From Zillmer's perspective, 'Taki was a winner'
Issue date: 4/10/09 Section: Sports
"Simply put, Taki was a winner," Zillmer, who worked with Papadakis for the past decade, wrote in an e-mail. "When Taki grew up in Greece, he was a successful athlete on a track and field team, specializing in throwing events, including the shot put and discus. One could say that for Taki, the motto 'citius, altius, fortius' (faster, higher, stronger) became a major motivational aspect of his life. Taki was entrepreneurial and loved bold, 'out-of-the-box' ideas.
"This suited my own personality and he was very sympathetic for any proposed changes in athletics that were based on those principles. For example, he was very supportive for the move to the more competitive Colonial Athletic Association [back in 2001 to 2002] or pursuing the Olympic Table Tennis trials to be hosted at Drexel, which he thought was a major achievement."
Papadakis, who passed away suddenly due to pulmonary complications April 5, was a vital contributor in making the Drexel University Recreation Center expansion project come to fruition, according to Zillmer.
"He worked very closely with athletics and the architects for the creation of the new 84,000 square-feet recreation center," Zillmer said. "His 'finger-prints' are all over that building; for example, the fact that the building is almost contiguous with Market Street, emphasized how he felt about Drexel being an urban school or the majestic, state-of-the-art façade, which Taki liked because it was daring."
The $41.6 million facility, which will double the recreation space at the DAC, is scheduled to open December 2009. It will feature a climbing wall; multi-purpose gym; suspended jogging track overlooking new basketball courts; 18,000 square feet of fitness equipment space; two squash courts with seating; a juice bar; a 6,000-square-foot sports grille restaurant; and several other additions.
"The University is getting better and better by the day," Papadakis said Sept. 23, 2008, the day of the new Recreation Center's groundbreaking ceremony. "We need to provide not only good quality education for the students, but also an environment where our students can enjoy their learning process. This has become the focus of the management team here to create an environment conducive to learning and that is also enjoyable to the students."
Papadakis also supported the upgrade of Vidas Field and the rowing boathouse initiative, according to Zillmer.
Now it is up to the current and future administration to continue in Papadakis's footsteps.
"For a successful urban campus like ours, it is essential that every student can participate in some form of athletic activity or play, whether as a recreational participant, a competitor in intramural, club, or varsity sports, or a spectator at athletic events," Zillmer said. "Drexel needs to be an exciting place to live, go to school and work, in order to retain students and bring regional and national pride and recognition to the institution."
Zillmer said he has the utmost confidence in Interim President D.R. "Chuck" Pennoni, in-large part due to the fact that his son used to play lacrosse at Drexel and that he frequently attends Drexel sporting events.
He also praised Board Chairman Richard Greenwalt, Senior Vice President Jim Tucker and others for "taking time out of their busy schedules to travel down to Harrisonburg, Va., to cheer on the women's basketball team to a CAA championship."
Zillmer had many fond memories of Papadakis - none better than when the men's basketball team upset city rival and Big East powerhouse Villanova at The Pavilion 81-76 Dec. 6, 2006.
"Winning at Villanova for the first time ever was very special. Although Taki was not in attendance; he was at a Pennsylvania party in [New York City], coincidentally with other Villanova University officials and alumni," Zillmer said. "I immediately called Taki to tell him about the monumental win, and of course he 'bragged' about it with his 'Nova friends.
"The Villanova contingent at the party could not believe that Drexel had won; after all, we have lost all previous contests to them and the current win was on their home court, the Pavilion. Surely Taki must have gotten it wrong, they surmised. Thus, Taki called me back, 'Eric, are you sure we won?' 'Yes, Mr. President I am certain we beat Villanova,' I heard myself answering."