Two of Roosevelt University’s distinguished alumni, Van Vlahakis, owner and chief executive officer of Earth Friendly Products, and Robert “Bob” Mednick, a Roosevelt trustee and recipient of the prestigious Sempier Award presented by the International Federation of Accountants, were the guest speakers at the University’s May 4 commencement ceremonies. They both received honorary degrees.
“Throughout their careers, Mr. Vlahakis and Mr. Mednick have been leaders in their professions and both have been widely recognized for their outstanding contributions to their fields,” said Roosevelt University President Chuck Middleton.
“We are delighted to present Mr. Vlahakis with a Doctor of Social Justice, honoris causa and Mr. Mednick with a Doctor of Humane Letters degree, honoris causa.”
Vlahakis spoke at a 10 am ceremony for graduates of Roosevelt’s College of Arts and Sciences and the Evelyn T. Stone College of Professional Studies.
As owner and operator of Earth Friendly Products, which manufactures more than 150 products, including the world’s top-selling “green” biodegradable laundry detergent, ECOS, Vlahakis is an example of one who is living the American dream. An immigrant from Greece, Vlahakis came to the United States with $20 in his pocket, determined to pursue a successful career in business. Receiving a Bachelor’s degree in Chemistry from Roosevelt in 1958, he spent more than a decade in the janitorial services industry where he came to recognize the need for effective cleaning products. To achieve this goal, he started a business in his garage, Venus Laboratories, which quickly outgrew the space and became a major company where Vlahakis created innovative formulas and patents for such products as Pet Stain and Odor Remover and the famous Nature’s Miracle line.
In 1989, his concern for providing non-toxic cleaning products to the public led him to create an eco-friendly household and commercial cleaning product line, Earth Friendly Products, which today is sold worldwide at Walmart, Costco, Sam’s Club, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s and other retailers.
The first to manufacture the pH neutral auto-dishwashing gel, Wave, Vlahakis is the 2011 recipient of the Illinois Governor’s Sustainability Award and the 2010 recipient of the California Governor’s Environmental and Economic Leadership Award for Excellence in Sustainable Building Measures and Products.