Northeastern University Honors Pioneer Greek-American Educator

BOSTON – Since his student days at Northeastern University in the early seventies, George Chryssis wanted to find the right time to honor Hercules W. Geromanos, a pioneer dean and professor whose vision and innovative thinking established the university’s co-operative education model, thus greatly helping to elevate Northeastern as a world-renown institution of higher learning.

On April 10, 2008, one hundred years after Geromanos’ appointment as a Northeastern professor and at the eve of the centennial anniversary of its co-operative education program next year, trustee George Chryssis spearheaded an effort to honor Geromanos with the unveiling of a commemorative plaque that is prominently located at the entrance of the university’s Admissions Office in the Behrakis Health Sciences Center.

“This commemoration has dual purpose," said George Chryssis. “First it memorializes the pioneering and innovative spirit of professor Geromanos, a Greek-American educator of profound influence, and second, it celebrates the rich history of Northeastern University and its long-standing tradition and strong bonds with the Greek-American community.”

Northeastern University’s Board of Trustees
member George Chryssis stands by a plaque
commemorating Hercules W. Geromanos,
founder of the university’s co-operative program.

Hercules W. Geromanos was born in 1880 in Cincinnati, Ohio. His father, Hercules Demetrius Geromanos, who emigrated from Greece in 1868--one hundred and forty years ago--moved the family to Springfield, Massachusetts, in 1895. A brilliant and gifted individual, Geromanos attended MIT and graduated in three years with a degree in chemical engineering on June 10, 1902. After teaching chemistry at Malden High School, he was recruited in 1908 to teach at Northeastern University. The following year, at the age of 29, Geromanos was appointed the first Dean of the newly established College of Engineering.

That same year, he conceived the idea of introducing co-operative education to the university. Subsequently, he recruited and enrolled the first class of eight “co-op” students, who alternated one week of classroom study with one week of on-the-job experience, successfully launching what is now Northeastern’s signature experiential learning educational model.

Geromanos retired from academia in 1917. His vision, innovation and academic contributions continue to shape not only Northeastern University, but also the entire field of higher education. Although Northeastern University was the second institution to adopt the co-op concept after the University of Cincinnati's attempt in 1906, it is the worldwide leader in experiential education today, with over 6,000 co-op students working in 88 cities around the globe.

The event was attended by Northeastern University’s Greek-American professors, students and members of the community, as well as by several dignitaries, including the dean of the New England Cathedral, Rev. George Daskalakis, the Boston Greek Consulate Press and Communications Director, Magdalene Kantartzi, the Honorable Consul General of Greece Constantinos Orphanides, and His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios who offered blessings and a prayer prior to the unveiling of the plaque. In addition, two grandchildren of Geromanos, Bradley Curtis and Judith Curtis MacMurray, and a great-grandson, Scott Curtis, attended the ceremony.

Bradley and Judith spoke fondly about their grandfather. “He was truly a genius, formidable and very distinguished," said Judith. “He was a true patriarch, always in charge of his family. He was in command of his intelligence and besides his love for education he enjoyed collecting scientific gadgets, raising coy fish, and planting beautiful gladiolas in his backyard garden. He was a very interesting person, proud of his Hellenic heritage, and thanks to today’s event we feel closer to our Greek roots also.”

Celebrating the unveiling of the Geromanos plaque at Northeastern University
(left to right): Neal Finnegan, Chairman Board of Trustees; Scott Curtis,
Geromanos’ great-grandson; Honorable Constantinos Orphanides, Consul
General of Greece; George Chryssis, Trustee and event host; Bradley Curtis,
Geromanos’ grand-son; Judith Curtis MacMurray, Geromanos’ grand-daughter;
George Behrakis, Vice Chair Emeritus and Northeastern Benefactor; Mrs.
Margo Behrakis; His Eminence Metropolitan Methodios of Boston; and
Dr. Joseph Aoun, President Northeastern University
“Co-op is a great program,” said George Behrakis, vice chair emeritus and benefactor of Northeastern University, “and it is growing because it helps the student both academically and financially. It is fitting to honor Geromanos for his contributions to Northeastern in particular and to co-op in general.”

“Today is a very special day,” added Dr. Joseph Aoun, Northeastern University’s President. “Thanks to George Chryssis’ initiative and leadership, the university is not only honoring the memory of professor Geromanos, a true pioneer of the experiential learning educational model, but also it celebrates the legacy of co-op education at this institution which over the years has proven to be a living organism that keeps giving back to the university.”

Neal Finnegan, chairman of the Board of Trustees gave a historical and current account of the co-op program and read excerpts of Geromanos’ writings on the subject, while Maria Athanassiu, an electrical engineering student and current president of the Hellenic Student Association, spoke of the significance of co-op to her education and underscored her pride that a fellow Greek-American was responsible for establishing this important program at Northeastern University.

Chryssis led a two-year fundraising drive to establish the Hercules W. Geromanos Memorial Scholarship fund. “Through this effort,” Chryssis said, “over one hundred and twenty thousand dollars were collected for the scholarship. However, more donors are needed to contribute and keep Geromanos’ dream and legacy alive.”

Initial donations to establish the scholarship came from several Greek-American alumni and friends of Northeastern University. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a student whose achievements in academics and commitment to co-op embody and exemplify the principles of innovation, scholarship, work ethics and high character, the same principles that guided the work and life of Hercules W. Geromanos.

(Posting date 03 May 2008)

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