By Gina Vergel
Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, greets Mary and Michael Jaharis at the Orthodoxy in America lecture.
Photo by Ken Levinson
Fordham University has received a $2 million gift to establish the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture.
The donation comes from the Jaharis Family Foundation, which provides grants to arts, cultural and religious institutions.
“This chair will make it possible for Fordham to continue the work it has done to establish itself as a center for Orthodox study in America,” said Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of Fordham. “There is no one more deserving of having this chair named for him than Archbishop Demetrios. He is an eminent scholar; he is also a holy man; and we at Fordham are thrilled that his name, as well as that of the Jaharis family, will forever be associated with Fordham.”
Mary and Michael Jaharis were on hand for the announcement, which occurred at Fordham’s Rose Hill campus in the Bronx, the site of this year’s Orthodoxy in America lecture. The couple played a part in establishing the lecture series in 2004.
“We are impressed and personally touched by Fordham’s commitment to teaching about Orthodox Christianity and Hellenism, through Father McShane’s leadership and the work of these two dynamic professors, Dr. Aristotle Papanikolaou and Dr. George Demacopoulos,” said Michael Jaharis, founder and former chairman emeritus of Kos Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
“It is our hope that by establishing this chair, it will further enrich the school’s outstanding academic programs and resources and offer new opportunities for students and scholars to learn about the Greek Orthodox theological tradition and Hellenic culture,” Jaharis said.
His Eminence Archbishop Demetrios, primate of the Greek Orthodox Church in America, also was present for the lecture and gift announcement.
“Your name and your generosity enrich us,” Father McShane told the archbishop. “We are honored that you will be part of our family forever.”
Aristotle Papanikolaou, Ph.D., co-founding director of the Orthodox Christian Studies program and associate professor of theology, said the gift establishes the first university-endowed chair dedicated specifically to Orthodox Christianity.
“[It] rightly honors an exemplary pastor and scholar, Archbishop Demetrios, and establishes a permanent presence for Orthodoxy at Fordham that will serve students, faculty and the wider church,” he said. “We hope that others will emulate Michael and Mary Jaharis’ extraordinary vision to advance Orthodox education in institutions of higher learning.”
“The [chair] is now the centerpiece of a rapidly growing Orthodox Christian Studies program, which includes an interdisciplinary minor, the Patterson Triennial Conference in Orthodox/Catholic Relations and the annual Orthodoxy in America lecture,” said George Demacopoulos, Ph.D., co-founding director and associate professor of historical theology.
The keynote speaker for the 2009 Orthodoxy in America lecture, held on Feb. 18, was the Rev. Stanley Harakas, T.D., Archbishop Iakovos Professor of Orthodox Theology Emeritus at Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology.
“This is our sixth year in hosting this important lecture series,” Father McShane said. “It is a great joy for Fordham to have this program here. It is Fordham’s ambition to be recognized as a center for Orthodox theological thought and theological debate.
“It’s not merely a place where Orthodox thought will be revered, but a place where the important issues facing Orthodoxy can be debated and examined,” he said.
The mission of the Orthodox Christian Studies program is to provide a venue for the academic study of Eastern Orthodox Christianity that is enriching, not only for students and faculty, but for the Orthodox and non-Orthodox communities in New York and around the country.
Fordham is the only university in the United States to offer an interdisciplinary minor in Orthodox Christian studies, and has the only theology department in the country with two graduates from an Orthodox seminary on its faculty.