PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- Constantine Papadakis, the Drexel University president who is credited with raising the endowment, enrollment and profile of the one-time commuter school, died of complications from lung cancer. He was 63.
Papadakis died Sunday evening, three days after he officially stepped down to take medical leave. A statement from Drexel issued Monday said his lung cancer was in remission but that Papadakis died from pulmonary complications.
Papadakis ran the private Philadelphia university like a business and made no apologies for it, adding programs and even considering a second campus clear across the country.
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But his no-nonsense financial approach was tempered by a smiling, gregarious personality. Called "Taki" by students and friends, Papadakis personally shook the hand of every Drexel graduate at commencement -- last year, that meant about 4,500 handshakes over the course of half a day.
"He was a charismatic and dynamic leader, a terrific strategic thinker," said Richard Greenawalt, chairman of university's board of trustees. "He transformed Drexel University using that vision."
Papadakis became Drexel's president in 1995 and began shoring up the school's finances, eventually overseeing construction of numerous campus buildings. Under his leadership, the university acquired schools of medicine, nursing and public health, and established an extensive online degree program. In 2006, Drexel started its own law school.
"There was none to buy, so we had to open our own," Papadakis joked to The Associated Press in a 2007 interview.
Amy Gutmann, president of the neighboring University of Pennsylvania, praised Papadakis as a "commanding visionary who never rested on the laurels of Drexel's gains."
"He kept raising the bar by taking the boldest strategic risks for the sake of his students, faculty and staff," Gutmann said in a statement. "He leaves Drexel financially and academically thriving, and everyone who knew him blessed for having their lives touched by this mountain of a man."
Drexel has begun putting down roots for a possible second campus in Northern California. It started offering master's degree programs in Sacramento in January and received approval from local officials to build a campus in nearby Placer County, though environmentalists have challenged the plans in court.
Before coming to Drexel, Papadakis was the dean of engineering at the University of Cincinnati.
Born in Greece on Feb. 2, 1946, Papadakis grew up in Athens and received his undergraduate degree in civil engineering from the National Technical University there. He held a master's degree in civil engineering from the University of Cincinnati and a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan.
He was a professional engineer registered in Ohio, Pennsylvania and Greece.
Papadakis also once headed the civil engineering department at Colorado State University and was vice president of Tetra Tech Inc., a Honeywell subsidiary, before joining Cincinnati.
He also served in several engineering positions with Bechtel Power Company beginning in 1974.
He is survived by his wife, Eliana, and daughter, Maria. Papadakis took great joy in handing Maria her bachelor's degree when she graduated from Drexel last year.
A church service is scheduled for April 14 at St. Luke Greek Orthodox Church in Broomall.
C.R. "Chuck" Pennoni, a former Drexel trustee and chairman of a Philadelphia engineering firm, is serving as the university's interim president.