Athanassios Yiannopoulos was known by many names. “Thanassi” to his friends, he was “Yippy” to generations of his students. To many colleagues in Weinmann Hall he was, quite simply, “the Great One.”
Yiannopoulos, who passed away on Feb. 1, joined Tulane’s faculty in 1979, lured away from LSU by then-Dean Paul Verkuil.
Verkuil, who steered Tulane Law’s transition from a regional powerhouse into a national law school, regularly pointed to the hiring coup as his single biggest accomplishment as dean. And with good reason. Yiannopoulos not only brought new vitality and rigor to the study of Louisiana’s Civil Code, he helped launch Tulane’s maritime law program and was acclaimed around the globe for his command as a comparative law scholar.
Yet, in addition to his incisive contributions as a scholar, he will be remembered also for his wit, charm and caring for others.
In the days since his passing, many former students and colleagues have reached out to share recollections of the many ways in which he touched their lives.
“He was a great companion and an irrepressible raconteur as well as a profound expert, a combination rarely found,” observed Judge Ian Forrester, a 1969 Tulane alumnus now serving on the General Court of the European Court of Justice.
Younger colleagues credited Yiannopoulos as a mentor who led them to believe in themselves and to go on to leadership in the academy. One mourned the passing of a man she regarded as “a second father.”
His generosity toward his students was inspiring. After his retirement in 2007, Yiannopoulos volunteered to continue teaching his legendary Civil Law Seminar each year until 2015. That same year, Yiannopoulous dedicated himself to a new project to help students — endowing a scholarship at Tulane for students pursuing the study of civil or comparative law.
Yiannopoulos, whose own youth was shaped by the chaos of wartime Greece and the darkness of Nazi occupation, dedicated his scholarly energy to bringing order and light to the law. And the generosity of his spirit will continue to shape the lives of students and colleagues, at Tulane and around the world, for generations to come.