George and Barbara Olympios Family Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship

The George and Barbara Olympios Family Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship supports all costs related to graduate student travel to Greece for research purposes, primarily during the summer. For information about this fellowship, contact

George Olympios (1907-1984) was born in the small village of Palaiohorion, Parnassidos, near Gravia. He attended technical college to study Marine Engineering and subsequently joined Greece’s Royal Navy to become a merchant marine. When Greece was invaded by Germany during World War II, Mr. Olympios was drafted into the Greek Navy. Throughout the War, the family struggled to survive. Barbara Olympios believed that her faith contributed to the family’s survival. After the war, Mr. Olympios returned to the Merchant Marines as Chief Engineer, which proved to be quite lucrative. For four years, he traveled between the United States, Japan, and Germany. Throughout his career, he worked for major shipowners including Stavros Livanos, father-in-law to both Aristotle Onassis and Stavros Niarchos. Married to his wife his entire life, Mr. and Mrs. Olympios had two children: Stavros and a daughter who died in 2018. In 1984, George Olympios died of a heart attack in his beloved home in Palaio Faliro, Athens, which was close to the sea from which he had made a living for more than 30 years.

Stavros Olympios was born in Piraeus, Greece in 1937. He received his BSc degree in Mechanical Engineering with Honors from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, and his MSc degree in Thermodynamics and Gas Dynamics from the University of Birmingham, England. Mr. Olympios attended a one-year program at the NATO Postgraduate School in Experimental Aerodynamics representing Greece at the von Karman Institute for Fluid Dynamics. After graduation, he pursued research in the area of propulsion funded by the United States Air Force and the European Office of Aerospace Research. Unfortunately, he had to interrupt his project and return to Greece for his national service. After basic training, he was selected to attend officers’ schools in Patras and graduated first in his class as a second lieutenant. During his service, he worked with the Greek Air Force to develop Aerodynamic Facilities in Greece. Upon completing his service, he married Anne-Marie, his neighbor in Brussels whom he met in London Victoria Station after graduating from the University of Birmingham. After two years of service, the couple left for Dayton, Ohio, where he accepted a position at Wright Patterson Air Force Base at the Aerospace Research Lab, to continue his earlier research before he left to join the army. After two years, they settled in Los Angeles where his aerospace career included positions at Hughes Helicopters (Apache Helicopter) and Northrop Grumman from which he eventually retired. While at Hughes Helicopters, Mr. Olympios obtained an MBA so that upon retirement he could continue a second career in financial planning.

Sofia Pitouli is the recipient of the George Olympios Family Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship for 2022. The fellowship will enable Ms. Pitouli to conduct on-site and archival research to prepare an essay to be published in late 2022 on the modern Greek artist and writer Fotis Kontoglou (1895/6–1965). Kontoglou has been celebrated as the most-esteemed icon painter of the twentieth century who revived the Byzantine style in Greece. Her research takes a less studied route; it traces the Byzantine art revival in the United States. It considers how modern Byzantine aesthetics, their reception, and deployment construct a transnational identity of Greekness through Kontoglou’s oeuvres in the United States. Kontoglou, who never traveled to the United States out of fear, either completed works in Athens or sent his students to numerous American cities to fulfill commissions. His students’ artistic repertoire in the United States opens up avenues of research on the survival of “Kontoglou’s School” there and the continuation of the modern revivalist movement until today. Kontoglou’s work, and consequently that of his students, challenges us to examine the afterlife of Byzantine culture and its reception in the twentieth and twentieth-first centuries—centuries after the year 1453, the Byzantine Empire’s chronological end. Yet, it is the Byzantine past, awakened via Kontoglou’s works, and arguably that of his students, that spoke—and still speaks—to Greek migrants across the globe.