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Culture

Phokion Potamianos Establishes Thalia Potamianos Annual Lecture Series

ATHENS – The Overseers of the Gennadius Library announced on June 2 the establishment of the Thalia Potamianos Annual Lecture Series on the Impact of Greek Culture. The program is being made possible by a generous 10-year commitment totaling $1 million from Phokion Potamianos, an Overseer of the Gennadius Library. Mr. Potamianos named the lecture series in memory of his grandmother, a distinguished Greek doctor, academic, and philanthropist.

This significant lecture series is the result of a visionary initiative by Mr. Potamianos and will examine the reception and continuing relevance and impact of Greek thought and culture. He hopes the program will create a stimulating environment to draw both the academic community and the general public to the American School of Classical Studies at Athens and the Gennadius Library.

Mr. Potamianos remarked, “It is my hope that this lecture series will highlight the wealth and depth of the Gennadius Library and its collections and how these reflect the multifaceted legacy of Greek thought and culture from ancient to modern times. Moreover, giving these lectures both in Greece and the United States will raise academic as well as public awareness of the work and legacy of the American School and the Gennadius Library in both countries.”

Every year, a highly distinguished, internationally renowned scholar will be selected to conduct research and develop programs on a topic relevant to the Gennadius Library. The research will culminate in a minimum of three annual public “keystone” lectures, at least one of which will be delivered in the American School’s Cotsen Hall in Athens and one in the United States. These talks will be accompanied by publications, podcasts, and other appropriate media to maximize exposure and engagement. They might also be enhanced by a related event such as a theatrical performance, a concert, or site visits.

The Overseers of the Gennadius Library received this news with great joy and enthusiasm. Chairman Andreas Zombanakis spoke on their behalf and thanked Mr. Potamianos for his philanthropic support and inspiration.

Mr. Zombanakis said, “I am deeply moved by this generous gift and the vision behind it. This unique and significant lecture series is transformational and will continue to enhance the American School's mission of being a world center for the study of Greece from antiquity to the present day.”

Maria Georgopoulou, Director of the Gennadius Library, echoed Zombanakis’ sentiments and added, “This exciting initiative offers a unique opportunity to engage in new programming that enriches the scope of the Gennadius Library and the American School.”

Jenifer Neils, Director of the American School, also expressed her profound gratitude to Mr. Potamianos. She stated, “The opportunity to bring academics of international stature closer to the School community will appeal to laypersons, scholars, and students who are increasingly interested in the later reception of Greek history and culture. Our ability

to employ different types of digital media means that the Thalia Potamianos lectures can be disseminated worldwide and thereby spark interest and further exploration of the manifold Greek contributions to civilization.”

About Thalia Potamianos

The lecture series will honor the life of Dr. Thalia Potamianos, an Epirote who was born in Constantinople in 1914 and came to Greece at the age of 8. With an innate gift of high intelligence, the fierce determination shaped by her life experiences, and financial support from her four siblings, Thalia earned a doctorate in microbiology with high honors from the University of Athens. She became an influential doctor, scientist, and philanthropist who led a life dedicated to the public good and public service.

In the 1950s, Dr. Potamianos founded Greece’s first alcoholism and toxicology treatment center. She made this the heart of her medical research, establishing a treatment center at Aghia Paraskevi, publishing research, and forming a methodology on the topic that came to be the standard in the early days of the study of alcoholism in Greece.

Marked by her experience as a refugee, Dr. Potamianos defined her life by her philanthropic actions. During World War II, she was active on the front lines and behind the scenes, working to organize food committees and using her medical practice as a cover to shelter elements of the Greek resistance and Greeks of the Jewish faith.

In the years immediately after the war, this exemplary citizen helped create centers of care for dispossessed families, orphaned children, and veterans in refugee areas. In partnership with American and other philanthropists, she created centers for education and financial support for veterans. Together they established the Greek American Organization for the Care of Dispossessed Greeks. To recognize her service to the country, the Greek government awarded Dr. Potamianos with the Gold Cross of the Order of Beneficence.

Dr. Potamianos (née Dervos) was the wife of Phokion Potamianos, a prominent maritime attorney. Together they raised two daughters, Helen and Lydia. In 1961, Dr. Potamianos passed away from cancer at the age of 47.

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