Brown Professor, Wife, Two Children Dead in Airline Crash
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) _ They met in the United States after growing up worlds apart. Both found success at Brown University, he as a computer science professor, she as a student therapist.
Paris Kanellakis and his wife, Maria-Teresa Otoya, said goodbye to friends and colleagues Tuesday and bundled up their two children for the family’s annual holiday trip to Otoya’s homeland of Colombia.
Kanellakis, Otoya and their children Alexandra, 7, and Stephanos, 4, were on American Airlines Flight 965 from Miami to Cali, Colombia, when it crashed into the Andes Mountains. There were 164 people on board.
The family did not survive.
Word of Wednesday night’s crash sent shock waves across Brown. Colleagues and friends described Kanellakis, 42, and Otoya, 45, as a loving couple dedicated to their jobs, their children and each other.
``Between the two of them, Dr. Otoya and Professor Kanellakis touched the lives of many students,″ Brown President Vartan Gregorian said.
``Their work among us earned profound respect from colleagues, and their enthusiasm for life _ especially the genuine joy they found as a family with small children _ brought them many good friends both on campus and in the Providence community.″
For some at the school, the tragedy brought back painful memories: On Dec. 21, 1988, five Brown University students and alumni died in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland.
``It’s very eerie to be here seven years later,″ said Brown spokesman Robert Reichley.
Mary Andrade, a secretary in Brown’s computer science department, recalled hugging Kanellakis and wishing him happy holidays as he left work Tuesday afternoon.
``I said, `I’ll say a prayer for a safe flight,‴ she said, struggling to hold back the tears. ``I guess God had other plans.″
A small number of people _ reports conflicted on exactly how many _ survived the crash.
At Brown, friends and colleagues remembered a professor known for being intense and intelligent, charming and sociable. Andries van Dam, a computer science professor, said he expected Kanellakis would have been the department’s next chairman.
``He saw and worked toward the next major leap forward rather than focusing on small incremental advances,″ van Dam said. ``He combined Mediterranean passion about all aspects of life _ family, friends, colleagues _ melded with great precision of thought and language.
``He leaves a void in our midst that cannot be filled.″
Otoya, who had counseled Brown students through the school’s psychological services department for the past six years, was ``beloved by students and staff,″ said department Director Belinda Johnson.
The couple met in Boston, where she had gone to study after leaving her job as a psychologist in Colombia. She received a master’s in counseling psychology from Boston College and a doctorate in counseling and consulting psychology from Harvard University.
Kanellakis was born in Greece and received master’s and Ph.D. degrees in electrical engineering and computer science from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He joined Brown as an associate professor in 1981 and became a full professor in 1990.
After he became an American citizen in 1988, he kept close ties to Greece. He took his family to his native land every summer, and to visit Otoya’s relatives every Christmas.