Health Sciences Center to Feature Davatzes Family Atrium

July 26, 2022

The newest building currently under construction at the Queens, NY, campus of St. John’s University will have dedicated space that pays tribute in perpetuity to a familiar alumni power couple. The sun-splashed Dorothea and Nickolas Davatzes Atrium will welcome visitors to the St. Vincent Health Sciences Center as they enter the building from the Great Lawn.

The atrium is named in memory of Nickolas “Nick” Davatzes ’62C, ’64G, ’95HON, Trustee Emeritus, cable television pioneer, and husband of Dorothea “Dorie” Hayes Davatzes ’66Ed. Mr. Davatzes, Chief Executive Officer Emeritus of A+E Television Networks, LLC, died in August of 2021 at the age of 79. Before his passing, the Davatzes family made a five-million-dollar commitment to support the University that first brought Nick and Dorie together as undergraduates 60 years earlier.

“St. John’s University was the first of many shared experiences for Dad and Mom, so it is only fitting that their names live on at the campus,” said Geody Davatzes, one of the two surviving sons of Mr. Davatzes.

“The day before he passed, my father talked about how important St. John’s was in his life and how he wanted to in some way leave a lasting legacy at the University. This dedication for this new facility will fulfill his wishes.”

In addition to Dorothea, Mr. Davatzes is survived by son George “Geody” Davatzes and his wife, Jennifer Davatzes; son Nicholas C. Davatzes, Ph.D., and his wife Alexandra Davatzes, Ph.D., and grandchildren Julia, Nicholas, Elias, and Lilly. He was predeceased by his son Christopher. A sister Carol Davatzes Ferrandino, '68 also graduated from St. John's.

The design for the Davatzes atrium calls for a three-story, light-filled open space with skylights to bring in natural illumination. The atrium will feature seating areas, group study rooms, and interactive collaboration areas—ample space to allow for the energy and activity of students. Two grand staircases will supplement two elevators.

As longtime and generous supporters of the University, the Davatzes family has left a lasting legacy at St. John’s. In 2007, they established the Christopher N. Davatzes Memorial Scholarship Fund, named for their late son, to support students fighting cancer or another serious medical condition. In 2001, Mr. and Mrs. Davatzes founded the Dorothea Hayes Davatzes Scholarship Fund to benefit students in The School of Education. The Nickolas Davatzes Scholarship and Research Grant Fund in St. John’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences supports graduate students who show commitment to American History or Classical and/or Modern Greek History.

Mr. Davatzes is fondly remembered by the St. John’s community as a dedicated alumnus, a generous philanthropist, and a devoted champion of the University. “The generosity of the Davatzes family knows no bounds, observed Christian P. Vaupel, Ed.D., Vice President for Advancement and University Relations. “The Davatzes atrium will serve to make this new building energy-efficient, providing St. John’s students with an outstanding space for learning, gathering, and socializing. We are grateful to the Davatzes family for their leadership gift to this important facility.”

Known throughout the entertainment industry as the visionary who launched A+E Networks and The HISTORY Channel, Mr. Davatzes grew up in New York City and represents the classic St. John’s success story. The son of Greek immigrants—George and Alexandra Davatzes—he graduated from William Cullen Bryant High School in Astoria, NY, and enrolled at St. John’s University—where he met his future wife, Dorothea Hayes. He earned his Bachelor of Science degree in Economics in 1962, followed by a Master of Arts degree in Sociology two years later.

After earning his graduate degree, Mr. Davatzes volunteered for the US Marine Corps, serving in both active and reserve capacities. In 1968, he and Dorothea wed, and soon thereafter, he accepted a position with the Xerox Corporation, where he worked in various roles until 1977. He then joined Intext Communication Systems, where he served as President for two years.

Mr. Davatzes accepted a position with Warner Amex Cable Communications in 1980, where he served as Senior Vice President, Administration and Human Resources, and was quickly promoted to Group Executive the following year. With his experience, he was a natural for the role of President and Chief Executive Officer of the newly created A+E Networks, a position for which he was tapped in 1983.

As President and CEO of A+E Television Networks, LLC, Mr. Davatzes presided over the launch of The HISTORY Channel, Biography, Military History, History Channel en Español, and other ventures. He is a 2005 inductee into the Cable Hall of Fame.

Mr. Davatzes was an active member of the St. John’s University Board of Trustees, The Peter J. Tobin College of Business Board of Advisors, The McCallen Society, and The Loughlin Society.

Mr. Davatzes was awarded an honorary Doctor of Commercial Science Degree from the University in 1995 and the Pietas Medal in 1989. In 2002, he was awarded St. John’s President’s Medal for his unfailing commitment to the University. He served on the President’s Dinner Committee and was responsible for the Biography-style video profiles of honorees that are featured at the dinner and have become a hallmark of the prestigious event.

“Nick and Dorie are the consummate St. John’s love story,” offered Rev. Brian J. Shanley, O.P., President of St. John’s. “The University brought them together; they never forgot their St. John’s roots, and gave generously to help the next generation of students. St. John’s University is a better, stronger place due to the generosity of the Davatzes family.”