Nickolas Davatzes, the main force behind the A&E Network and History Channel, died at age 79 at his home in Wilton, Connecticut, after health complications of Parkinson’s disease.
The former television executive died on August 21, his son George told the NY Times.
As a major advocate for educational and public affairs programming, Davatzes built up two cable networks which now reach into 335 million homes worldwide. His executive tenure began in 1983 after he was elected president and CEO of the newly created A&E Networks. His selection came after years of prior experience with Intext Communication Systems and Warner Amex Cable Communications.
As president and CEO of A&E, the New York native presided over the launch of the History Channel, Biography, Military History, History Channel en Español and other ventures.
The son of Greek immigrants, Davatzes grew up in New York City and graduated from Bryant High School in Astoria, Queens.
Davatzes earned bachelor’s degree in economics (Class of 1962) and master’s degree in sociology (Class of 1964) from St. John’s University, where he met his future wife, Dorothea Hayes. He was later awarded an honorary doctorate from the university in 1995.
“St. John’s has lost one of the most beloved and revered members of our family, Nickolas Davatzes,” said William J. Janetschek, Chair of the St. John’s Board of Trustees, in a university announcement. “Nick and Dorothea have never forgotten their St. John’s roots and have given their unwavering support to the university for years.”
After earning his graduate degree, Davatzes volunteered for the United States Marine Corps, serving in both active and reserve capacities.
In March 2000, the American Hellenic Institute honored Davatzes with The Hellenic Heritage Achievement Award during their annual National Public Services Awards. In 2005, Davatzes was inducted into the Cable Hall of Fame.
The Cable Center created a memorial page for Davatzes and shared a tribute video recalling his induction in 2005.
“When you think of the people who have really made the cable industry what it is, Nick Davatzes has been one of the big founding fathers —[one of the] big influences — in the cable industry,” Comcast President and COO Stephen B. Burke said at the time.
“In the end, I owe a debt of gratitude to the pioneers of this industry who laid the foundation for all the opportunities that we’ve had,” Davatzes said. “For me, a lot of what my family has we wouldn’t have without their hard work.”
“We have lost an honorable and revered man who was a long-time Cable Center board member and mentor to me,” Cable Center President and CEO Jana Henthorn said in a statement. “Rest in peace, Nick.”
For more information, visit The Cable Center’s memorial page for Davatzes on its website.
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