PRINCETON, NJ – Georgia Triantafillou of Princeton, NJ, passed away peacefully in the loving arms of her two children after a hard-fought battle with cancer on March 5. She was 72.
Born in 1950 in the small town of Spercheiada in Greece, Triantafillou grew up in a humble house without electricity. Despite adverse conditions, she devoted herself to her studies – especially mathematics – and achieved the fourth-highest marks in all of Greece on the national qualifying exams for university admission. She went on to win a series of state scholarships which enabled her to study mathematics at the National University of Athens and to then pursue a PhD in Bonn, Germany, in the field of algebraic topology. While in Bonn, she met her future husband and father of her children, the physicist Vladimir Visnjic.
Triantafillou came to America in the 1970’s for her first postdoc at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton. During her time there, she developed a love for Princeton as well as friendships that have lasted to this day. While her academic career would take her to numerous universities around the U.S. and Europe, she eventually settled down permanently in Princeton in 1996 with her family.
As a mathematician, Triantafillou published many influential papers in the field of algebraic topology and presented her original research at numerous international conferences. In 1990, she became the first woman in Greece to ever be elected full Professor of Mathematics at the National University of Athens. For the past few decades, she served as Professor of Mathematics at Temple University, where she was an exceedingly popular instructor whose excellence and effectiveness in teaching difficult subjects has been recognized through teaching awards. Her students often joked that “she made sense out of nonsense.”
Triantafillou was a committed member of the Greek church in Hamilton and a pillar of the local Greek community. She spearheaded and co-founded a bilingual Greek-English preschool, where she served pro bono as director for several years for the good of the children and the community. She also served for many years as president of the organization Hellenic Vision, which promoted Hellenic culture through exhibits, lectures, and concerts.
She was the matriarch of a highly academic family, with both children receiving PhDs from Princeton University. Her whole life was centered around education for all ages, including her grandchildren, who were her stars in the last few years.
She is survived by her husband Vladimir Visnjic, her two children Katerina and Vanya (‘Jack’), and four granddaughters, all of whom adore her and will carry her memory with them forever.
At her request, the funeral will take place in her hometown in Greece. A small private viewing will be held at the Mather Hodge Funeral Home in Princeton on Wednesday, March 8. May her memory be eternal.