NEW YORK – When retired U.S. Senator George J. Mitchell introduced professor Constantine (Gus) Katsoris prior to presenting him with the Feerick Center for Social Justice’s Lifetime Public Service Award named after him, he said “I encourage everyone to read Professor Katsoris’ bio. Until tonight, I thought I led a pretty busy life, but compared to you Gus I know feels I have spent the past few decades lounging on the beach…you have really had a full, productive and meaningful life.”
It is a life that would be very familiar to his fellow Greek-Americans, blending outstanding professional achievement and community and public service with devotion to his family.
Senator Mitchell had direct knowledge of Katsoris’ wife Ann of 54 years, whom he called “a partner in all his good works.” He added “they are the proud parents of three children, Nancy, Louis, and Nicholas, all graduates of Fordham’s business school and law school, and six grandchildren, one of whom is currently a graduate student at the University.
One would have to speak with Katsoris himself, however, to grasp the pride and reverence he feels for his parents, and his appreciation for the foundation they laid for his success.
As hard as Katsoris has worked throughout his life – he is still working; he taught for three hours at Fordham the day he received the award – one can feel the admiration professor Katsoris feels for his parents’ sacrifices and achievements.
His father, Nicholas, arrived from near Sparta at the turn of the last century when he was 10 years old and built a career at his uncle’s food importing firm of Lekas & Drivas.
When he became established he went back to Sparta and married the professor’s mother, Nafsika.
They first lived in Brooklyn, near Ebbets Field, then moved to Washington Heights.
Eventually the Katsoris family moved to Long Beach in Long Island but after two years of high school there, when he was 14 – he was skipped two grades – he rode the LIRR every day to Xavier High School in Manhattan.
He studied accounting and then law at the old Fordham campus at 302 Broadway in Lower Manhattan.
After, his father left Lekas & Drivas and “retired,” he started his own company N. Katsoris, Inc. and hoped Professor Katsoris would go into the family business. He chose instead to study law, but before he was graduated his father died.
He had a difficult decision to make. The firm, in which his mother played an active role, was attractive for a number of reasons.
It was an innovative firm, being among the first to package Greek food products in jars, and he told TNH “I studied business at Fordham, and earned a Master’s in tax law at NYU but I learned the most about business working with my father for 10 years.”
The decision was made, however, to wind down the business and sell it to Argyrios Fantis, who was family friends.
During his acceptance speech, Katsoris also thanked the Jesuits – Fordham is a Jesuit institution – whom he first encountered at Xavier. “They were great educators and a great influence on me in my formative years.”
He also thanked “my teachers at the Law School, my mentors who shaped by career and who later became my colleagues and close friends.”
William Hughes Mulligan, Dean of Fordham Law who was his professor and mentor, was the one who encouraged him to complete his degree.
After graduation he joined a major law firm, Cahill, Gordon, & Reindel, where he worked on commercial litigation cases and began doing pro bono work.
He was a Legal Aid Society Volunteer 1960-61 and through the years has served on numerous commissions and boards.
As low man on the totem pole at Cahill, he was assigned to the trial of several organized figures the firm was required to defend.
It was a great experience he told TNH. The defendants were convicted, but they acknowledged – he said they were highly intelligent – that Katsoris mounted the best defense possible given the circumstances.
Turning to politics, one of his lifelong passions (the Brooklyn Dodgers must have broken his heart) Professor Katsoris, a Republican, said he admired politicians; he spotlighted Harry S. Truman, who could rise above party pettiness to get things done.
He is so upset with Congress that he is leaning towards finally supporting term limits. “There is no reason for someone to be in Congress for 40 years,” he said.
Professor Katsoris was awarded the Ellis Island Medal of Honor Award 1999, was inducted into Xavier High School Hall of Fame in 2008 and has received numerous awards from Fordham.
He is proud of his service as a member and as Chairman of School Board of the St. Spyridon Parochial School, and is an Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, among those selected for their Church service rather than for financial contributions.
PHOTO CAPTION: (L-R) Nick and Roula Katsoris with their daughter Julia and niece Kelly and nephew Cole in front of them, and their son Constantine. Gus Katsoris and his wife Ann, their grandson Christopher, and their son Louis with his wife Valerie after the award ceremony.