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Alumna Profiled: Hiro Athanassiou
Graduated: PIERCE ‘77, DEREE 81
Lives in: Athens, Greece Current
Position: Chairman of ELAIS – Unilever Hellas S.A.

HIRO ATHANASSIOU is the new Chairman of ELAIS – Unilever Hellas S.A., since on December 1st, 2013 she became the first woman to lead the company. She graduated from PIERCE in 1977 and then went on to earn her BA (Hons) in Marketing & Management from DEREE – The American College of Greece. She holds an MSC in International Relations and Personnel Management from the London School of Economics and Political Sciences. She has been part of the Unilever family for the past 29 years, holding various positions in the Marketing, Sales and Exports sectors, both in Greece and abroad.

Participating in various external bodies, Mrs. Athanassiou is a Member of the Board of the Hellenic-Dutch Association (HEDA), as well as an active member of the Hellenic Management Association, the Hellenic Institute of Marketing, the Women’s Organization of Managers and Entrepreneurs, the Leadership Sector and the Association of Chief Executive Officers.


Q.: What are three enduring lessons you learned during your studies at PIERCE?

At this stage of life, you don’t think about “lessons to learn” you just learn and embed in an unconscious way.

• Values of democracy and freedom of expression
• Voice you mind, don’t shy away from what you believe
• Don’t give up! Fight till you get where you want!

Q.: Describe PIERCE in three words.

Liberal, Academic, Fun

Q.: One of your favorite PIERCE memories?

Lunch breaks with rolls with cheese and ham.

Q.: What do you miss most from your days at PIERCE?

Classes with inspiring Tutors
Fun with classmates

Q.: Where was your favorite spot on campus?

All over

Q.: Who was your favorite teacher and why?

My teacher of Ancient Greek, who introduced me to Greek Tragedy and Comedy and notions like “Hybris and Catharsis” (she was a lady in her late 50s, unfortunately I can’t recall her name …)
My teacher of Modern Greek, who introduced me to Modern Greek Literature and Poetry – Mr. Baloumis.

Q.: Have you kept in touch with any of your classmates?

Yes, with many of them

Q.: Did having studied at PIERCE help you during your university studies and beyond?


Q.: What’s the greatest piece of advice you’ve ever received?

Can’t remember of a specific motto, but a school is the place where you get trained for life. Together with family, it is the foundation upon which you build your life.

Q.: Who inspires you most?

In relation to PIERCE: The liberal atmosphere and free flow of ideas, inspired me more.
In general: People who dream that the world can be a better place for everybody, mostly would fight for this!

Q.: Your motto in life?