PHILADELPHIA – Drexel University president Constantine Papadakis died unexpectedly Sunday evening, Drexel Board of Trustees chairman Richard Greenawalt announced today. Papadakis, who was in remission from cancer, died from pulmonary complications. On April 2, the Drexel board announced that Papadakis had requested a medical leave of absence, and that President Emeritus C.R. “Chuck” Pennoni, a former Drexel trustee, chairman of the board and interim president, had been appointed interim president and CEO.
Papadakis, called “Taki” by friends, colleagues and loved ones, is survived by his wife of 39 years, Eliana, and daughter Maria, 23, a 2008 Drexel graduate.
Papadakis, who had served as president of Drexel since 1995, is known in the national academic community as an innovative leader who transformed a struggling institution into a comprehensive, top-ranked national research university.
During his tenure, the University made the remarkable addition of both a medical college and a law school. The creation of the Drexel University College of Medicine as a successor to Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University saved 13,000 jobs and the education of 3,000 medical and nursing students and kept intact a key academic medical resource for Philadelphia. In addition to the medical college, the acquisition brought the College of Nursing and Health Professions and School of Public Health to Drexel. Just four years later, in 2006, Drexel became the first top-ranked doctoral university in the country to open a law school in more than 25 years.
Papadakis was the only Greek-born president of a university in the United States. He was born in Athens on February 2, 1946, to Nicholas Papadakis, a Greek physician, and Rita Masciotti Papadakis, a native of Italy. He graduated from the National Technical University of Athens with a degree in civil engineering before his arrival in the United States in 1969. He received a master’s in civil engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. For his achievements, commitment to higher education and involvement in charitable organizations, Papadakis received 153 awards and honors.
A church service will be held at noon on Tuesday, April 14, at St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall, Pa. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to the “Constantine Papadakis Fund at Drexel University,” Drexel University, 3141 Chestnut Street, Philadelphia, Pa. 19104.