A Greek presence in the Pacific rim
The life of George Lucas Adamopoulos - newspaperman, industrialist, educator and diplomat.
The history of the Greek diaspora is replete with the lives of immigrants who, through hard work, have made new lives for themselves in their second homeland. For some the new land became a stepping stone to a third country. George Lucas Adamopoulos (Adamson) belonged to this category. Newspaperman, industrialist, educator and diplomat, Adamopoulos spent almost half a century in Pacific Rim countries, namely Australia and the Philippines.
Born on 28 April 1899 at the village of Polydrosso, Mount Parnassos, Adamopoulos completed high school studies in 1916 at Amphissa, central Greece and embarked on a two-year course in telecommunications and postal services at Athens Technical College. Then he enrolled at the new School of Chemistry, University of Athens, becoming one of its first students. His graduation followed three years of military service in Asia Minor, Macedonia and Thrace, and by that time he was convinced that he could find success overseas. On 1 May 1927, at the age of 28, he left for Sydney.
Soon after he arrived in Sydney, Adamopoulos took on the position of editor of the newspaper To Ethniko Vima. The previous editor, Kimon Verenikis, had resigned from his position and its owner Nikolaos Marinakis had been searching for someone to take his place. Adamopoulos' venture into the area of the press would not become a major career move for him and he would remain with the newspaper for only three years (1927-1930), nevertheless while he was at its helm, To Ethniko Vima was a quality publication.
Coming from a family company with a cotton processing business and a flour mill in Greece, industry was much more in line with Adamopoulos' aptitudes and interests. He started a chemical company, producing and bottling "Rayospa" mineral waters and bath salts, then became further involved in industry in 1929 as organiser and technical consultant to Australian Absorbent Cotton Wool Products Limited, also in Sydney.
Keenly interested in new developments in industry, after three years in Australia Adamopoulos set off for Japan where he intended to investigate progress there. However, when the boat stopped at Manila in October 1930, Adamopoulos disembarked for some sightseeing. There he met Kyriakos Chounakos, a spirits maker from Sparta. Chounakos, who owned the Mayon Distillery in Albay confided in Adamopoulos that his wines were turning sour - a problem Adamopoulos soon rectified. Delighted, Chounakos offered him the position of chemist and business partner which he accepted, thus closing the chapter of his activities in Australia and opening a new one in the Philippines.
Soon after, Adamopoulos and Chounakos formed the Chunaco-Adamson Chemical Company, producing vanilla, orange, raspberry and banana juices. It lasted until 1932, when Adamopoulos opened a laboratory which became a major assay and analysis facility for a range of materials, such as fuels, textiles, chemicals, medical products, etc., providing a valuable service to industry and agriculture in the Philippines.
Adamopoulos' other interests would claim his attention in the next decades. From this point on he would be involved as founder, president, director or consultant in nine more industrial companies, concerned with textiles, metals, pharmaceuticals and engineering. He made important contributions to industry and the economy of the Philippines. Furthermore, he became a member of various scientific and industrial organisations including the governmental Philippine Textile Research Institute as the Vice-Chairman, and the Philippine Chamber of Technology as director.
When Adamopoulos was still in Greece, from 1923-1927 he had run a private coaching school teaching chemistry and other science subjects. Now in the Philippines he saw an even greater need for educational facilities in technology and science, a critical need for the future of the country, rich in resources but industrially underdeveloped.
So on 20 June 1932, Adamopoulos opened the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry in Manila becoming an important advocate of industrial education in the Philippines. Declaring his debt to his Hellenic heritage, he chose Pallas Athena as the School's emblem. Then on 15 July 1932 he was joined by his cousin Alexander Athos Adamopoulos who would also play an important role in the future development of this educational endeavour.
Initially a night school, in one year the enrolment had grown to 300 students. In 1934 he also established a technical high school - the only one in the Philippines whose graduates were eligible for admission and scholarships at a number of technical colleges in the USA and Europe.
Two years later he amalgamated his two schools into the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry and Engineering. The School continued to increase in number of students, courses and educational facilities. In 1935-1941, as the academic reputation of this institution grew, a major milestone was reached on 5 February 1941 when the Adamson School of Industrial Chemistry and Engineering was authorised by the Philippines Department of Education to become a fully-fledged university (The Adamson University), with George Lucas Adamopoulos becoming its President and his cousin Alexander Athos Adamopoulos its Vice-President and Treasurer.
As World War II was expanding in the Pacific and with the occupation of Manila by the Japanese in 1941, the University entered a dark chapter in its history. On 3 January 1942 the University was seized by the Japanese, its library ransacked, and the Adamson family interned as enemy aliens. The University premises and equipment were used by the Japanese as a radio transmission station and when liberation came in 1945 the retreating Japanese razed the entire University leaving no remains whatsoever.
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