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October 25, 2005

Tsakopoulos family endows new professorship at Stanford

The Tsakopoulos family of Sacramento has donated $2 million in honor of former Greek Prime Minister Constantine Mitsotakis to create a professorship to support the study of Greek ideas in contemporary society. Matching funds from the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation's gift to the School of Humanities and Sciences helped establish the chair, which will be known as the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Professorship in honor of Constantine Mitsotakis.

Josiah Ober, professor of classics at Princeton University, has been named the inaugural chairholder, with joint appointments in Stanford's departments of Classics and Political Science. The author of a number of books and articles on ancient Greek history, Ober's recent research has centered on Athenian democracy and Greek political thought, including projects on ancient and modern self-governing organizations, on the circulation of social and technical knowledge in democratic societies, and on the interplay between political philosophy and culture.

The joint appointment reflects the breadth and depth of Ober's scholarship, said Sharon Long, the Vernon R. and Lysbeth Warren Anderson Dean of Humanities and Sciences. "With his teaching and scholarship matching the ideals of the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis family, it is wonderfully fitting that Josh Ober should become the inaugural holder of the endowed professorship named in honor of Constantine Mitsotakis."

"Prime Minister Mitsotakis and his family have dedicated their lives to public service and the fight for freedom and democracy," said Eleni Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis, president of AKT Development Corp., who along with her husband, Markos Kounalakis, president and publisher of The Washington Monthly magazine, and brother, Kyriakos Tsakopoulos, spearheaded the family's efforts to create the chair. "The family is a living legacy to the ideals of Hellenism. It is fitting that one of the greatest universities in the world will now have a professorship in their honor," she said.

Mitsotakis served in the Greek Parliament and held other key positions in the government over a 50-year period. He was prime minister from 1990 to 1993 and is credited with helping to advance the creation of the European Union and reinvigorating the Greek economy. Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis said she looks forward to seeing a growth in coursework supported by the new Mitsotakis chair to expand students' knowledge of the broad array of fields in which ancient Greek thought has had an impact on the modern world.

For contemporary societies of the West, the Greeks have been more influential than any other culture in history, continuing to shape lives "in hundreds of ways," said Richard P. Martin, chairman of the Department of Classics. "Stanford will now be able to lead the way nationally in offering a sequence of intensive courses to give our students throughout the university a thorough grounding in the Greek roots of politics, economics, philosophy, the arts, medicine, the law and much more," he said. "We're hoping for nothing less than a renaissance of interest in the classics, sparked by this wonderful endowment."

Among the breadth of disciplines benefiting from the new chair, Ober "will add to the vitality of teaching and scholarship in the area of ethics and political theory at Stanford," Long said. "His courses will be an important part of our growing educational emphasis on ethics. These efforts align with our goal of having all Stanford students make the study of ethical reasoning, and of the philosophical, historical and political dimensions of normative thought and analysis, an integral part of their learning."

"Josh Ober is among the most highly regarded scholars of ancient Greece and Athenian democracy in the world," added Terry Moe, chairman of the Department of Political Science. "He is the perfect choice as the inaugural holder of the Tsakopoulos-Kounalakis Professorship in Honor of Constantine Mitsotakis, and we in Political Science are overjoyed at the prospect of having him join our department."

Ober, who has been at Princeton since 1990, will join Stanford in his new position next year. Ober earned a bachelor's degree from the University of Minnesota in 1975 and his doctorate in ancient history at the University of Michigan in 1980.

Mitsotakis is in California this month in connection with the chair, accompanied by his daughter, Dora Bakoyannis, the mayor of Athens, and his son, Kyriakos Mitsotakis, a member of the Greek Parliament and a Stanford alumnus.

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Lisa Kwiatkowski, Stanford School of Humanities and Sciences: (650) 723-3901,


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