Eagle Odyssey

Alumnus honored for creating 1980s Greek alumni group

Jordan Antoniadis (’86) wasn’t content to just sit around and wonder what ever happened to the many fellow Greek students who were his good friends when he was a student at Embry-Riddle in the 1980s.

So, he decided to find them. In 2009, through the Facebook page, “Greek ERAU 80s Alumni,” he located and reunited with more than 60 fellow alumni and friends living in Greece, the U.S. and around the world.

Once he made the connection, Antoniadis presented them with a bright orange, self-made “ERAU Lost & Found” shirt. Through the Facebook page, the old friends were able to share photos, reminisce and plan reunions.

“Jordan was the one who brought the group back together,” says Christodoulos “Chris” Tzanakos (’87, ’86), director of quality assurance for Teledyne Energy Systems. “And he personally made a point to see everyone who came back to Greece.”

Sadly, Antoniadis died on Feb. 3, 2021, at the age of 59. But Tzanakos and other Greek Embry-Riddle alumni and friends are trying to continue his efforts.

Tzanakos and Dimitris Roussos (’86), an air traffic safety electronics engineer for the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority at Corfu Airport in Greece, now manage the Facebook page, which recently changed its name to “Greek ERAU ‘Jordan Antoniadis’ Alumni” to honor the late Antoniadis.

Roussos says he started the ERAU Greek Alumni group on Facebook, but there were only a handful of people he was able to locate. Luckily, one was Jordan, who helped him track down most of the group.

Stelios Damigos, George Xenellis, Jordan Antoniadis, Dimitris Giovanakis (standing), Kostantinos Zepos, Panagiotis Spyratos and Chris Tzanakos get together at a seaside cafeteria in Greece.

“This was mainly due to his good contacts that he maintained over the years with most of us,” Roussos says.

Tzanakos and Roussos recently held a Zoom session to remember Antoniadis following his death and raised more than $2,000 for Antoniadis’ wife and two children through a GoFundMe page.

“It was always a blessing to have him around and organizing things,” says Tzanakos, who now lives and works in Maryland, but visits Greece regularly.

Sophia Epitropoulos credits Antoniadis with fostering “a brother- and sisterhood of Greek Embry-Riddle students and close friends who maintained that connection for life.” She did not attend Embry-Riddle, but she lived in Daytona Beach and became good friends with the group of Embry-Riddle Greek students. She recalls that Antoniadis started his efforts soon after he called her one day, trying to find someone.

“I lived in Daytona Beach and helped him,” she recalled. “Then, the Facebook page was created, and it was really funny how it evolved. It took a year and a half to get most of the folks. He started trying to find people, and he was really on a mission. He loved having that connection.”

‘It Was a Big Family’

In the 1980s, Embry-Riddle had a center in Greece that offered classes and allowed students to transfer to its Daytona Beach Campus, Tzanakos says. As a result, there were a large number of Greek students at Embry-Riddle then. They formed intramural soccer and volleyball teams and a club for Greek students called the Icarus Club.

He says the Greek students even had a designated “Greek table” in the university’s cafeteria.

“There was actually a Greek flag on the table some days,” Tzanakos says. “There were a lot of friendships and sports. It was a big family.”

Epitropoulos says the local Greek American community looked out for the students, treating them to meals and giving them work at their businesses.

“Most of the Greek students all lived around Beach Street together,” she says. “All of the Greek-owned businesses and Saint Demetrios Greek Orthodox Church really embraced the Greek students. That is how the community was — you take care of your own in Greek culture.”

Tzanakos says the students were grateful for the support. “You relied on a check mailed from Greece and, sometimes, people had no money for a week or more,” he recalls. “So we all looked out for each other. It is the bond that you share because you are in another country by yourself.”

The Great Connector

Antoniadis, who also went by the nickname “Danny,” was legendary for getting everyone together when they visited Greece, Tzanakos says. He would arrange local events and feasts at local tavernas.

“Someone would exchange a message, and he would coordinate and get everyone together,” Tzanakos says. “It would always be a big dinner, then you’d end up at 2 o’clock in the morning drinking coffee somewhere with other people calling in on speaker phone or Facetime.”

Christodoulos “Chris” Tzanakos (’87, ’86) and Jordan Antoniadis (’86)

John Tsapos (’86, ’88), who is managing director at BNY Mellon Asset Management in New York, says Antoniadis was the one who connected the Greek alumni group. More than just a host, he was also a confidant and always made time for friends.

“Personally, every time I flew into Athens, he always came to the airport to meet me,” Tsapos says. “Before anything, we would go have a coffee and talk about everything.”

Michel Aletraris (’87, ’89), product line manager at Delta Airlines in Georgia, agreed, adding, “If you look up the word hospitality, filoksenia, it had a picture of Jordan. He was a true filos/friend.”

Some of the 1980s Greek alumni reunited in 2011 and visited Embry-Riddle’s growing campus, Tzanakos says. Epitropoulos made a video tribute to Antoniadis with old photos of the group from their student years and reunions.

“Without Danny and his efforts, we couldn’t have had these wonderful nights we shared here in Greece,” says Katerina Deligiorgi (’87), an operational manager for KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, who lives in Athens, Greece. “He is the one to find all of us again.”

Tzanakos says he will try to honor his late friend’s memory by keeping the Embry-Riddle 80s Greek alumni group going, so the lifelong friendships, reunions and good times will continue.

“He definitely started something that will live forever,” Tzanakos says.