September 5, 2018

An encounter with God's love changed George Corliss forever


Corliss with his wife, Joy Corliss. | Courtesy Penny Morche
Corliss with his wife, Joy Corliss. | Courtesy Penny Morche

MICHIGAN — George Corliss, a popular religious broadcaster, became ill in April; on Sunday, July 11, he passed away from pneumonia at Munson Healthcare Cadillac Hospital. He was 61.

Many people came to know God's love through Corliss. If He could change "Big George" then God must be real. Because 30 years ago, Corliss was a "bully with a big mouth.” 

Back then, at 6 feet, 3 inches tall, and 400 pounds, he worked as a nightclub/bowling alley manager. After work, he was a self-described, "carousing, philandering alcoholic."

During the personal turmoil of the early 1980s, he and his wife Debby were divorcing. To cope, she joined a Bible study and called him to say, "I love you and I forgive you." He hung up on her. When she asked him to attend her baptism, he said, "I hate you. Why would I come to that?"

One morning, a pastor dropped by the bowling alley. Corliss was seething, knowing his wife sent him. But the pastor left behind a book, Three Hours to Live, and he eventually started reading it.

His conversion didn't happen overnight. But, slowly, he began to change.

"I didn't really know what love was," he said, "but I didn't like the love I'd seen in the bowling alley. I was sick of that. I would come home and I would see love. That love, the love of God, was pouring out of my wife. I began to learn how much God loved me."

Corliss surrendered his life to God's will, never envisioning the path his life would take.

The legacy of George Corliss

Because of Corliss, hundreds of people learned how to manage their weight and health through a healthy lifestyle after Corliss dropped 100 pounds and packaged an eight-week program called START NEW with the help of a physician. The program followed the biblical principles of his Adventist faith.

Because of Corliss, thousands of Northern Michigan school children received character-building and anti-drug messages through LISTEN America, an educational nonprofit he founded that helped students make positive choices through school assemblies and events featuring Super Bowl winners. He also published a magazine, Kids Club News and, over 18 years, raised about $4 million to fund the nonprofit.

He also raised close to $5 million in the last nine years to fund Strong Tower Radio, a Christian station that began broadcasting from Cadillac in 2009.