Fall 2015

His Laurel Crown

Michael Jaharis awarded honorary degree for lifetime of leadership, service

By Bruce Morgan

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Steven Jaharis, M87, foreground, with his father, Michael, shortly before the dedication of the Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences on the Boston campus in 2002. Photo: Mark Ostow

Great things often start from a simple place. Over his lifetime, Michael Jaharis Jr., M87P, has made himself into a model of how to offer time, energy and intelligence in pursuit of a better world. In one way he is expressing the generous-hearted nature of his father, who landed in Boston as a penniless Greek immigrant in 1908. Cherishing faith, family, education and hard work, the man known affectionately within the family as “Papou” set about to rise and prosper. The seed was planted. The son took his father’s example to heart and built on its abiding spirit to achieve even greater things for the betterment of human health and intellectual and spiritual well-being.

To recognize Jaharis’s commitment to service, which has included leadership at Tufts, the university awarded him an honorary Doctor of Public Service degree in at Commencement ceremonies in May.

Jaharis was born in Chicago in 1928. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Carroll College, now Carroll University, in Waukesha, Wisconsin, and then went on to earn his law degree from Chicago’s DePaul University at night while working days as a pharmaceutical salesman for Miles Laboratories. He had found his calling. From 1961 to 1972, he worked for Miles as vice president and director of the Ethical Drug Division. In 1972, he became president and CEO of Key Pharmaceuticals, where he led the development of such products as Theo-Dur, the nation’s best-selling asthma remedy, and the Nitro-Dur nitroglycerine patch, the first major advance in the delivery of medicine through the skin.

Jaharis has been called a “pharmaceutical maverick” for his ability to recognize and pursue opportunities in the field that others have missed. In 1988, he founded Kos Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company named for the Greek island where the legendary physician Hippocrates was born. At Kos, he directed his team to produce a family of drugs sold under the names of Niaspan, Advicor and Simcor. These were potent, patient-friendly medicines designed to raise HDL, the “good” cholesterol. They proved wildly successful and improved the health of millions.

The importance of education in the family prompted Jaharis to assume a leadership role in the governance of Tufts. He served as a university trustee from 1993 to 2003, and is now a trustee emeritus. He was a longtime chair of the Board of Advisors to Tufts University School of Medicine and the Sackler School of Graduate Biomedical Sciences; he stepped down from that role last spring.

The generosity of the Jaharis Family Foundation, which includes Jaharis’s wife, Mary, and their two children, Steven Jaharis, M87, and Kathryn, has utterly transformed Tufts’ health sciences campus. Highlights include the foundation’s cornerstone gift toward the building of the Jaharis Family Center for Biomedical and Nutrition Sciences, designed to expand research space and foster collaboration among faculty members in medicine, biomedical research and nutrition science; the dramatic renovation of the Sackler building, providing a more inviting and engaging home base for medical students; and the creation of the Clinical Skills and Medical Simulation Center, which enables students to gain critically important aptitude in physical diagnosis. The foundation also endowed the Jaharis Family Chair in Family Medicine in recognition of the importance of physicians who deliver the care that promotes the well-being of entire communities.

Jaharis’s drive to improve the world extends far beyond Boston. In recent decades he has been one of the nation’s leading supporters of Greek-American causes, whether religious, cultural or secular. The family foundation has endowed permanent exhibitions of Greek and Byzantine art at the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art and at the Art Institute of Chicago. In 2013, the foundation endowed the Archbishop Demetrios Chair in Orthodox Theology and Culture at Fordham University. That same year, the Jaharis Family Foundation pledged $2 million toward hunger and poverty relief in Greece.

Jaharis, now director of Arisaph Pharmaceuticals Inc., a company he cofounded, has also been intimately involved with the Greek Orthodox Church for many years. As vice chair of the Greek Orthodox Archdiocese of America, he has most recently volunteered his time in the effort to see New York City’s St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church, the sole church destroyed in the 9/11 attacks at Ground Zero, rebuilt near its original site. “When finished,” Jaharis told a church council in 2012, the new structure will provide “a shining spotlight on the Greek Orthodox faith and our core values of love, respect, peace, healing and forgiveness.”

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