Pitt-Johnstown Announces George D. Zamias as 2015 Distinguished Alumnus

Natalie Bombatch

posted February 17, 2015

The University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown has named a Johnstown resident with national standing to be the 2015 Distinguished Alumnus Award recipient. Real estate developer George D. Zamias ‘53 attended the Cypress Avenue campus beginning in 1950 and received his Bachelor of Arts in business administration from the Katz Business School at the University of Pittsburgh.

George ZamiasThe award is the highest honor Pitt-Johnstown bestows, selecting from among its more than 20,500 alumni. It recognizes individual achievement, leadership in one’s field, community service, and loyalty to alma mater. Mr. Zamias will receive the award at the Annual Alumni Association Gala to be held at 6 p.m. on Saturday, March 28 in the Living-Learning Center on Pitt-Johnstown’s campus.

“George Zamias is an exceptional community leader. His lifelong philanthropy and service to his alma mater and community are unparalleled and have been truly transformational,” observed Pitt-Johnstown President Dr. Jem Spectar.

As a proud Pitt-Johnstown alumnus, Mr. Zamias served for years on the University’s Advisory Board. In 1984 he established a scholarship for student-athletes in his father’s name, and he and his wife Marianna are responsible for the establishment of the Zamias Aquatic Center on the Pitt-Johnstown campus. In addition, he shared his knowledge in the classroom when he taught courses related to real estate.

After earning his BA, Mr. Zamias completed a Master of Letters degree in real estate and insurance, also at the University of Pittsburgh in Oakland. The young Zamias could not have foreseen his eventual inclusion in a list of the top real estate developers of U.S. shopping malls when he founded a sole proprietorship George D. Zamias Developer in 1957. Over the next four decades, the company developed more than 30 million square feet of retail space. A second company, Zamias Service Inc, was founded in 1996 to service the portfolio of assets held by George D. Zamias Developer. Nearly two decades later, the two companies are responsible for the acquisition, development, management, and leasing of commercial retail property throughout the country. Today, the Zamias touch is felt in eleven states. Over 47 shopping centers comprising more than 12 million square feet have been developed by the two companies, which are constantly involved in new development.

In April 2008, Retail Traffic magazine named Zamias as one of the top 50 owners and top 50 managers. The following year, The Challenge Program, a local non-profit that motivates students to excel in the classroom and community, honored the George D. Zamias family with the “Golden Owl Award” for their stalwart support and commitment to the program. In 1990, at ribbon-cutting ceremonies for the newly built Zamias Aquatic Center, University of Pittsburgh President Wesley W. Posvar awarded Pitt’s Third Century Medallion to Mr. Zamias. “I enthusiastically anticipate the opportunity and honor to add George Zamias’ name to the illustrious list of Pitt-Johnstown Distinguished Alumni. He stands as a shining exemplar of applying one’s talents, capacity, and education to improving the lives of people and making a difference in the world,” said President Spectar.

George and Marianna Zamias are the parents of four sons: Damian, Samuel (d. 2013), Stephen, and George, Jr.

 “On behalf of the Zamias family, we deeply appreciate the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown being a treasure to our great city. Our family is humbled by this prestigious award to my father. It is truly unexpected,” mused son Stephen Zamias. “My father’s favorite saying has always been ‘education is the key to success.’”

In order to be eligible for the Distinguished Alumni Award, candidates must have earned a bachelor’s or associate’s degree at the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown. Candidates can also have earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pittsburgh after having completed two years of study at Pitt-Johnstown during a period when four-year degrees were not available at the Johnstown campus. Nominations for the award can be submitted by any member of the University of Pittsburgh community, including alumni, faculty, staff, students, and Advisory Board members.

Past recipients of the award are Jeanne Wolford McKelvey ’65, owner and director of McKelvey Oil Company, Inc.; the late Congressman John P. Murtha '60; James E. Wilkes ’53, an entrepreneur in the oil and gas industry; Chester "Chet" Thomas '66, founder and Executive Director of Proyecto Aldea Global (Project Global Village) in Honduras; retired Air Force Colonel Karen A. Esaias '79; and Martin A. Fritz ‘86, vice president of EQT Corporation and president of Midstream Operations. In the past, alumni G. Fesler Edwards ‘28, Carl M. Gillespie ‘47, and Paul E. Lego ‘54 have been recognized as distinguished Pitt-Johnstown alumni.

Founded in 1927, Pitt-Johnstown is located in the Laurel Highlands of Western Pennsylvania and is the first and largest regional campus of the University of Pittsburgh. The University is the regional leader, educating for the RealWorld. The distinctive combination of our people, programs, and place results in exceptional performance in preparing students for career and professional success. Pitt-Johnstown is recognized by the Princeton Review as a “Best in the Northeast” college, by G.I. Jobs as a “Military Friendly School,” by AC Online as one of the “Highest ROI Colleges in Pennsylvania,” and by Pennsylvania Business Central as a "Top 100 Organization.” Additionally, Pitt-Johnstown has been named to the 2014 President’s Higher Education Community Service Honor Roll, and has been presented with The Seven Seals Award by the US Department of Defense’s office of Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve.