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Onassis Foundation

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Onassis Foundation

Alexander S. Onassis Foundation: Wishing to honor the memory of his son Alexander, who died in 1973, in an airplane crash at the age of 24, Aristotle Onassis 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] 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.[2] Christina Onassis was the first president of the foundation.[3]

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, endow Greek studies chairs at universities, and support other projects.[3] 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’ original wishes, all the activities of the Foundation are exclusively related to Greece and Greek civilization.[4]


• The Foundation aims at promoting Greek culture and civilization throughout the world. In this framework, in 1999, established the affiliate Onassis Foundation in New York City, to disseminate information about Hellenic civilization throughout the North and South America. The Foundation in New York holds a big-scale archaeological exhibition, other cultural and educational activities throughout the year, as well as a program of visiting Professors to Universities of Northern and Southern America and Canada. 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,[5] 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.

• Moreover, the Foundation supports Hellenic Studies on an international scale through the following: established 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.

• The Foundation, according to its founder’s will, awards the Onassis International Prizes since 1978. Bestowed on individuals or organizations in the fields of culture, social achievement and the environment, were redesigned in 2008, to include the following Onassis International Prizes, closely related to contemporary international issues and challenges:

I. In Shipping, Trade and Finance, in collaboration with the City of London and Cass Business School of the City University, London.

II. In Law and in Humanities, in collaboration with the Institute of France.

III. For the Protection of the Environment, in collaboration with the City of Hamburg, European Green Capital for 2011.

IV. “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.

• In the fields of social solidarity and health, the Foundation donated to the Greek state in 1992 the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Centre (OCSC). The 127-bed capacity OCSC is the first hospital in Greece fully certified in the departments of adult and pediatric heart surgery and cardiology, the only certified hospital in Greece for heart and lung transplantations. 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).

• A new multicultural space, the

• Scholarship programmes. 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.[7] Until 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.[8]


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