And when Head of School Jeff Stephens told her he could enroll all three of her boys - Tom ‘81, Jim ‘82 and Tony ’85 - she says, “I’ve loved it ever since.”
Judie’s passion for education is self-evident. She speaks eight languages, and cheerfully repeats the family mantra she grew up with, “If you can’t do your best, then don’t do it at all.”
Although her husband, Gus, whisked her away from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign a few units short of her degree so that he could launch his flagship restaurant – a diner just a toss away from Wrigley Field – she immediately finished at Northwestern. “I could never have let my father down,” Judie explains.
Judie’s son, Tony, and his wife Lynnette have carried on tradition by enrolling their own three children at Chandler: Alyssa ’17, Vanessa ’18, and Niko ’21. “We wanted great academic preparation for high school,” says Lynnette. “And, the school has also done a good job teaching our kids to have integrity, honesty and dignity.”
“I love that we came back to Chandler and discovered a lot of alumni from my years who now send their own kids to Chandler,” Tony point outs. “It’s really fun. Chandler had a positive impact on our lives, so there’s shared pride in the school.”
As a student, Tony messed around on an early computer the school set up in a basement lab. “I was so blown away by that thing, and it’s probably why I got involved in computers,” he says. “I studied computer science at Pomona College, and I’ve worked in software development my whole career.”
Beyond the primitive tech lab, Tony easily recalls other influential teachers and experiences – Mr. Cotton’s beloved baseball games at recess, Mr. Korn’s Substance X project and his humor and sarcasm, the egg-drop contest that kept students up at night, and Mr. Morrison’s European map project. “I had a very, very correct map,” Tony chuckles. “I was scared of Mr. Stephens; he was so stoic, but he had great values.”
Tony’s brothers agree Chandler’s top-notch education made a difference in their lives. Tom has built a successful construction business as a general contractor, and also plans to open a restaurant in Montrose, Gus and Andy’s, in the old Rocky Cola Café. Jim is an expert witness economist who still runs his grandfather’s old hot dog joint in Chicago – Jim’s Original.
Community features prominently in Christopoulos family life. Judie has been ultra-connected to the local Greek Church since 1974. She quickly runs out of fingers as she and Lynnette list the number of philanthropic projects she’s been involved with. “I can’t even remember them all,” she admits. “But, I get it from my mom. She gave all her time to the church, she was always very generous. She always opened her home to feed everybody around a huge table, and she did all the cooking herself.”
Lynnette points out, “We love knowing all the parents at Chandler School. It’s a very family-like community. I know the kids, the siblings, the parents. Chandler feels like home to us.” In fact, the Christopoulos kids are known to plead for early drop-offs and late pick-ups, so they can spend extra time at school. “It’s like home to them,” Lynnette says.
When it comes to helping Chandler sustain excellence across generations, Tony and Lynnette have been quick to step up. “It just makes sense to give,” Tony says. “The school has to stay ahead of the curve, with the best programming and the best teachers. The infrastructure, technology – these are all areas that can’t be neglected.”
Judie, who with Gus made a major family contribution to Chandler’s South Campus Campaign, agrees, “We wouldn’t have the programs we have, if families didn’t give. And, we have a legacy here, with seven kids. Chandler has shaped multiple generations. It was right to give back.” Judie adds with a smile for emphasis, “We’re very big fans of Chandler!”