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President’s Medal awarded to 1988 alumnus Perry Reese, Jr.

PRESIDENTS AWARDMuskingum University has granted its President’s Medal to 1988 alumnus Perry L. Reese, Jr. The posthumous award was given on June 19 during the university’s Alumni Weekend.  Accepting the award were Mr. Reese’s sisters, Audrey Hardy and Jennifer Betha, both of Canton.

The University President’s Medal recognizes individuals who have distinguished themselves by their exemplary actions on behalf of others.  Reese was honored for his contributions as an educator, basketball coach and community leader at Hiland High School in Berlin, Ohio.

Mr. Reese’s moving story was told by Gary Smith in the March 5, 2001 issue of Sports Illustrated and inspired millions of readers around the world. As Sports Illustrated celebrates its 60th anniversary this year, the article was designated as one of the “60 best ever to appear in the magazine” and was reprinted on January 9, 2015.

A native of Canton, Ohio, Mr. Reese graduated from Timken High School, entered the workforce, and began college as a part-time student at Kent State University-Stark County campus before transferring to Muskingum in 1977.  His studies were interrupted for a time, but he returned to Muskingum to complete his degree and graduated in 1988 with a bachelor of arts degree in history.

In 1984, he was hired as an assistant basketball coach at Hiland High School in Berlin, amidst one of the country’s largest concentrations of Amish and Mennonite families. Shortly afterward, he joined the high school faculty as a history teacher and was named head basketball coach.  He broke racial and religious barriers as the only African-American Catholic in Holmes County, and brought members of the community together through the force of his personality and the example he set for others to follow.  Those who knew him describe him as a man who saw the best in everyone, created a culture of respect and teamwork among students and community members, challenged others to think broadly and outside of their own concerns, and had a unique ability to forge lasting friendships with people of all ages and backgrounds.

Mr. Reese posted a 304-85 career coaching record and led the Hiland Hawks to their first state championship and advanced the team to three consecutive semi-final championships.  He died of brain cancer at the age of 48 on November 22, 2000, leaving behind a community forever changed.

IN THE PHOTO: Pictured from left to right are President Anne C. Steele, Jennifer Betha and Audrey Hardy.