International Orthodox Christian News

Mourners this afternoon packed a suburban Philadelphia church to say their final farewells to Constantine Papadakis, 63, the visionary president of Drexel University.

Papadakis, who had battled lung cancer for a year, died suddenly April 5 of a pulmonary complication after a long bout with pneumonia.

At St. Luke's Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall, every seat was occupied, standees lined the back rows, and crowds spilled into two adjoining rooms where television monitors displayed images of the noontime service.

Papadakis' body lay in state at the front of the church as a man and a woman in traditional Greek dress stood nearby.

Standing behind bright yellow flowers that topped the casket, Archbishop Demetrios and another Greek Orthodox official, Metropolitan Evangelos, led hymns, prayers, and biblical readings in Greek and English.

A painting of Jesus looked down from the dome above the nave of the church. Light-colored wood-framed portraits of saints and other religious figures lined the base of the dome and behind the solea, or ceremonial area.

Papadakis' daughter Maria struggled to speak about the father she loved so much.

"He helped people more than he realized," she said. "We all wish we could see him one more time to tell him how much he meant to us."

She drew polite laughter when she said "maybe God wanted a university up in heaven and he wanted the best man for the job."

She said Papadakis was probably trying to recruit Socrates to head up the philosophy department and Einstein to be in charge of science.

Manny Stamatakis, the chairman of the trustees of the medical college said that leaders usually have strong enemies as well as great friends.

"Taki only had great friends," Stamatakis said. "He was living proof that one person could make a difference."

Dignitaries in attendance were Sen. Bob Casey, Mayor Michael Nutter, Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell, Pennsylvania Attorney General Tom Corbett, and senior diplomats from the consulates of Greece and Panama.

"It was just a great testament to him," Sen. Casey said of the service. "I was telling his wife, I've rarely met someone who is both so dynamic and warm at the same time. I wish I got to know him better. The whole region will miss him."

At Drexel's main campus in West Philadelphia, more than 100 staff, students and parents gathered in an auditorium to watch the simulcast of the funeral.

Mourners were given a pamphlet detailing Papadakis' life and legacy, and a laminated prayer card.

The funeral was webcast to four locations across Philadelphia, and Drexel classes were suspended for the duration of the service.

Drexel lecturer John Maxwell, of the criminal justice department, said he had come to pay his respects to a "very dynamic person."

"When I was new, he stopped me and asked my name. He was just a very sincere guy," Maxwell said.

Drexel sophomore Steve Newman said he came to honor Papadakis, who was also a friend of his family. His grandmother, a Drexel alumna, was a classmate of Papadakis' during the 1950s and they remained friends, he said.

"She would talk about him all the time," Newman said. "She is really distraught."

Papadakis, known to his friends as Taki, presided over an unprecedented expansion of the University. During his 13-year tenure, Drexel added both a law school and medical school. Recently, Papadakis had proposed expanding Drexel to the West Coast with a four-year campus near Sacramento, Calif.


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