February 2nd would have been my friend Taki’s birthday and in the Greek spirit of mnymosyne (or the personification of memory), I hope you’ll take the time to read my thoughts below, and in a way, “immortalize” them in this digital landscape of my blog.
Taki, aka Constantine Papadakis, came to America as an idealistic teen, in search of the American Dream.
He studied hard, become a successful engineer, married a beautiful Greek American woman named Eliana and together they raised a daughter named Maria who is one of the brightest, most beautiful people I know today.
Along the way, he was tapped to take over at a small, struggling university in Philadelphia that once had a prestigious name– named after one of the great bankers of American history Anthony Drexel, but that had fallen on hard times.
At the time I remember the headlines– “Greek tapped to rescue Drexel”, one newspaper said, while another called him the man who was hired to save the university from falling into the Schuylkill river.
The school was indeed in bad shape, and along came Taki who immediately started turning the place around from the first day he arrived on campus.
He raised the endowment by millions of dollars, increased enrollment as well as the profile of Drexel University into a prestigious university.
He immediately began shoring up its finances, eventually overseeing the construction of numerous campus buildings. Under his leadership, the university acquired schools of medicine, nursing and public health, and established an extensive online degree program. In 2006, Drexel started its own law school.
Pericles said that “what you leave behind isn’t etched in stone monuments or on the sides of buildings, but embedded in the hearts and minds of humans.
Taki died prematurely in April of 2009 at the young age of 63.
And although the PAPADAKIS name is everywhere, etched in a beautiful statue in his native village of Meskla outside Hania, on the front of a state of the art building on Drexel’s campus and elsewhere throughout Philadelphia… Taki’s biggest legacy rests in the hearts and minds of thousands of students that were lucky enough to be touched by his work, his energy and his legacy.
Although not a Drexel student, I too was lucky enough to be touched by Taki’s energy– in a way that many probably were not as lucky. He not only became a friend, but a supporter of my own dreams, a mentor and a different kind of teacher to me.
So as Taki’s birthday passes, I’m not sad, thinking about my friend that passed away way too early and ahead of his time. On the contrary, I’m taking his example and recalling his lessons– and using them to advance my own goals and desire to make my own impact.
I’m recalling Taki’s wisdom, foresight, advice that I was lucky enough to receive from him to work harder to become better– to someday, leave my own impact on people and society.
Happy Birthday Taki and rest in peace, my friend and mentor.