New York.- By Apostolos Zoupaniotis
Photos: GANP/Dimitrios Panagos
Alex Spanos, a Greek American self-made billionaire and a philanthropist passed away on Tuesday, at 95. He was the founder of A.G. Spanos Companies and owner of the Chargers NFL Franchise. According to the family’s statement, Alex Spanos passed away peacefully surrounded by his loved ones on Tuesday morning.
Statements were issued by former President George Bush, cabinet members and prominent political personalities of the United States, as well as the NFL teams.
According to the Spanos Family announcement, “from humble beginnings to becoming the top apartment builder across the nation and the owner of an NFL franchise, Alex proved that dreams do come true.
Alex was the embodiment of the American dream and leaves behind a legacy of passion and hard work. Born the son of Greek immigrants in 1923, Alex’s tireless work ethic and fearlessness was instilled in him when at only eight years old, he began working in his father’s bakery before and after school. A tough upbringing coupled with the unshakeable belief that he could accomplish anything he set his mind to drove him to succeed and overcome countless obstacles.
In 1984, Alex fulfilled one of his lifelong goals by purchasing the San Diego Chargers. His intensely competitive nature and passion for sport made him the perfect fit to be a part of the NFL family. One of his most memorable moments was watching the Chargers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to play in Super Bowl XXIX. He was equally passionate about the franchise’s impact off the field, implementing many Chargers’ community outreach programs that exist to this day. The Chargers Community Foundation – which he created and funded – still supports numerous critical causes, individuals in need and organizations supporting the community.
Aside from being a celebrated businessman and generous philanthropist, Alex’s greatest joy and source of pride was his family. His beloved wife Faye, his four children, his 15 grandchildren and his 12 great-grandchildren always came first. Throughout Alex’s life, Faye, his wife of nearly 70 years, was his rock and inspiration. It was Faye’s unconditional love and support that gave him the strength and peace of mind to take risks and pursue his goals unfettered. Together they contributed generously to worthy causes and charities. Hospitals, universities, scholarship funds, youth programs, sports programs, churches, schools – all were recipients of their incredible generosity.
Through it all, Alex never forgot his roots and took immense pride in both his Hellenic heritage and Greek Orthodox faith. It was through that faith he learned compassion and empathy. Whenever he was called upon to help, he always delivered. Passionate about education, helping the underprivileged and enabling those with a dream to better their lives, he took pride in setting an example for others to follow.
Fiercely loyal, competitive, passionate and loving – that was Alex Spanos.
We have no words that can adequately express our sadness with his passing. We will continue to honor his legacy by dedicating ourselves to making a difference in the community and throughout our country.
As Alex would say, “Believe in yourself. There is nothing you can’t do if you set your mind to it.”
Funeral arrangements will be announced in the next few days.”
Embodied the American Dream
Alex Spanos was born on Sept. 28, 1923, in Stockton, California. One of six children, Spanos built a billion-dollar fortune in real estate and construction. Alex G. Spanos and Fay Papafaklis were married on August 22, 1948 at the St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church in Tarpon Springs, Florida. They were blessed to have four children, fifteen grandchildren. Fifty-five years later, Alex and Faye Spanos continue to place each other and their family at the center of their lives.
In 1951, with his young wife Faye and their infant child, Alex took a risk and left his father’s bakery business, borrowed $800 and purchased a truck in order to sell sandwiches to migrant farm workers in the San Quaquin Valley. With Faye’s assistance, Alex transformed his first business enterprise into a highly successful catering business. By 1956, the catering business had become so successful that Mr. Spanos began investing in real estate. In 1960, Alex began A.G. Spanos Construction which he turned into the top-ranked housing construction company in the United States.
Yet with all of this business and economic success, Spanos had never forgotten his roots or the integral role his family has played in his life. As a reflection of his belief in his family, A.G. Spanos Companies continues to be a family owned and operated business.
An Archon of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, former president of the Archdiocesan Council, and member of Leadership 100, Mr. Spanos had been a leading churchman for several decades. He was a founding member of the “Leadership 100” and the Faith Endowment, to which he sas donated 10,000,000 dollars.
Faye and Alex Spanos have also been generous supporters of their home parish in Stockton, St. Basil Church, as well as being instrumental in establishing the Patriarch Athenagoras Orthodox Institute at the Graduate Theological Union (GTU) in Berkeley, CA, especially with the creation of the Alexander G. Spanos Chair in Orthodox Christian Studies at the GTU.
The Spanos couple’s philanthropy has touched the lives of many individuals and communities. In particular Alex and Faye have had given back to those communities which have been important parts of their lives.
Alex Spanos was a graduate of the University of the Pacific, and the generous contributions of Alex and Faye have led to the building of the Faye Spanos Concert Hall and the 6,000-seat Alex G. Spanos Center on the campus of the University.
As owner of the San Diego Chargers, Mr. Spanos has created and funded numerous charitable activities and organizations for the city and citizens of San Diego. The city of Stockton, which has been their home and place of business for over fifty years has been a significant recipient of the Spanos’ Christian philanthropy.
In his published autobiography, Sharing the Wealth (2002), Mr. Spanos states, “I believe I have a sacred duty to share my good fortune with my church, my community, my fellow Greek Americans and my family.”
Alex Spanos, in particular, has been recognized for his commitment to community and humanity. He was the recipient of numerous honors and awards, including the Horatio Alger Award, The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Medal of Honor, the Gloria Swanson Humanitarian Award, and the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai Brith’s National Distinguished Community Service Award for devotion to community and concern for others.
Throughout all their professional, civic, and entrepreneurial success, Faye and Alex have treasured their family above all else.
A proud Greek American
In 1972, he was elevated to be Archon Depoutatos of the Ecumenical Patriarchate for his extraordinary support of the Greek Orthodox Church and in October 2004 he was honored with the “Athenagoras Award” of the Archons.
“I cannot tell you how proud I am for being Greek American and let the World know about it. There are not many of us, but when there is enough of us we can make sure they know who we are”, said Alex Spanos at the “Athenagoras Award” ceremony.
In his highly emotional speech, Alex Spanos thanked repeatedly his wife Faye and his mother for giving him the right values.
“My mother was always telling me “kane kalo na deis kalo” (Do good so good comes your way) and that was what I was always trying to do”, he said.
His initial involvement with Greece was in September 1986, when he travelled to Greece following the catastrophic earthquake in Kalamata, the birthplace of his parents. He was received with high honors from Prime Minister Andreas Papandreou and despite their deep ideological differences they built a strong friendship. As he states in his autobiography, Spanos tried unsuccessfully to convince his close friend and President of the United States Ronald Reagan to lift the travel warning against Greece.
His closed relationship with U.S. presidents extended to President George H.W. Bush and George W. Bush. In his message to the Athenagoras Award Ceremony, George W. Bush called Spanos “his friend” and “a person that makes the world a better place.”
During a fundraising event of the Greek American Community on April 1, 2004, , in the presence of George Bush, Spanos stated:
“This is without a question one of the most exciting things that is ever happened for George W. Bush, our President, to have the GreekAmericans representing from all over the United States tonight. I am so proud, so proud and I know they feel the same way as they are supporting George W.”
In 2007 Alex Spanos has donated one million dollars for the victims of the Ilia fires and the following year he received an award by the President of the Hellenic Republic Karolos Papoulias.
When making his contribution to the Greek Fire Relief Fund, Alex Spanos stated, “We watched with heavy hearts the catastrophic fires and the destruction they left behind which affected thousands of people, their property and the beautiful countryside of Greece. I was greatly moved by the tragedy unfolding before my eyes and I know that every Greek American and every person was equally moved”.
In 2004 Alex Spanos was the Co-Chairman of the Greek American Republicans and helped to raise over 3.5 million dollars for the re-election of George W. Bush, who appointed him member of the U.S. official delegation to the Athens Olympics, headed by former President George H.W. Bush.
This was the year of Spanos’ biggest involvement with the Cyprus issue, on the eve of the referendum for the Anan Plan and the days that followed its rejection by the Greek Cypriots. Alex Spanos was working hard behind the scenes on the Cyprus cause. In June 2004, the President Cyprus Tassos Papadopoulos awarded Alex Spanos the Cross of Archbishop Makarios the 3rd, the highest honor of the Republic of Cyprus.