media release

Donation creates new SFU Hellenic Studies centre

September 16, 2011

Erica Branda, SFU Advancement, 778.782.3353,
Desiree Mamisao, SFU Hellenic Studies, 778.782.7012,
Dixon Tam, SFU PAMR, 778.782.8742, 604.417.0881 (cell),

A $7-million donation from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will establish Simon Fraser University as one of the premier locations for the study of Greek history, culture, and language outside of Greece.

SFU’s new Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies will offer expanded Hellenic academic programming. This includes an undergraduate program for Greek, Balkan, and Middle East studies, a joint history/humanities major in Greek language, literature and culture, and graduate programs for Greek history, language and culture.

An important element of the new centre’s support of Modern Greek language will be the training of language instructors for primary and secondary schools in North America.

“At SFU, we are committed to community engagement, and this generous contribution from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation will help us engage with a whole new global community,” says SFU president Andrew Petter. “The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at SFU will build on our successful programs and truly connect education across continents.”

The new centre will also focus on expanding current Greek for Chinese language instruction programs. The heart of this programming is the highly successful Odysseas online language tutor. This is a learning technology already in use in North America and also adapted for Chinese speakers. Odysseas is also used by 15 Chinese universities and has more than 4,500 worldwide subscribers to its iPhone application.

Expanding links with Chinese academic institutions and encouraging the development of Greek Studies in China is also important. The centre’s graduate program will train Chinese students in Greek history and will train teachers to teach Greek language and other Greek-related courses in Chinese universities. 

Other plans include establishing a Chinese Hellenic Studies Association, creating an online academic journal to publish the research work of Chinese scholars in Hellenic Studies, while introducing the research of Greek scholars in China.

“The Stavros Niarchos endowment will enable SFU to serve as a bridge between east and west, thus providing students and faculty with invaluable opportunities to enhance their education and research,” says Andre Gerolymatos, chair of The Stavros Niarchos Foundation Centre for Hellenic Studies at SFU.

Support from the Stavros Niarchos Foundation is also bringing SFU closer to communities in B.C. and the world at large through the development of online courses. For the first time in the province, Greek language will be accessible to secondary students in the Vancouver school district through a partnership with the Vancouver Learning Network. Students in Alberta, Ontario and Quebec will receive the same opportunity shortly.

In recognition of their contributions to Greek culture, Petter, Gerolymatos, and SFU Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences dean John Craig were awarded the Hellenic Republic’s Order of the Phoenix.


SFU’s relationship with the Stavros Niarchos Foundation began in 2003 when the university received a series of generous grants that enabled the university to create the Odysseas online language tutor. The e-learning platform has since provided access to Hellenic Studies for thousands of students throughout the globe, most notably in China.

The Stavros Niarchos Foundation, an international philanthropic organization, makes grants in the areas of arts and culture, education, health and medicine, and social welfare. While prominent in its support of Greek-related initiatives, the foundation’s activities are worldwide in scope. The foundation supports institutions and projects that exhibit strong leadership and sound management and that have the potential to achieve a broad and lasting impact.


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