Its history and contribution from its establishment to the present day
In 1954 Eugene Eugenides founded through his will the Eugenides Foundation, whose sole purpose was to ‘contribute to the education of young people of Greek descent in the scientific and technical fields’.
This phrase, cleanly worded but full in content, was not a decision Eugenides made just before the end of his life, but had culminated from his thoughts and actions over many years.
This sophisticated and very successful Greek entrepreneur and shipowner, the resourceful timber dealer, the representative and owner of international shipping lines, the citizen of the world with activity scattered all over the globe, stored an unshakable love for his homeland deep inside himself and never ceased to explore ways to help its progress.
Early on he had visualised a mature and internationally competitive Greece amongst the other advanced countries in the various fields of technology and industry. He believed, however, that this objective could not be achieved without the existence of educated and trained capable personnel to help the country.
He turned his faith in this aspiration into his life’s work through the establishment of a trust abroad that aimed at helping the youth of Greece by granting scholarships, so as to ‘cause students to accept significant responsibility for the future advancement of the country and to put its resources to good use’.
This first successful step led him to the decision to ensure that his life’s work would continue and expand after he had passed away.
In order to implement his decision, he bequeathed all his property in Greece and a large part of his fortune abroad to this cause. Being a good businessman, he secured the financial independence of the Foundation, which has been operating soundly, maintained, expanded and modernized using its own resources since its establishment.
Director–administrator and the ‘soul’ of the Foundation
Eugenides assigned to his sister, Marianthi Simou (1895-1981), the execution of the terms of his will and the management of the Foundation’s fortune.
Simou made it her life’s purpose to fulfil her brother’s will. Without her, it would have been impossible to accomplish what has been realised and how it has been achieved. In her dedication to realising her brother’s vision, Greece owes the creation of another centre of education and culture.
Marianthi Simou remained at the Foundation’s helm until her death (17 April 1981) and she also bequeathed all of her fortune to the purposes of the Foundation.
10 February 1956
By a royal decree of 10 February 1956 the Eugenides Foundation was founded, and Marianthi Simou was appointed director–administrator.
Together with her scientific advisors (Alexandros Papas, professor of the National Technical University of Athens [NTUA], Georgios Kakridis, NTUA professor, and Chryssos Kavounidis, mechanical-electrical engineer and technical director of the OTE telecommunications company), Marianthi Simou studied the problems and needs of vocational education in Greece. They came to the conclusion that student training in technical schools lagged behind due to the lack of adequate and accessible textbooks, insufficient practical training and a lack of the appropriate infrastructure for practical training.
The following actions were decided upon in order to remedy these problems:
- Granting scholarships to young graduates of the technical schools for furthering their education abroad.
- The writing and publishing of technical education textbooks.
- Building a Technology Centre in which the following would operate:
- Technical and Scientific Library.
- Halls for physics experiments and technology displays, for the supervised teaching of the laws of physics to students, but also for their understanding by the general public.
- Auditorium and other halls where scientific and technical conferences and lectures could be held.
The implementation of the project began immediately, and on 7 June 1966 the inauguration of the Eugenides Foundation building took place with great formality and splendour. Already the work of the Foundation had been impressive, and on 30 December 1965 the Academy of Athens awarded the Foundation its highest honorary distinction, the Gold Medal.
First president of the Management Committee of the Eugenides Foundation
Following the demise of Marianthi Simou, the directorship and administration of the Eugenides Foundation was carried out by a three-member committee, in which the Rector of NTUA participates ex officio.
The first president of the Management Committee of the Eugenides Foundation was Nikolaos Vernikos-Eugenides (1920-2000), the valued associate of Marianthi Simou.
As president of the Foundation, he not only eagerly continued the work of Marianthi Simou, but extended the Foundation’s activities to other areas as well.
During his tenure, the Foundation donated five fully equipped specialized vehicles to cover the transportation needs of students with disabilities to the Ministry of Education, allocated complete physics laboratory equipment to 55 lyceums, offered grants for research to professors of the Universities of Ioannina and Patras, donated a ship movement and manoeuvring simulator to the Centre of Further Education for Seafarers [KESEN] and a complete marine radar simulator, organized many teacher training seminars and more.
One of the most important donations that took place during the presidency of Nikolaos Vernikos-Eugenides was the disbursement of 900,000,000 drachmas (3,000,000 USD) to cover the necessary repairs to school-building damages caused by the 1999 earthquakes in Attica.
Before his death on 7 November 2000, Nikolaos Vernikos-Eugenides had also decided on the extension of the Foundation and had supervised the preparation of the plans for the new wing, which would eventually house a state-of-the-art Planetarium and provide new spaces for many educational activities and exhibitions.
Rightly so, Vernikos-Eugenides may be considered the second creator of the Foundation. Although he kept a low profile for decades, he greatly contributed to scientific, technical and vocational education in Greece and was commended on his work by receiving an Academy of Athens award in 1993.
President of the Foundation since 2000
The work of Nikolaos Vernikos-Eugenides has been continued, revitalised and expanded today by Leonidas Dimitriades-Eugenides, president of the Foundation since 2000.
As president he has realised the plans of Nikolaos Vernikos-Eugenides for the New Digital Planetarium, one of the world’s largest and best-equipped of its kind, and for the Interactive Science and Technology Exhibition Hall, a model exhibition space featuring 65 interactive science and technology exhibits.
This has now been replaced by the new model Science and Technology Centre, dedicated to science, technology, engineering and mathematics and featuring experimental demonstrations in physics, chemistry and biology and programming workshops for electronics and robotics.
Also owing to Leonidas Dimitriades-Eugenides is the establishment and operation of the UTech Lab Technology Laboratory, a space dedicated to creative work with innovative technological tools (3D printers and more) for young people, created in 2014 with the collaboration and support of the American Embassy in Athens.
During his time, the Eugenides Foundation has also become accessible and friendly to people with disabilities and impairments.
In 2015 he was awarded a prize by the Academy of Athens for the exemplary operation of the Eugenides Foundation Planetarium, one of the finest digital planetaria in the world.
In 2016 the Eugenides Foundation also won the Achievement in Education and Training award at the Greek Shipping Awards organized by Lloyd’s List.
Among the many donations dispensed during Leonidas Dimitriades-Eugenides’ tenure are amounts for the restoration of damages from the 2014 earthquakes and the complete renovation of the Ionian Islands Merchant Marine Academy (€700,000) and more recently (2018) for the repair of the Kymi Merchant Marine Academy (€90,000).
In August 2010, on the initiative of the representatives of the Nea Orestiada local authority in cooperation with the local primary education division, the 6th Primary School as well as the 6th Kindergarten of Nea Orestiada were renamed the Eugenides 6th Primary School of Nea Orestiada and the Eugenides 6th Kindergarten of Nea Orestiada (decision published in the Government Gazette, vol. 2, no. 1177/05.08.2010). This initiative was undertaken in order to honour the national benefactor Eugene Eugenides by his birthplace, the region of Thrace.
Reciprocating, the Eugenides Foundation covered the cost of all the needs of the primary school for modern electronic equipment (computers, printers, etc.) and has since funded an annual visit to Athens by 6th-grade students accompanied by their teachers, as well as representatives of the parents and guardians association.
Finally, in June 2018 the 1st Vocational Lyceum [EPAL] of Didymoteicho was renamed after Eugene Eugenides following the proposal of the municipal committee (decision published in the Government Gazette, vol. 2, no. 2362/20.6.2018). This renaming honours the national benefactor Eugene Eugenides, a native of Didymoteicho, who offered much to his hometown.