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Breaking barriers

A bequest helps Stanford GSB support students with disabilities

Paris Thermenos, MBA ’83, at his Stanoford graduation

Paris at his graduation from Stanford Graduate School of Business in 1983.

After a car accident left him paralyzed in 1968, Paris Thermenos, MBA ’83, was told his life expectancy was 25 years. He and his wife, Loretta, faced life knowing each day together was precious. But that did not stop Paris from applying to Stanford Graduate School of Business (GSB) more than a decade later, and in 1981 he and Loretta made the nearly 3,000-mile drive from Florida to California to start a new life.

Paris and I wanted to make sure everyone gets the benefit of an excellent education no matter what, just like he did.
— Loretta Thermenos

Paris exceeded all expectations, thrived in his career in banking, and lived in good health until his death in 2018—a full 50 years after the accident. Loretta recently chose to honor her late husband by including a gift in her living trust. Her gift will help make Stanford GSB more accessible to students with disabilities.

“It’s clear that Stanford opened so many opportunities over the years that we would not have had otherwise,” she says.

Paris and Loretta both grew up in Orlando, Florida, and met in college. Paris was recovering from a harrowing car accident that had left his lower body paralyzed and adjusting to his new life in a wheelchair. He relearned how to drive and figured out how to get his wheelchair in and out of the car by himself—something he later taught others to do as well. “Paris was determined to be independent,” Loretta says. “I saw someone who was going to make his way through life no matter what.”

Paris and Loretta 35th anniversary in Paris

Paris Thermenos, MBA ’83, and his wife, Loretta, together on their 35th wedding anniversary in Paris. 

At Stanford, Paris thrived in the collegial yet rigorous environment. His natural charisma and academic talents made him well-liked and respected among his peers. “He was quite an encouragement for people, whether they had disabilities or not. Paris made the most of every opportunity he was given at Stanford,” recalls Loretta. 

After graduation, the couple moved to Los Angeles so that Paris could pursue a career at Security Pacific Bank. Years later, they returned to their native Florida, where he became treasurer and chief investment officer at Barnett Bank. Loretta fondly recalls Paris’s adventurous spirit: “‘No’ really wasn’t in his vocabulary,” she laughs. In fact, when they both were in their mid-50s, the couple decided to learn how to ski. Paris had his wheelchair outfitted for the slopes.

Paris  Loretta in Colorado with ski instructor

Paris and Loretta in Colorado with ski instructors, 2006.

Loretta says that soon after Paris passed away, she read a story in Remember Stanford about ways to use a planned gift to support future students at the university—and felt inspired to provide a gift to help other Stanford GSB students with disabilities. “I read the article and realized there are so many ways to be creative about what you can do with your life’s earnings,” Loretta says. “I’m able to support Stanford because of what Stanford gave to Paris so many years ago.”

Loretta says she is continuing Paris’s legacy of lifting up those who need it most. “Paris and I wanted to make sure everyone gets the benefit of an excellent education no matter what, just like he did,” she says. “For many, every day is a struggle. We’ve always wanted people to thrive, and that’s why I made this gift to Stanford.”