The gift of life, through the most difficult time of his life.
It was Thursday, January 3rd 1974. Almost a year after his son’s Alexandros sudden passing, Aristotle Onassis was drafting his handwritten will during a private flight between Acapulco and New York City. In this will, he would manifest in the most emphatic manner both his love for his son and also his uncompromising desire to support the needs of Greek society in perpetuity, by donating half of what he had earned throughout his life. In that historic flight, the powerful Aristotle Onassis, revealing a more humane and sensitive side, designated how he would donate 50% of his fortune. Pain, love and humanity will be “reincarnated” in a vision: the creation of a Public Benefit Foundation that would bear the name of his only son.
Aristotle Onassis did not forget. Throughout his epoch making life journey, he never forgot his origins and the hardships during his first years as a poor orphan refugee. As a father, he did not neglect. Although he was on occasion strict with his son Alexander, his love for him remained alive and moving, even when the physical or emotional distance that separated them would not imply such a connection. The vision for the Establishment of a Public Benefit Foundation, which would keep alive the memory of his son Alexander through time, and would support Greek society in perpetuity by helping people to take a step forward and move beyond what their economic and social starting point might dictate, brought together these two vital memories of Aristotle Onassis: the love for his son and his deep humanity that had been willed down to him from his own social origins.
The goals of the “Alexander S. Onassis Foundation. Onassis” are “the establishment, maintenance and generally the operation or the assistance to the operation of medical, educational, literary, artistic, general scientific, exploration, journalistic, following international or national award competitions … ‘. Onassis’s first concern, the first “assistance” provided for in his will, the “medical” was destined to serve as the guide for the first of the major projects that would subsequently be delivered by the Foundation to Greek society: the Onassis Cardiac Surgery Center (OCSC). A Cardiac Surgery Centre for all Greeks. A hospital donated to the state, which would relieve tens of thousands of patients who previously were forced to endless and expensive travel abroad either for surgery or even for a single post-operative examination. The first certified hospital in Greece for the development and delivery of health services in the field of heart transplantation, heart surgery and cardiology for both adults and children, was the basis of this gift of life, which would over the years translate into over one million visits and dozens thousand operations. It was the first major donation that grew out of Aristotle Onassis’s visionary plan and was inspired by honoring the past while looking to the future.