YEARS OF SERVICE
PHYSICS CHAIR STEPS DOWN AFTER 25 YEARS
McLamore Outstanding Service Award, Outstanding Teaching Award, Outstanding Service Award from the University of Crete, and Iron Arrow Honor Society member. A sweep of the eye across the crowded shelves of a bookcase reveals these titles and others engraved into wood and metal plaques. One of them, a gift from students who enjoyed being constantly prodded for answers, sports a bronzed cow that responds, “Here’s the beef!” The assortment of honors, even the odd ones, pays tribute to the successful career of physics professor George Alexandrakis.
George Alexandrakis spent 25 years helping the physics department and the University achieve excellence.
A native of Greece, Alexandrakis came to the University of Miami in 1969 after earning a bachelor’s degree from the University of Athens and a Ph.D. from Princeton University. He served as chair of the Department of Physics for 25 years before handing over the reins to Kenneth Voss last summer. Alexandrakis’ legacy includes the recruitment of outstanding faculty, the creation of several new research groups, including elementary particle theory, experimental astrophysics, and complex systems, and the construction of the 73,000 square-foot James L. Knight Physics Building, the planning of which began under the leadership of then chair Manuel Huerta.
“I had a vision for the department and pursued it against great odds,” said Alexandrakis who noted that when he first arrived at the University, the department was not well known and its faculty members were housed in a few dilapidated buildings. “We are now the best small physics department in the country,” he said with pride.
But becoming a force to be reckoned with did not happen overnight. The transformation took years of hard work and patience. Alexandrakis started by hiring several distinguished faculty – nearly 75 percent of today’s group was appointed during his tenure. He also recruited exceptional students, both to the physics department and the University as a whole. Students who have had the opportunity to take one of Alexandrakis’ courses have loved him.
“He is an excellent and devoted teacher, and he is well-liked by his students,” said professor of physics Rafael Nepomechie.
The affection is mutual. “I love the students and I think they know that,” said Alexandrakis, “even when I drive them pretty hard.”
Photo: Chris Boynton
The University has more to thank him for than just attracting top students and faculty and improving the physics department’s facilities. Alexandrakis also served as chair and vice-chair of the Faculty Senate for a total of six years, and was a major player in campus beautification. He even convinced previous dean of the School of Law, Soia Mentschikoff, to build the School of Law courtyard. “Something I have always admired in George is that, although he was tirelessly advocating the development of the physics department, his priorities always were: first, the University; second, the College of Arts and Sciences; and third, the physics department,” said physics professor Howard Gordon.
But Alexandrakis refuses to take credit for his successes. When asked what his greatest achievements were, he modestly responds, “That’s not up to me to say.” Kenneth Voss, the department’s new chair, was more than willing to give his opinion on the matter. “I really think Dr. Alexandrakis’ greatest gift was his constant, consistent praise and promotion of the department and faculty through the years,” he says. “He constantly worked towards what he thought was the overall good of the department and University.”
So why quit when you’re ahead?
“It was time,” says Alexandrakis. “I’ve spent practically all my life working for other people and now I want to have time for myself. I’d like to think about things, read, and work on a couple of scholarly projects.”