Frixos C. Charalampous, M.D., grew up in a rural village on the island of Cyprus, off the coast of Greece. “My father wanted me to follow him into the import/export business, to raise a family in Cyprus, to live his life,” he recalled. But Charalampous had another future in mind: to become a doctor.
It was his mother, whom he calls the “great inspiration and force” of his life, who encouraged him to follow his dream, and who persuaded his father to let him attend medical school. In her honor, Dr. Charalampous made a gift to the Department of Ophthalmology, donating his interest in a parcel of real estate from a property he owned in New Jersey. “Scheie Eye and the School of Medicine have the enviable reputation of being the centers of leadership in research and medical education,” he said. “I wanted to do whatever I could to promote its growth.”
Dr. Charalampous received his M.D. from the University of Athens shortly after World War II. He recalled that among the first patients he saw were resistance fighters. He moved on to Harvard University, where he completed post-graduate work. In 1953, he joined Penn’s Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics and spent his entire professional career there, becoming an emeritus professor in 1988.
“You learn a lot in a lecture hall,” he said. “The immediate feedback you receive from your students makes you a better teacher and it makes you strive to be the best you can be.” Of his colleagues in the Biochemistry and Biophysics Department, he said, “We were like a family, and our commitment to our work and our camaraderie made a wonderful combination. They have given me a lifetime of memories.”
By giving to Penn, said Dr. Charalampous, “I am doing my part to uphold the School’s position as a brilliant institution.” Above all, he hoped to honor the person who made it all possible, decades ago in a tiny village an ocean away. “By enabling me to go to medical school, my mother put me on a path that led me to a satisfying, wonderful career,” he said.
Dr. Charalampous’s charitable gift of real estate is just one of the creative gift opportunities that can benefit both the School of Medicine and its alumni.