NEXT CHAPTER: Demetrius Iatridis had been awarded a scholarship to study aircraft engineering at Stanford University when the Nazis invaded and occupied his native Greece in 1941, during World War II. Just 16, he escaped on his own to Crete, where he hid in the mountains until fleeing on a stolen fishing boat to Egypt. There he lied that he was 18 in order to join the Greek Air Force, based in Cairo, in which he served as a tail gunner.
Iatridis said the deaths of his mother and grandmother during the war from lack of food and medication contributed to a “brutal awakening” that changed the course of his life’s work.
“That was the first time I realized that the powerless, those occupied, are at the mercy of the powerful, the conquerors,” the longtime West Newton resident said. “It was the deciding factor for me to dedicate my life to helping the disadvantaged and the poor, to building a better system of community that protects those who need help.”
Instead of pursuing engineering, Iatridis earned degrees from Washington and Jefferson College, the University of Pittsburgh School of Social Work, and the Bryn Mawr Graduate School of Social Work and Social Research, where he also taught. He returned to Greece to assist in establishing a graduate school in planning, and then joined the Boston College staff in 1966 as director of its new Institute for Human Sciences and a full-time faculty member of the Graduate School of Social Work.
Iatridis will retire from Boston College on Monday, after a career spanning 46 years as a researcher and professor of social policy and social welfare.
He is looking forward to the next phase of his life, in which he plans to “work even harder” for whichever local nonprofit organization can best utilize his skills in developing and establishing anti-poverty policies.
“To still have poverty when we have so much development is not a hopeful sign for the future. It means we have the resources, but not the will to distribute them the right way,” he said. “It is this that I want to help turn around.”
ENGAGING SERVICES: Ever since the Rev. John Gibbons took the helm at First Parish in Bedford 23 years ago, he said, his personal commandment has been “Thou shalt not be boring.”
He has worked to abide by this edict by enlivening worship services for the Unitarian Universalist congregation with a remote-controlled flying fish, disco ball, confetti guns, clown noses, and a belly dance troupe, among other devices.
Membership has doubled during his tenure, with a projection to break 400 this year. In recognition of its gains, First Parish has been named a “breakthrough congregation” by the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations, the denomination’s Boston-based central organization. And as one of four congregations to be honored for sustained growth and creativity, the Bedford church graces the cover of the winter issue of UUA World magazine.
Gibbons is quick to point out that the fun and sometimes silly aspects of his services are balanced with a serious commitment to diverse explorations of faith with real-life relevance, both within the meetinghouse at 75 Great Road and the congregation’s satellite locations in Bedford, at the Edith Nourse Rogers Memorial Veterans Hospital and the Carleton-Willard Village retirement community.
The parish, which had a $33,000 budget surplus last year despite funding a capital campaign project, reported serving 1,000 people “beyond the congregation.” In addition, First Parish has had a 20-year partnership with a village in Transylvania, where Unitarianism has its roots, as well as partnerships with UU churches in the Philippines, India, and Uganda.
“Because this is a very challenging environment for faith communities, we’re willing to take risks,” said Gibbons, who is assisted as senior minister by parish minister Megan Lynes and ministerial intern Joe Cleveland, a recent graduate of the Andover Newton Theological School in Newton Centre.
“Some things work and some things don’t,” he added. “That’s what makes it interesting.”
To read the magazine’s recent article on First Parish, visit www.uuworld.org .
WINNING IDEA: Newton resident Margaret Morganroth Gullette, an author and resident scholar at the Women’s Studies Research Center at Brandeis University in Waltham, recently won a $5,000 grant for her nonprofit Free High School for Adults in San Juan del Sur, Nicaragua, one of Newton’s “sister cities.’’
The money was awarded by the Marigold Ideas For Good Contest, which since April has recognized 36 winners over age 50 chosen from hundreds of submissions nationwide.
Believing that the lack of secondary education contributes to inequality, drug abuse, prostitution, violence, and other societal problems, Gullette and school cofounder Rosa Elena Bello train Nicaraguans to teach in their own villages.
According to Gullette, the grant will be used to expand the programs and purchase additional chairs and curriculum, since an influx of 150 students raised enrollment to more than 700 within the past year.
Gullette said dozens of students walk up to 6 miles from their villages through the jungle to a bus that takes them to the school. Of the 500 graduates since the school’s inception in 2002, more than 60 percent are women. “I am so proud of them,” she said.
For more information, visit www. sanjuandelsursistercityproject.wordpress.com .
SPORTS SUPPORTERS: Two couples, Christina and Michael Gordon of Brookline and Barbara and Frank Resnek of West Newton, have each made $1 million targeted gifts to the Solomon Schechter Day School of Greater Boston.
The money will help pay for a state-of-the-art athletic complex featuring an outdoor synthetic turf field, improved lighting, and upgrades to the Newton school’s indoor facility.
In addition, the school recently signed a long-term lease agreement with Valeo Futbol Club, a nonprofit youth soccer organization that will share access to the facilities. A dedication is planned for this spring when construction is complete.
PANMASS ROLES: Of the record $37 million raised for the fight against cancer by cyclists in this summer’s edition of the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, nearly $11.9 million was contributed through the efforts of 1,804 participants from area communities.
They were among the 5,234 cyclists from 36 states and nine countries who rode routes up to 190 miles to benefit patient care and research through the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute’s Jimmy Fund.
The PMC in August exceeded last year’s total by $2 million, a 5.7 percent increase. Since its inception in 1980, the PMC has contributed $375 million to the Jimmy Fund.People items may be submitted to Cindy Cantrell at cantrell@ globe.com.