Alexander S. Onassis Foundation

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The Alexander S. Onassis Foundation was created by Aristotle Onassis to honor the memory of his son Alexander, who died at age 24 in an airplane crash in 1973. Aristotle Onassis died in 1975, and had directed in his will that half of his estate should be transferred upon his own death to a foundation to be established in Alexander's name.[1][2] In 1975, the executors of the estate accordingly established a pair of foundations, incorporated in Vaduz, Liechtenstein: the Business Foundation, which acts as a holding company for the underlying business interests, and the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, which is the sole beneficiary of the Business Foundation. The public benefit foundation is based in Athens, Greece.[3] Aristotle's daughter, Christina Onassis, was the first president of the foundation.[4]

The foundation is one of the largest in Europe, using its assets to create scholarship and prize programs, build the $75 million Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center in Athens (designed by London-based hospital architect Llewelyn Davies), endow Greek studies chairs at universities, and support other projects.[4] All activities of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation, from the time of its establishment to the present, are funded exclusively by the profits of the Business Foundation, which engages mainly in shipping and real estate investments.


Culture, education, the environment, health, and social achievement are the main priorities of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation. Carrying out Aristotle Onassis' and Maria Callas' original wishes, all the activities of the Foundation are exclusively related to Greece and Greek civilization.[5]


  • The Foundation aims at promoting Greek culture and civilization throughout the world. In this framework, in 1999, the affiliate Onassis Foundation in New York City was established to disseminate information about Hellenic civilization throughout North and South America. The Foundation in New York holds a large-scale archaeological exhibition, a program of visiting Professors to Universities of Northern and Southern America and Canada, and other cultural and educational activities throughout the year. In the same context, the Foundation undertook the establishment of the Onassis Library for Hellenic and Roman Art at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York,[6] the renovation and equipment of the libraries of the National Archaeological Museum, the Byzantine & Christian Museum and the Benaki Museum in Athens, the architectural preservation and restoration of sites and buildings around the world, as well as countless other endeavors centered on arts and culture.
  • The Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation in the United States is housed in the Olympic Tower on Fifth Avenue, in the heart of midtown New York City, with proximity to MoMA, Rockefeller Center, St. Patrick's Cathedral and Radio City Music Hall. The Olympic Tower was built in 1976 and combines offices, shops and luxury apartments in the same building. The Onassis Cultural Center is located in the Olympic Tower, and the ground floor Atrium with its unique waterfall includes the Atrium Café and the Hellenic Museums Shop. Olympic Tower is currently owned by the foundation, Oxford Properties and Crown Acquisitions.
  • Moreover, the Foundation supports Hellenic Studies on an international scale through the establishment of programs and/or centers/departments in Hellenic studies at universities outside of Greece with short-term – but renewable – programmatic agreements; elementary and secondary schools outside of Greece, where the Greek language, history and civilization are taught; and libraries specializing on Hellenic studies and Hellenic culture outside of Greece with book acquisitions, educational and pedagogical material.
  • To support the fields of social solidarity and health, the Foundation donated the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre (OCSC) to Greece in 1992. The 127-bed capacity OCSC is the first hospital in Greece fully certified in the departments of adult and pediatric heart surgery and cardiology, and the only certified hospital in Greece for heart and lung transplants. Other public benefit projects of the Foundation include financial support to organizations such as ELPIDA, for the establishment of cancer hospital for children, and the Hellenic Society for Disabled Children (ELEPAP).
  • Starting in 1978, the Foundation, according to its founder's will, awards the Onassis International Prizes, bestowed on individuals or organizations in the fields of culture, social achievement and the environment. They were redesigned in 2008 to include the following prizes, which are closely related to contemporary international issues and challenges:
  1. In Shipping, Trade and Finance, in collaboration with the City of London and Cass Business School of the City University, London.
  2. In Law and in Humanities, in collaboration with the Institute of France.
  3. For the Protection of the Environment, in collaboration with the City of Hamburg, European Green Capital Award for 2011.
  4. "Hestia" Onassis International Prize in Immigrant Integration and Human Development for a period of three years (2009–2011), established in the framework of the Civil Society Days Forum of the 3rd Global Forum on Migration and Development in Greece, organized by the Foundation.
  • A new multicultural space, the Onassis Cultural Center, was built in Athens in 2004 and opened in November 2010.[7]
  • The Foundation also awards approximately 216 scholarships per year to Greek postgraduate students for studies abroad and in Greece in all fields of research, and 36 scholarships per year for research and study within Greece addressed to non-Greek and Cypriot candidates in 2011–2012.[8] As of 2009, approximately 4,200 scholarships have been awarded to Greeks and 800 to foreigners.


Each foundation (Public Benefit and Business) is run separately, by its respective Board of 15 elected Directors. The current President and Treasurer for both Foundations is Anthony S. Papadimitriou.[9][10]

References and sources[edit]

  1. ^ Destiny Prevails: My life with Aristotle, Alexander, Christina Onassis and her daughter, Athina, Paul J. Ioannidis, Livani Publishing, 2013
  2. ^ "About the Alexander S. Onassis Foundation". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  3. ^ "Company Overview". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  4. ^ a b Lewin, Tamar (23 October 2000). "Behind the Art Show". The New York Times. Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  5. ^ "Mission". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  6. ^ "Onassis Library for Hellenic and Roman Art". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  7. ^ "Ballet News". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  8. ^ "Onassis Foundation Awards". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  9. ^ "Board of Directors". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  10. ^ "Award of Excellence". Retrieved 13 August 2013.
  • Ioannidis, Paul (2015). Destiny Prevails: My Life with Aristotle, Alexander, Christina Onassis and her daughter, Athina. New York: Significance Press-paperback or kindle edition. ISBN 978-0990757474.