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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

George Dragas, Former ODU Board of Visitors Rector, University Alumnus and Philanthropist Dies at 85

Former Old Dominion University Board of Visitors rector, ODU alumnus and philanthropist George Dragas Jr. died Thursday, March 21. He was 85.

Dragas was a member of the Board of Visitors from 1983 to 1991 and served as rector for one year. He was instrumental in the search for two of Old Dominion's presidents. Dragas also served on the Board of Trustees of the University's Educational Foundation.

"In his quiet yet effective way, George was a powerful presence at Old Dominion," ODU President John R. Broderick said. "He helped establish strong leadership even after he left the board, and his generosity advanced significant University initiatives, from international studies to economic forecasting."

Dragas received ODU's Distinguished Alumnus Award in 1991 and its highest honor, the University Medal, in 1995. His foresight in predicting a more global future led him to support the University's international engagement. As a result, Old Dominion's International Education Center was renamed Dragas Hall.

Dragas was instrumental in the founding of the ODU Center for Economic Analysis and Public Policy and led the fundraising effort that launched the center's State of the Region and State of the Commonwealth reports. The center was renamed after Dragas and his family in 2017.

A child of Greek immigrants, Dragas was born in Pennsylvania but raised in Norfolk, Virginia.

He graduated from Maury High School in 1952, enlisted in the U.S. Army and served in West Germany. He later attended the Norfolk Division of the College of William & Mary (now Old Dominion University) and eventually earned a degree in business administration from Virginia Tech.

Dragas was a loan officer for United Mortgagee before launching his own mortgage lending company, Dragas Mortgage, in 1968. He began building homes and apartments, developing land and brokering real estate. Today, The Dragas Companies has built, sold, and financed more than 8,000 houses in Hampton Roads.

Dragas' philanthropy and civic leadership extended beyond Old Dominion.

He was a founding director of Virginia Beach Vision, a director of Tidewater Builders Association and a director of the Norfolk Metropolitan Board of Crestar Bank (now SunTrust).

In 2009, the Dragas family donated money to the cities of Norfolk, Virginia Beach and Chesapeake to address family homelessness and offer children stability.

Dragas also supported arts organizations, serving as a director of the Contemporary Art Center (now MOCA) in Virginia Beach. He also chaired the building committee that oversaw construction of the building that houses the museum.

"He was a rare individual," President Emeritus James V. Koch said, "who simultaneously was a good family man, an instinctively good businessman, a very caring person, and a civic-minded individual who left the world a much better place." Koch also called Dragas "a very effective advocate and salesperson for Old Dominion and the region."