Tess Maurici, who dreams of running her own agency someday, has the distinction of being the first recipient. “It is such an honor to receive a scholarship in memory of someone who was such a leader,” she said. Jeff Cruz of Leo Burnett participated in the same interview, noting that George had a knack for helping people realize their dreams.

“Anyone who knew George would say he was creative by trade, and he was even better with people,” Jeff said. “He could see potential in people, and he would want to foster the next generation of creatives. We had to make this scholarship happen.”

The advertising agency is working to grow the fund through fundraisers, wristbands and campaigns to encourage everyone who knew George to get involved. Leo Burnett employees who contribute have their gifts bolstered by a company match. “The more students we can help, the better,” Jeff said. “For us, this is about George: how he approached life, how he treated people, how he taught people in the business.”

Katsarelas was president of the Detroit Creative Director’s Council and a leader in the Detroit advertising community. He is survived by his wife Mary, sons Max and Nick, and daughter Elizabeth.

For more information or to contribute to the George Katsarelas Endowed Memorial Scholarship, go to or contact Assistant Director of Development Rebecca Pagels at (517) 432-5672 or by e-mail at