Professor Theodore Couloumbis was, along with a few other academics, the man who established the study of international relations in Greece. A simple man, he was able to sway his audience with his humor and self-satirizing style. Above all, however, Couloumbis was a teacher. First in the United States and in the subsequent years in Thessaloniki and Athens, he devoted himself to his students. His students, graduate and postgraduate, say he would scan the amphitheater with a lively look in his eyes, as if he were addressing each one of them personally. Always available for advice or collaborations, Couloumbis influenced many generations of diplomats and military men who came into contact with him. He had strong academic credentials while at the same time being very practical in his analysis. Meanwhile, he was able to explain complex Greek-Turkish relations to foreign visitors and officials in a convincing manner, always examining issues in an international context. This ability was showcased during his tenure at the Hellenic Foundation for European and Foreign Policy (ELIAMEP), the nonprofit think tank that he co-founded.
I had the fortune of learning a lot from Couloumbis. A moderate, objective expert with deep knowledge of Greece’s modern history, he was looking for answers to the questions that have always beset us. Together with other members of the old guard, a term he used to describe Vyron Theodoropoulos, Thanos Veremis and other professors, he worked hard to build knowledge and institutional memory around Greek diplomacy. Unlike other academics, he was generous in sharing out both, without a sense of arrogance or superiority.
One of his timely and timeless legacies is his call for national understanding on vital national issues. He believed in it, he spoke about it, and he wrote about it. Couloumbis would occasionally become unpleasant to other people; but this did not concern him. He was a true Greek patriot who, above all, wanted to be useful for the nation, not pleasant or opportunistic.