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Constantine Simonides, MIT vice president and secretary, dies at 59

Constantine B. Simonides, 59, vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation, died Sunday morning while playing tennis, apparently of a heart attack. He was pronounced dead at 11:35 a.m. at the Leonard Morse Metrowest Medical Center in Natick.

A memorial service will be held at MIT on May 16 at 3pm in Kresge, with a reception to follow in Memorial Hall.

As secretary of the Institute's board of trustees, Mr. Simonides was one of four corporate officers of MIT for the past decade. He served as vice president in the office of the president for the past 24 years, serving four presidents in a period of extraordinary growth and change. His responsibilities included personnel, the medical department, public relations, admissions, athletics, career services and the MIT Press. He also served as the Institute's Equal Opportunity Officer.

MIT President Charles M. Vest said, "I am stunned by the sudden death of this close and valued colleague. The loss to MIT is incalculable. Constantine Simonides infected MIT with warmth and humanity. Through the force of his ebullient personality and through the boundless energy he applied to everything he did, he made MIT a happy, satisfying place to work. He was skilled at developing the best in people. He knew everybody and held them in the same respect whether they were student, custodian, administrator, professor or trustee.

"As vice president and secretary of the MIT Corporation, he kept the president's interaction with the trustees organized and flowing smoothly. His near-photographic memory regarding facts and happenings was legendary and a great asset in the conduct of his duties. Still, his greatest talent was a never-ending fascination with and insight into people. Constantine left an imprint on MIT that will serve us well for many, many years into the future," Dr. Vest said.

For the past five years, Mr. Simonides was the senior executive and chief strategist in the successful campaign to convince the US Justice Department that MIT's cooperation with other colleges in granting more than $25 million of need-based scholarship aid to its students was not a violation of the Sherman antitrust act. The Justice Department dropped the case last December.

Thane Scott, the lead attorney for Palmer and Dodge in MIT's financial aid antitrust case, said: "Constantine's unlimited curiosity and enthusiasm energized the lives of his many friends and colleagues. His deep and personal interest in the ideas and experiences of those around him made every contact with him memorable. All of us who were privileged to share his life will miss his practical wisdom, unparalleled good humor and extraordinary insight and intelligence."

Mr. Simonides joined MIT in 1960 as assistant to the director of the Summer Session. He served as assistant director of International Programs in the Sloan School of Management (1962-64), assistant dean of the Sloan School (1964-66), and assistant to the president (1966-1970). He was appointed vice president by President Howard W. Johnson in June, 1970. In October 1985, he was elected secretary and ex-officio member of the MIT Corporation.

Paul E. Gray, chairman of the MIT Corporation, said "Constantine Simonides served the Institute, including its governing board, with absolute devotion and loyalty, with astonishing energy, and with an extraordinary degree of administrative creativity. He believed that MIT could become a better place for study and work-a greater contributor to education and research-and he saw it as his responsibility to help lift this special place to higher levels of performance. We were colleagues for nearly 30 years and I relied on him for advice and counsel, for sound judgment, for his Hellenic optimism and humor, and for a sustaining friendship. His death is a shocking loss to the Institute and to all of us who loved him and depended so fully on him."

Mr. Simonides was born in Athens, Greece on May 5, 1934. At the age of 17, he came to the United States as an exchange student to attend St. Andrew's School in Middletown, DE, under the auspices of the American Field Service International Scholarships. He attended MIT and later received the AB degree in economics from Boston University in 1958 and the MBA degree in 1960 from Harvard University. He became an American citizen in 1959.

He was an elected Town Meeting Member in the Town of Wellesley, and served as a trustee of Babson College in Wellesley and of the Buckingham Browne & Nichols School in Cambridge. He was a member of the Trust Committee of the BayBank Trust Company (Cambridge) and was a consultant to business, educational, and community organizations on leadership development, strategic planning and the roles of trustee and director.

In 1956, he married the former Betty Lane Allen of Belmont. Betty Simonides is a realtor with Prudential Landmark Properties in Wellesley, where they have lived for many years.

Mr. Simonides also is survived by three adult children, Ted (and his wife Donna and their son Alexander Constantine), of Palo Alto, Calif.; Philip (and his wife Shaun) of Wellesley; Cynthia of Boston; his sister, Julia Cotsarides of Athens, Greece; his niece, Mirka Cotsarides of Athens; and his nephew, John B. Cotsarides of New York City.

A funeral service will be held on Friday, April 29, at noon at the Wellesley Hills Congregational Church, 207 Washington Street in Welleseley Hills. It is being arranged through J.S. Waterman & Sons of Wellesley.

The family will receive friends at their home in Wellesley Hills on Wednesday, April 27 beginning at 2pm, and also immediately following the service on Friday. There will be a private burial at the Mount Auburn Cemetery in Cambridge.

A memorial service will be held at MIT later in the spring. Memorial contributions may be made to the Constantine B. Simonides Memorial Fund at MIT and may be sent to the MIT Office of the Treasurer, Suite 200, 238 Main Street, Cambridge, 02142.

A version of this article appeared in the April 27, 1994 issue of MIT Tech Talk (Volume 38, Number 30).

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