Stephen Pendias, former Vice President of the International Division of the Irving Trust Co., died Monday, April 16, 2007, in Sands Point, New York. Mr. Pendias, a long time resident of Garden City, Long Island, was 90 and died after a long illness according to his family.
A first generation American of Greek immigrant parents, Mr. Pendias' career as an international banker with Irving Trust spanned more than four decades and had a geographic scope which included the Middle East, Eastern Europe, North Africa and parts of Asia. With American banking's increasing presence in the post-World II era, Mr. Pendias was eyewitness to some of the twentieth century's most colorful and pivotal figures as well as instrumental in the increasing role of U.S. lending institutions abroad.
Stephen Peter Pendias was born in Brooklyn, New York on November 24, 1916. His father came to the United States from Peloponnesian Mountains of Mani in Greece, prospering in the restaurant business; his mother, a hearty Thracian, was a teacher. The eldest of four siblings, Mr. Pendias showed himself to be a precocious youngster. His bright and engaging intellect was said to endear him to his Greek tutor who acquiesced to instruct him in the backyard of his family's Brooklyn home while Mr. Pendias climbed high atop his favorite tree. Proving himself a vigorous athlete as well as a scholar of distinction, he moved on to graduate on a full scholarship from Brooklyn College with a degree in political science.
Mr. Pendias's promise also caught the eye of S. Gregory Taylor a prominent Greek American of the day and owner of New York City's famed St. Moritz Hotel, who sponsored his subsequent degree from Cornell University's School of Hotel Administration. Upon graduation from Cornell in 1942, Mr. Pendias was commissioned a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy. In addition to his service as an intelligence officer during World War II, he was called upon to utilize his hotel management training to manage a hotel in Rome accommodating his fellow officers during the war. It was during his commission abroad that Mr. Pendias perfected his fluency in French and a proclivity for the many other foreign languages he spoke.
Upon returning home and marriage to the former Sophie R. Kallas (who shared his life for the next 61 years) he began his long association with the Irving Trust Co. at their celebrated offices at One Wall Street in New York. Throughout Mr. Pendia's forty-plus years an international banker with the Irving, he relished his unique opportunity to travel expansively around the world. As a pioneer business traveler of the post-World War II era, he conducted correspondent banking far and wide, crisscrossing the Atlantic literally hundreds of times. Mr. Pendias's many colorful adventures included meeting the Shah of Iran and Emperor Haile Selassie, private tours of the Imperial Zoo in Ethiopia and being a passenger on the first hijacking of a plane from the soviet bloc in the 1960's.
Always devoted to his faith, Mr. Pendias authored a pamphlet on Greek Orthodoxy to educate Greek American youth. He served for many years as a trustee of the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral in Manhattan and was made a Megas Notarios Archon of the Greek Orthodox Church, it senior most laity designation. Mr. Pendias was also a past president of the Greek American Chamber of Commerce. By royal decree in 1969, the Greek government decorated Mr. Pendias for his contributions to Greece.
Throughout Mr. Pendias's storied career, he was renowned to have mastered the cultural nuance of the many far flung countries he visited, frequently more so than the Irving's foreign customers he served. Always willing to extend himself on behalf of others, Mr. Pendias as an active member of a truly global community, generously cultivating many a young person's professional and scholarly careers.
Mr. Pendias was married for sixty-one years and is survived by his wife Sophie of Garden City; a daughter, Joan Pendias also of Garden City; a daughter, Calli P. Checki, of Manhattan; and one grandson Matthew P. Checki, a junior at Tulane University.
A memorial will be held for Mr. Pendias during Saturday morning services at St. Paul's Greek Orthodox Church in Hempstead, Long Island, New York, on May 26, 2007.