On this day in 2008, Christodoulos, Archbishop of Athens and All of Greece, passed away. Born Christos Paraskevaidis in Xanthi, Archbishop Christodoulos was the youngest man ever to be named head of the Orthodox Church of Greece. He was viewed as a controversial participant in Greek politics and one of the most popular figures in Greece. As Archbishop, Christodoulos was an influential and innovative leader. He appeared on radio and television regularly and made numerous public appearances at churches, hospitals, and schools throughout Greece. Recognizing the importance of new media, he established an internet service for the church that included an electronic library and art gallery. Furthermore, Christodoulos advocated dialogue to mend the historic rift between his church and the Roman Catholic Church. In 2001, Christodoulos received the late John Paul II, the first pope to visit Greece in nearly 1,300 years – despite vigorous protests from Orthodox zealots. The Archbishop followed up in 2006 with a historic visit to the Vatican where he and Pope Benedict XVI signed a declaration for interfaith dialogue.
On this day in 1946, Constantine (‘Taki’) Papadakis, the Greek-American businessman and academic president of Drexel University, was born in Athens. He graduated from the National Technical University of Athens and then went on to get his master’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. He was an immigrant whose life and career are an extraordinary example of the Hellenic attributes and values that enrich society in America. In 1984, Dr. Papadakis agreed to head the Colorado State University’s civil engineering program – then the second largest in the nation. He went on to become the Dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Engineering. Finally, he served as president of Drexel University in Philadelphia from 1995 to 2009 where he doubled the university’s enrollment, quadrupled freshman applications, and grew the endowment from $90 million to $550 million and research funding from $14 million to $105 million. Taki was taken from life too early after battling lung cancer for months – at the age of 63 – from pulmonary complications due to pneumonia three days after taking medical leave from Drexel.
On this day in 1830, the sovereignty of Greece was confirmed in the London Protocol. The London Protocol was an agreement that formalized the independence of Greece from Turkey, which was won by the Greeks as a result of the Greek National Liberation Revolution of 1821-30. The Protocol declared Greece to be a fully independent monarchical state. Greece’s independence was guaranteed by the Great Powers (Britain, France, and Russia) which participated in the Protocol and stated that Greece would be under their protection. It has been said that it was at the insistence of Great Britain, which was not interested in overly weakening Turkey, that Thessaly, Crete, Samos and a number of other territories populated by the Greeks were not regarded as part of Greece yet.
Also, on this day in 1989, John Cassavetes, the Greek-American actor, film director and screenwriter, died at the young age of 59 from cirrhosis of the liver. The younger of two sons of Greek immigrants, Cassavetes was born in New York City. Shortly after his birth, he moved to Greece where he spent his early years. When he returned to the United States at age 7, he spoke no English. His family moved to Long Island where John grew up and attended public school in Port Washington. He later attended Mohawk College and Colgate University before enrolling at the New York Academy of Dramatic Arts, from which he graduated in 1950. Cassavetes was known for being one of the pioneers in the field of independent cinema and even self-financed several films. The income he earned from his acting career gave him the financial freedom to create his own legacy in the independent film genre. He worked in over 75 films during his career as an actor – including Rosemary’s Baby, The Dirty Dozen, and Love Streams. All three of his children followed in his footsteps and became renowned filmmakers themselves.