NEW YORK – The passing in February of Michael E. Jaharis Jr., 87, Archdiocesan Council vice president, great benefactor of the Church and noted philanthropist and businessman, marks the end of an era, observed Archbishop Demetrios at Holy Trinity Archdiocesan Cathedral where he officiated at the trisagion and funeral services Feb. 19–20.
Jaharis died Feb. 17 at his home after a lengthy illness, surrounded by his family.
“Michael Jaharis was a truly great and unique human being,” Archbishop Demetrios said at the funeral on Feb. 20. “His passing creates the end of an era, but it is not an end, but a beginning for him, the beginning of a life with God.
“He was a wonderful, brilliant example for his family,” the Archbishop continued. “Home and church are the places he loved.” He also spoke of Jaharis’ many accomplishments whose good works “will follow him in front of God.” His Eminence said that those good works were so numerous that “I am absolutely unable to count them; they are impossible to grasp, impossible to enumerate...They are the best kind of works. His memory is going to be eternal, no doubt.”
At the conclusion of the funeral, Jaharis’ daughter Kathy, son, Steven, and Kevin Ferro, CEO of Vatera Healthcare Partners LLC, a New York–based investment group founded by Jaharis, offered moving eulogies, followed by the singing of “Amazing Grace” by Jaharis’ granddaughters, Valerie and Melina Jaharis.
“He showed us all how to live through is acts of kindness and generosity, his humor and his warmth,” said Steven. “He will be missed.”
An Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate since 1988, he was a tireless supporter of the Church for many decades, including the Ecumenical Patriarchate; education, the arts, a successful entrepreneur, a pharmaceutical industry leader and innovator, and founder of four companies.
Upon learning of Jaharis’ death, Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew conducted a trisagion service. He also sent a personal letter to the family that was read during the service.
Jaharis served on the Archdiocesan Council since 1986, was a member of the Executive Committee most of that time and served as the Vice President for the last 14 years helping to guide our Church forward.
Among the milestones achieved dur- ing his tenure was instilling a professional approach in the Archdiocesan Council, the consistent balancing of the budget, the elimination of an inherited $7 million debt, and an increase in financial contributions by the parishes.
He was the driving force behind the effort to rebuild St. Nicholas Church destroyed in the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. “When finished,” Jaharis told the Archdiocesan Council in 2012, the new structure will provide “a shining spotlight on the Greek Orthodox faith and our core values of love, respect, peace, healing, and forgiveness.”
Jaharis provided significant support to Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology. In 2010, he bestowed a generous grant to Hellenic College Holy Cross School of Theology to establish the Mary Jaharis Center for Byzantine Art and Culture and the Archbishop Demetrios Endowed Chair in New Testament Studies.
“The Church cannot grow without a strong and stable educational institution to train future clergy,” he said at an Archdiocesan Council meeting in 2012. “A strong school is a significant contributor to a strong Church.”
Among his many philanthropic efforts in the Church, he was a founder of the Archbishop Iakovos Leadership 100 Endowment, and of FAITH: An Endowment for Orthodox & Hellenism; a major benefactor of the Orthodox Christian Mission Center in St. Augustine, Fla., along with his wife of nearly 60 years, Mary. This included funding for its construction and ongoing maintenance. Helen Nicozisis, OCMC board member reflecting on his passing, said, “He established an endowment to maintain our new facilities after he and his lovely wife, Mary, donated substantially to the capital campaign. He was always gracious enough to grant us time to visit with him and Mary to bring them up to date on our ministries. His jovial, upbeat demeanor encouraged and nurtured us.”
OCMC Executive Director Fr. Martin Ritsi added, “Michael Jaharis’ philanthropic spirit has reached far and wide. With his wife, Mary, he has helped to establish the foundation of our missionary outreach. We thank God for having brought him into our lives and will miss him dearly.”
Dr. Anthony Limberakis, national commander of the Order of St. Andrew Archons of the Ecumenical Patriarchate noted, “It is with a heavy heart that the Order of Saint Andrew the Apostle shares the sad news that earlier today Archon Exarchos Michael E. Jaharis fell asleep in the Lord. We extend our heartfelt sympathy to his beloved wife Mary Jaharis, his son Dr. Steven Jaharis (Elaine) and his daughter Kathryn Jaharis and their five grandchildren.”
With Mary, he helped provide humanitarian relief with food, clothing and pharmaceutical support to many thousands of people in Greece over the years and gave to organizations aiding refugees coming to Greece from Syria and elsewhere in the Middle East. This included providing significant financial assistance to relieve hunger and poverty in Greece in 2013 and the most recent the refugee crisis. In 2006, he established the Jaharis Home for the Aged in his father’s native village, Aghia Paraskevi, in north central Mytilene (Lesbos).
Archbishop Hieronymos II of Athens and All Greece, upon learning Jaharis’ death, conducted a prayer service at the Archdiocesan Chapel in Athens, Greece and issued the following statement:
“With grief, the Church and the people of Greece were informed about the death of Michael Jaharis, a great man of the Greek diaspora in the USA, known for his contributions to the Church and our nation, both abroad and in mother Greece. The late Michael Jaharis was a noble child of Greek Orthodoxy in the New World.
“As a worthy Orthodox and a worthy Greek, he used the wealth he achieved from his great and successful business activities for the benefit of Orthodoxy and Hellenism in advancing the ideas, values and traditions of our Greek Orthodox people.
“His support to Greece was invaluable. He assisted with generous financial contributions and relief projects in response to the poverty and crisis that Greece has experienced these last years.”
Konstantinos Dimtsas, director-general of Apostoli, the philanthropic arm of the Church of Greece, offered the following statement: “The Apostoli family mourns the loss of Michael Jaharis, an illustrious Greek-American businessman and gener- ous philanthropist.
‘From the beginning of the economic and social crises, the late Michael Jaharis has helped the work of Apostoli, supporting generously our programs and actions for the alleviation of the economic crisis that has befallen our country.
“Apostoli expresses its heartfelt and sincere condolences to the wife and family of this great benefactor.” In 1986, Jaharis and his wife created the Jaharis Family Foundation, which has since provided scholarships and educational grants to numerous recipients.
Jaharis was born in the Chicago suburb of Evanston, Ill., in 1928. His father originally came to Boston in 1908, returned briefly to Greece to get married, then came back to America where he settled in the Chicago area and operated a restaurant for many years.
Jaharis earned a B.A. degree from Carroll College in Waukesha, Wis., in 1950. After graduation, he served in the U.S. Army, attaining the rank of sergeant during the Korean War. He was eventually stationed in Austria where he was assigned to an Army medical unit responsible for distribution of medical and pharmaceutical supplies.
After leaving the Army, he worked as a sales representative for Miles Laboratories in Chicago while attending DePaul University College of Law at night, earning a Juris Doctor degree.
From 1961 to 1972, he worked for Miles Laboratories as vice president and director of the Ethical Drug Division from 1961 to 1972, when he became president and CEO of Key Pharmaceuticals. At Key, he led the development of such products as Theo-Dur, the nation’s best-selling asthma remedy, and the Nitro-Dur nitroglycerine patch, the first major advance in the delivery of medicine through the skin. Key Pharmaceuticals merged with the Schering-Plough Corporation in 1986.
In 1988, he founded Kos Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company named for the Greek island of Kos, birthplace of ancient legendary physician Hippocrates. At Kos, he directed his team to produce a family of drugs sold under the names of Niaspan, Advicor, and Simcor. These were potent, patient-friendly medicines designed to raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol that proved highly successful. He also founded Kos Pharmaceuticals and Vatera Healthcare Partners, and co-founded of Arisaph Pharmaceuticals.
Other philanthropic works
Over his lifetime, he served as a role model on how to offer time, energy, and intelligence in pursuit of a better world. He has been a tireless cultural ambassador, promoting Greek and Orthodox causes through the creation of galleries for Ancient Greek and Byzantine art at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the endowment of the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture at Fordham University.
He made generous charitable contributions to the DePaul University College of Law, Columbia University Medical Center, the Weill Cornell Medical College of Cornell University, Tufts University School of Medicine and the Metropolitan Opera.
He was also a Tufts trustee and trustee emeritus and Tufts School of Medicine Board of Overseers chairman, a trustee of Columbia University Medical Center Board of Visitors, the Board of Overseers of Weill Cornell Medical College and Graduate School of Medical Sciences and an Onassis Public Benefit Foundation trustee.
Upon learning of Jaharis’ passing, Metropolitan Museum of Art officials issued the following statement that appeared in the New York Times Feb. 18: “The Trustees and staff of The Metropolitan Museum of Art mourn the passing of Michael Jaharis, a treasured friend and generous Benefactor to the Museum with his wife, Mary, an honorary trustee. Together they have been steadfast supporters of the Department of Greek and Roman Art and the Department of Medieval Art and The Cloisters since 1984. Their multfaceted giving has touched on many areas of the Met, from gifts of works of art to funds in support of acquisitions, capital projects, education initiatives, publications, and special exhibitions. In recognition of their generous contributions toward the masterplan for the Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Galleries, the Museum’s grand vaulted gallery for the display of classical art and the galleries for Byzantine art were designated the Mary and Michael Jaharis Galleries. - Daniel Brodsky, chairman; Thomas P. Campbell, director; and CEO Daniel H. Weiss, president.
Through The Jaharis Family Foundation, he was also a Benefactor of Columbia University Medical College and Weill Cor- nell Medical College. He received an Honorary Doctor of Public Service degree from Tufts and the Crown Award from Columbia University Medical.
In addition to Mary Jaharis, survivors include his son, Dr. Steven Jaharis (Elaine), daughter, Kathryn Jaharis and five grandchildren.
Memorial donations may be made to the Rebuilding of St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church or the Cancer Programs at Columbia University Medical.