UCLA SNF Hellenic Center Establishes George and Barbara Olympios Family Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship

Published: May 24, 2021

The UCLA SNF Hellenic Center received a generous gift from Stavros Olympios in memory of his parents to create the George and Barbara Olympios Family Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship.

The George and Barbara Olympios Family Endowed Graduate Research Fellowship will provide assistance to support graduate students in Hellenic Studies, helping emerging scholars to deepen their connection to Greece through research and study.

“On behalf of the Center, we thank Stavros Olympios for the generous donation to support our graduate research program,” said Sharon Gerstel, Director of the UCLA SNF Hellenic Center, professor of Byzantine Art and Archaeology, and George P. Kolovos Family Centennial Term Chair in Hellenic Studies. “The gift aligns with Mr. Olympios’ father’s resolve to pursue and promote those seeking higher education and his mother’s important role in nurturing her family through exceptionally difficult times. The gift speaks volumes about Mr. Olympios’ respect and love for his parents.”

Stavros Olympios commented, “My father was a very determined individual who was a strong believer in education. I feel obliged to my father who worked so hard. He gave me a tremendous opportunity to gain a broad education including and beyond a typical Greek education.”

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 travelled 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.