It is with great sadness that the faculty, students, and staff of the Center for Greek Studies at the University of Florida announce the passing of our dear friend, mentor, and founding father Leonidas C. Polopulos.
Leo, as he was known to all of us who had the privilege to be his colleagues, retired from the University of Florida in 1996, after a long and distinguished career as a Professor of Food and Resource Economics. An internationally recognized specialist in the fields of agricultural labor economics and agricultural marketing, Leo was also an indefatigable administrator who held a variety of important posts at all university levels, worked as a consultant to the US Government under the Kennedy and Nixon administrations, and served as the director of professional organizations and editor of scholarly journals nationwide. First and foremost, Leo was a passionate advocate of Greek culture and the traditions of his Greek forefathers. From his Greek heritage he derived his love for farming, a natural talent for music, and a seemingly endless creativity. A relative of the famous Greek poet and song writer Nikos Gatzos, in 1975 Leo founded the Embros Orchestra, a musical ensemble that for decades has brought traditional Greek music to audiences all over Florida. In 1980, he co-founded with K. Hartigan the Center for Greek Studies at the University of Florida, an organization devoted to the study and promotion of Greece that each year funds cultural activities and dozens of scholarships for students interested in Hellenic studies. We owe it to Leo if today our undergraduates have such a rich palette of Greek courses to choose from, or if they can travel to Greece to get a first-hand experience of this country’s millennia-long culture.
The Center for Greek Studies, its programs, and its scholarships are all things that would not have been possible without Leo’s vision, creativity, and energy. It is difficult to imagine a Center for Greek Studies without him. As we continue his work, we like to remember him still at the lectern, lecturing hundreds of wide-eyed UF students on the Greek economy with his historic 3-D projector from the 1970’s, or on a brightly lit stage, accompanying Greek dances to the sound of his klarino. And in remembering him, we cannot help but think of that poem by Nikos Gatzos that begins:
At the fire in your eye, God will have smiled
(Πάρε το δακτυλίδι σου, 1994)