Mission Statement

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies is committed to the study and teaching of Greek history, language and culture. Fundamental to this endeavor is the application of innovative technology to enhance the learning experience for the student and scholar.

The aim of the Centre is to make Hellenic Studies accessible to university and non-university students with teaching and research as the cornerstone of the Centre’s activities. These tasks are accomplished by training future scholars in Greek history, language and culture. The Centre is dedicated to the survival of Greek studies both in the West and in Asia.


Over the past 20 years, Hellenic Studies at SFU has grown into a successful interdisciplinary program, consistently maintaining high enrollment levels while capturing the imagination of SFU's graduate and undergraduate students.

The Hellenic Studies Program has been offering courses in Greek and Byzantine history, Greek language and culture. One major challenge was making Greek (a lesser-used language) more accessible to both local and international students. After approaching The Stavros Niarchos Foundation in 2003, the program received a series of grants that enabled the creation of an e-learning platform offering various levels of Greek language.

The platform, known as The Odysseas Online Language Tutor, has to date taught Greek to thousands of students throughout the globe, most notably in China where there are 15 universities using our Tutor. Recognized as a pioneer of online language instruction, over 250,000 students from North America, Europe, and China have used Odysseas to learn a language or to study Greek history and culture.

These achievements, in addition to the very generous support of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, initially came because of the efforts of the Hellenic Canadian Congress to establish the Chair in Hellenic Studies. The success of the Chair made possible the significant endowment from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation and the establishment of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies as well as the SNF New Media Lab at Simon Fraser University.

Stavros S. Niarchos

Stavros Spyros Niarchos was born July 3, 1909 in Athens. He studied law at the University of Athens and began working in 1929 in his family’s grain business. Recognizing the substantial transportation expense in importing wheat from Argentina and the former Soviet Union, Niarchos believed that one would save money by owning the ships that provided the transportation. Consequently, he bought his first six freighters during the Great Depression.

Niarchos served in the Greek Navy during World War II. He participated in the Allied operations in Normandy and was awarded, among other distinguished service medals, the Commander of the Order of the Phoenix in 1977, the Royal Order of King George I, and the Royal House Order of SS George and Constantine. While Niarchos was serving in the Greek Navy, the Allied Forces leased his first vessel. The ship was destroyed in battle, and Niarchos used the insurance funds as capital to expand his fleet after the War. Thus began the emergence of Stavros Niarchos as a significant participant in the world of international commerce. For many years, he owned the largest private fleet in the world, with his company operating more than 80 tankers and other vessels.

In 1956, Niarchos agreed to build and operate the Hellenic Shipyards, the first such private investment in Greece, which rapidly became the largest Mediterranean shipyard. In 1985, the shipyard was placed under state control, but Niarchos´s commitment to Greece still stands today as an effective demonstration of the power of private investment for the country’s economic well-being.

Stavros Niarchos understood the meaning of thinking and acting globally long before the term globalization became so prominent. His business operations began in Greece, the country of his birth and heritage, yet his accomplishments were notable worldwide. Although he was known predominantly for his shipping business, Niarchos’s diversified financial activities were at the core of global industry from the time he formed the Niarchos Group in 1939 until his death in 1996. He was considered one of the most innovative and successful businessmen of the twentieth century.

Niarchos’s legacy continues into the twenty-first century with the establishment of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation. Working in Greece and internationally, the Foundation began its grantmaking efforts in 1996, and it derives its mission from Niarchos´s commitment to Greece and Hellenism, as well as his keen instincts and interests in support of causes in the fields of education, social welfare, health, and arts and culture.

By designating a significant part of his estate to establish the Stavros Niarchos Foundation, Stavros Niarchos created an enduring vehicle to enrich the lives of others worldwide.

Biography courtesy of the Stavros Niarchos Foundation