Cover Story

Winning Combination

Service, community and compassion define 2009 Alumni Award winners

by Tina Potterf and Eric Sorensen2009_spring_cover_main

The 2009 Alumni Award winners will be honored at a ceremony on April 21, at Campion Ballroom.

Photos by Chris Joseph Taylor

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The 2009 recipients of Seattle University’s Alumni Awards are a distinguished bunch. Although their backgrounds are diverse—from a man who works to improve the lives of foster kids to a young alumna who makes health care and other vital services available to children affected by HIV/AIDS in Ghana—each in their own way embody the mission of the university. Through their work in the community, as service leaders and entrepreneurs, educators and mentors, and supporters of Seattle University, these individuals continue to inspire.

Here are their stories.

Alumnus of the Year

Nick Arvanitidis, ’63

Nick Arvanitidis considers himself “a philosopher,” one who offers sage advice culled from rich life experiences in the academic and business worlds.

2009_spring_cover_arvanitidisWhether he’s imparting career pointers or mentoring a college student, his philosophy is simple but direct: Do what you love.

Regardless of age or aim, Arvanitidis says, you need to be guided by a strong moral compass. “Choose the right thing to do, and let money be the result of how well you are doing, not why are you doing it,” say Arvanitidis, the 2009 Alumnus of the Year.

“Nick’s contributions to Seattle University are wide ranging and his professional achievements are more than impressive,” says Mary Kay McFadden, vice president for University Advancement. “But what he combines with all that is a deep understanding and commitment to the university’s mission.”

He speaks from experience as someone who has racked up significant achievements—professionally and personally—since his days as an electrical engineering student at Seattle University.

Born in Komotini, Greece, Arvanitidis arrived in Seattle “on a big boat called the Queen Elizabeth,” he says, and started off taking night classes to improve his English. In 1959 he enrolled as an SU student. There was little doubt about what he would study.

“I was preordained to go into engineering,” Arvanitidis says. “When you came from Greece [in the 1950s], you went into science or engineering. You were brought up to do that.”

Four years later, with an electrical engineering degree in hand, he was off to Stanford University, where he would earn a master’s in electrical engineering/systems analysis and a doctorate in engineering-economics systems.

The quality education he received at SU prepared him for the academic rigors of Stanford and a peer group of some of science and engineering’s brightest young minds.
“Seattle University was a very cozy environment but very tough,” he says.

In 1968, after he finished his PhD at Stanford, Arvanitidis launched Intasa, a think tank that offered consultation on management of natural resources and public policy issues such as the Clean Air Act. During this time he also took a job as an adjunct professor in Stanford’s engineering department.

When he turned 40, with his interest in academia and consulting waning, Arvanitidis decided a career change was in order. He was approached with an opportunity to go into the then-fledgling biotech industry.

In 1981 he and two scientist friends founded SEQUUS Pharmaceuticals, formerly Liposome Technology, a fully integrated pharmaceutical organization specializing in research, product development and regulatory affairs. Among the company’s greatest achievements under Arvanitidis’ leadership: the development of a drug used in the treatment of breast and ovarian cancers and an antifungal drug to treat infections. Both products were approved in several countries, including the United States and Europe. Until 1995 Arvanitidis served as the organization’s chairman of the board and CEO. (In 1999 SEQUUS was bought by Alza Corporation, and two years later it was acquired by Johnson & Johnson.)

“I decided my hair was already white and I didn’t want to lose any more,” says Arvanitidis, now of Menlo Park, Calif., on his decision to move on from the company.

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Great job Professor Stephenson. To this day, I remember the business plan that we had to put together. It was for a young couple thinking about starting a business to manufacture wood play structures - kind of like Rainbow Play structures. Even at that time, I felt it was such a win/win project - we got to learn a lot about consulting and building a business plan and they got free business advice. Who knows if they found the advice valuable but I found the experience very valuable!
(4/16/2009 8:59:03 AM, Bonnie Ferguson Nichols )

Please extend my congratulations to Nick Arvanitidis. He was a good friend of my brother Joe Bossi who died three years ago. They were SU classmates and stayed friends after graduation. Like Nick Joe earned his PhD in engineering at Stanford. I don't know how often they saw one another but Joe would tell me about Nick whenever they had been in contact. Reading of Nick reminds me of those days of friendship when we were all working our way through SU and wondering where our futures would take us. His took him in some very successful directions and it is appropriate SU honor him in this way. Congratulations!
(4/4/2009 12:32:08 PM, Fr. Steve Bossi, CSP )


Welcome, Alumni Relations AVP

Susan Woerdehoff has been named the new Assistant Vice President of Alumni Relations. Woerdehoff, a double alum of Seattle University, comes to SU following a long career with Microsoft. She starts May 25. Read more about her in SU Voice.




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