Former Temple President Peter Liacouras Dies at Age 85

Peter Liacouras, Temple's seventh president, speaks at the 2002 of his official portrait in Feinstone Lounge, Sullivan Hall
Peter Liacouras, Temple’s seventh president, speaks at the 2002 of his official portrait in Feinstone Lounge, Sullivan Hall (Courtesy: Temple University)

Temple University’s second-longest tenured President, Peter Liacouras, died Thursday at the age of 85 after battling a long illness.

Liacouras served as Temple’s seventh president from 1982-2000. That tenure as president was surpassed only by founder Russell Conwell.

He is credited with spearheading Temple’s evolution from a local commuter school to an internationally renowned public research institution.

“He was a man of vision and determination,” said President Neil Theobald. “He loved Temple and would do anything he could for the university’s greater good, whether that was before, or during or after his term as president.”

Influences of Liacouras can be seen daily around campus, including Liacouras Walk and The Liacouras Center, originally named the Apollo of Temple.

The former president also had a hand in the implementation of the infamous Temple “T” logo, which was designed by Tyler School of Art students during his presidency.

Liacouras took initiative in the development of Main Campus. During his presidency, more than $900 million were spent on projects including The Liacouras Center, Tuttleman Learning Center, Shusterman Hall and several student residence halls.

“There is no doubt in my mind that he laid the groundwork for the nationally respected university that Temple is today,” said Theobald.

Not long after the development projects, the total number of students and staff living within three blocks of main campus grew by more than 200 percent.

“Everywhere he went, he was an ambassador of optimism for this great university’s potential,” said Temple Board of Trustees Chairman Patrick O’Connor. “It was an honor to know him.”

During his presidency, the men’s basketball team was ranked number one in the country. Temple also launched what is believed to be one of the first national advertising campaigns for a university.

Liacouras shoots baskets in 1999 with former Pensylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (Courtesy: Temple University)
Liacouras shoots baskets in 1999 with former Pensylvania Gov. Tom Ridge (Courtesy: Temple University)

Liacouras’ impact was also felt in the classroom. Several new schools and colleges were created, and Temple’s Honors program was launched during his presidency.

The university said one of his proudest accomplishments was expanding Temple’s diversity. The first doctoral program in African-American studies started under his watch.

The first native Philadelphian to serve as Temple’s president, Liacouras was the son of Greek immigrant parents.

He studied at Drexel University, the College of William and Mary, the University of Pennsylvania Law School, the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Harvard Law School and Yale Law School, where he was a sterling fellow.

He was Dean of Temple Law for 10 years and a law professor. He was later appointed a university chancellor.

A memorial service for Liacouras will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, May 20, in the Temple Performing Arts Center. More information about Liacouras’ life can be found here.

1 Comment

  1. In the fall of 1986 I attended an open house at Temple University. I remember being greeted by then president, Peter Liacouras. The statement he made that struck me then and sticks with me to this day about the place I called home during the next 4 years was, “If you want to find and meet other people like you; people with similar interests and backgrounds; people who think the way you do…go to Penn State. If you want to experience something other than what you’ve experienced so far in your education and in your life, come to Temple.”

    In 1978, my sister wanted to go to Temple’s Dental Hygiene program – at that time, my parents absolutely refused to send her there because of the reputation of the city and according to them, there was ‘nothing so special about the university or its program’ to warrant putting their daughter “in danger.”

    Nine years later, the city’s reputation hadn’t changed significantly (though it would in the years I attended and those immediately following) but the University’s certainly did. The biggest difference in those nine years was the new direction and vision set by Peter Liacouras who took Russell Conwell’s original mission to serve those who were so often under-served to heart and to make Temple University a place where so many people of so many backgrounds could peacefully coexist and happily call their home.

    It’s been 25 years since I was a student on that campus and while not every day from 1987 to 1991 was made of rainbows and puppy dogs, every day was a day I learned something new about myself, the people I chose to befriend, those I didn’t, and the larger world around me.
    North Broad will always be a place I think of as “home” and much of that is because of the community Peter Liacouras helped to create among “an acre of diamonds”.

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