NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — A Vanderbilt University student killed when a beachfront condominium building collapsed in South Florida last week was “a very caring young man” who was “dedicated to his faith,” according to the president of his high school.
Andreas Giannitsopoulos was among the six people found dead Wednesday, nearly one week after the 12-story Champlain Towers South suddenly collapsed in Surfside, bringing the death toll to 18, the Miami-Dade County mayor said.
Giannitsopoulos, an economics major at Vanderbilt University, had graduated from St. Thomas High School in Houston, Texas, where he was a track star.
“To work as hard as he did, he helped other athletes and others in particular, younger athletes who were willing to try new things. He was always ready to help them and coach them along,” Father James Murphy, the president of St. Thomas told News 2.
Father Murphy said, “His legacy is his hard work. He was not afraid to work hard, whether it be in class, whether it be in his work on the track. We actually have a huge photo of him outside of our gymnasium… it should be etched out of marble, it’s such an incredible image.”
Giannitsopoulos had a “very positive attitude,” as well as a “great sense of humor, great smile” and was a “very caring young man,” the school’s president added.
Initially, Giannitsopoulos was among the many people reported missing after the collapse, leaving loved ones waiting for word.
“This whole week has been a challenge for us, waiting, hoping against all odds and we are a community of faith,” Father Murphy said. “These are the times we do rely on faith. Andreas’ family is very faith filled and very dedicated to their faith, it was such a challenge this week, just not knowing.”
Father Murphy said the school is hoping to organize a celebration of life for Giannitsopoulos later this month.
“When we look at the life of Andreas and we look at how he lived his life, his time here on campus, his focus,
his dedication, those things we need to remember and celebrate. While we mourn, we also
celebrate a life well lived and a life we can model ourselves after,” he explained.
Father Murphy added, “our faith tells us Andreas is moving on to a greater life right now.”
In a statement provided to News 2 on Thursday morning, the Giannitsopoulos family described the 21-year-old as “a strong Greek Orthodox believer who is now in heaven with God and his godfather.”
The full statement from the family is below:
“Andreas Giannitsopoulos was an incoming senior at Vanderbilt university who was studying economics. To put it simply to know Andreas was to love Andreas. He was kind, compassionate, dedicated, and loving. He put others first always and never hesitated to do so. Andreas was a strong Greek Orthodox believer who is now in heaven with God and his godfather. He spent his life teaching others how to be selfless in everything they do. His family is hoping people will live with honor on remembrance of Andreas.”
Vanderbilt University also issued a statement on Thursday morning:
“We extend our deepest condolences to Andreas’ family, friends, classmates and faculty as they deal with this unimaginable tragedy. Our thoughts continue to be with all affected by the disaster as they await news of their loved ones and mourn those lost. We have been closely following the situation in Surfside, Fla., and have reached out to Andreas’ family to offer support. We are encouraging members of our community to draw on the university’s resources, including the Office of the University Chaplain and Religious Life, the Employee Assistance Program and the University Counseling Center, for assistance and support in processing this news.”
A GoFundMe page set up to help the family of Giannitsopoulos has raised more than $24,000, as of Friday morning.
There are still approximately 145 people who are listed as “unaccounted for,” as crews continue to search through the rubble of the collapsed building.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis has offered support for a grand jury to probe the building collapse amid multiple investigations into the tragedy.