Alexander J. Kondonassis was born in Athens, Greece, on February 8, 1928, to John Isadore Kondonassis and Eve (Hatzistylianou) Kondonassis. He studied for one year at The University of Athens before making the voyage to the United States to enroll at DePauw University on full scholarship, graduating with a B.A. in Economics with distinction in 1952. He went on to receive his M.A. and Ph.D. in Economics from Indiana University in 1953 and 1961, respectively. He joined the faculty of The University of Oklahoma in 1958 and was a Professor of Economics there for over 50 years. While at OU, he served as Chair of the Economics Department for 17 years, was named a David Ross Boyd Professor in 1970 and a Regents’ Professor of Economics in 1993. Earlier in his academic career, he was awarded a Fulbright Professorship in 1965 and was a visiting professor at Oxford University (England) in 1979. He received the Regents Award for Superior Teaching in 1964, was named an Outstanding Educator of America in 1971, and was awarded the Merrick Foundation Teaching Award in 1977. He was inducted into the Oklahoma Higher Education Hall of Fame in 1998 and the Governor of Oklahoma declared May 17, 2005, “Alex J. Kondonassis Day” for his contributions to the State of Oklahoma. Upon his retirement from OU, he was presented with OU’s Seed Sower Award for extraordinary academic contributions to the University of Oklahoma.
Affectionately called Dr. K by his legions of students who teach and hold positions all over the world, he authored over 80 books, monographs, and articles, with a specialty in economic development and under-developed countries. He directed more than 60 doctoral dissertations and led OU’s Advanced Program in Economics for several decades, which offered military personnel in the US and abroad the opportunity to earn degrees from the University of Oklahoma. He traveled extensively and was a guest lecturer around the globe. His pride and joy was his family, and he is survived by his daughter Yolanda, his son John, his beloved granddaughter Amanda, and his son-in-law, Michael.
As a scholar, researcher, and author, Alex’s contributions were prolific, but perhaps his greatest passion was teaching. He always had a way of making the most complex concepts seem logical and organized. He was never interested in talking over his students’ or colleagues’ heads; instead, his methodology was consistently designed to fuel interest, understanding, mastery, and passion for the field he loved. Time and time again, the word one most often hears about Professor Alex Kondonassis is investment. His life-long, loyal, and compassionate investment in all of his students, as both scholars and as human beings, set him apart.
When Alex Kondonassis first came to the US as a college student, he spent summers working as a waiter (in such restaurants as New York City’s Tavern on the Green), a short-order cook, and a house painter. He would recount those days with fondness, saying that they taught him the value of hard work and provided more than few interesting adventures in the “land of opportunity.” Throughout his life, he loved exploration and travel, and he took great pride in experiencing many cultures while teaching across the globe. He traveled for both work and pleasure, delighting in his friends, family, and acquaintances throughout the world. Food was also a passion for him - with pasta, Greek dishes, and anything containing lemon topping the list. While his post-retirement years brought many health challenges, he approached every hurdle with optimism and a positive outlook. During one particularly difficult period in 2016, the hospital doctor approached Alex’s bed and said to him, “Sir, it may be time to give up and feel more comfortable.” He looked up at the doctor and replied, “Tell me, doctor, how does one give up?” That pretty much says all there is to say about Alex Kondonassis.