The Vryonis Center was established in Los Angeles in 1985 by Dr. Speros Vryonis, Jr., a renowned scholar of Byzantine and Ottoman studies, in honor of his late son Speros Basil. The educational goals embodied by the Center commemorate Speros Basil's strong appreciation of his double cultural heritage - American and Greek.
At the time of his death on February 14, 1985, at the age of 28, Speros Basil Vryonis was an electrical engineer in the Space and Defense Sector of TRW, Inc., in Redondo Beach, California, a company involved in the design of spacecraft and advanced microelectronics. At TRW, Speros Basil directed a team which designed the Matrix Switch Chip, the world's first VHSIC (Very High Speed Integrated Circuit) computer chip, that improved the performance of the electronic systems in the nose cones of jets and rockets.
When Dr. Vryonis decided to establish the Center, shortly after the death of his son, he was a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he taught the history of Byzantium, the Balkan peoples, and the Turks. He began teaching at UCLA in 1960, following four years on the faculty of Harvard University, where he received his Ph.D. in Byzantine history.
In July 1985, Dr. Vryonis met with a group of prominent Greek Americans at the home of California State Senator Nicholas Petris in Oakland to discuss various aspects of Greek-American society in the United States. Participating in the meeting, in addition to Senator Petris, were Angelo Tsakopoulos, a Sacramento developer, philanthropist, and patron of the arts; Andreas Kyprianides, Honorary Consul General of Cyprus in Los Angeles and community leader; and Lambros Papantoniou, a lawyer and journalist. After Dr. Vryonis explained that very few American and European universities offered courses in post- Classical Greek studies, the group decided to proceed with the formal institutionalization of the Vryonis Center which would become a research institute focusing on all phases of the development of Hellenism. Since that time, Angelo Tsakopoulos has been the essential force behind the operation and expansion of the Center through his establishment of an endowment and through his multifaceted support of the Center.
From 1985 to 1987, the Center was temporarily housed in Dr. Vryonis' Los Angeles home where he began to collect books which would later form the nucleus of the library at the Center. In 1987, the library was moved to the Center's first offices in west Los Angeles. That year, the Center organized its first conference which was held at UCLA and was entitled "Greece on the Road to Democracy: From the Junta to PASOK, 1974-1986."
In 1988, Dr. Vryonis was appointed director of the Alexander S. Onassis Center for Hellenic Studies at New York University. Since the Onassis Center had been founded in New York the previous year and there were other Hellenic studies centers in the area, it was decided that the Vryonis Center would remain in California where there were very few academic opportunities for pursuing Greek studies.
In 1989, the Center was moved to Sacramento and Dr. Christos P. Ioannides became its director. Dr. Ioannides received his doctorate in modern Greek and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Pennsylvania and has taught at Queens College, City University of New York; and Seton Hall University in East Orange, New Jersey. He has written extensively on Middle Eastern affairs, Greek-Turkish relations, the Cyprus conflict and the affairs of the Greek-American community.
In the future, the Tsakopoulos endowment will provide the Center with its own grounds and buildings, which will include expanded library facilities, conference rooms, an amphitheater, and a museum.
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