Obituary & Tribute to Nikos Chatzisarantis
OBITUARY & TRIBUTE
Professor Nikos Chatzisarantis, BSc., MSc., PhD
Dr Nikos Chatzisarantis sadly passed away in Greece on May 6th, 2020 after a year-long illness with cancer. Nikos was an extraordinary academic and, even within his relatively short – far too short – life, he achieved so much. More of that later. In this obituary and tribute, a number of friends and colleagues recollect stories from Nikos’ life and through this we celebrate a wonderful person who shall be missed hugely.
Stuart Biddle: I was lucky to supervise Nikos for his MSc and PhD degrees. His MSc (Exercise & Sport Psychology at the University of Exeter, 1993-95) comprised a number of taught modules (‘units’/’courses’) by various esteemed staff in sport & exercise science (e.g. Kenneth Fox, Andrew Sparkes) and psychology (e.g., Paul Kline, Paul Webley) as well as a year-long research project. But, Nikos being a rather unconventional person, decided that he would work hard (actually very hard) on the subjects he found interesting, and not do much for the others! This, alongside a rather rusty style of written English in his early days at Exeter, left him risking a failing profile for the MSc degree. But I kept thinking that there was more to this man. In a class I taught on exercise and mental health, I asked the students to collect a small bit of data, analyse it, and report back verbally and in written form. Around this time, Nikos opted into Professor Paul Kline’s class on factor analysis (Prof Kline was a world authority on the subject). Armed with responses from far more questionnaires on exercise and mental health than I was expecting, Nikos presented a most impressive summary of his factor analysis skills in my class! He blew me away with his knowledge and enthusiasm. You could see that he loved it! Similar to the scenes from Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, I asked myself “who is this guy?” There seemed more than met the eye.
His MSc project was titled “Theory of planned behaviour, self-efficacy theory, and motivational orientations: an investigation of physical exercise behaviour”. The motivational orientations referred to self-determination theory. You can see even back then that Nikos had a strong interest in theory integration. A paper in the European Journal of Social Psychology, in 1998, was based on the data from this MSc project.
Fortunately, Nikos managed to pass his MSc despite having this rather uneven profile of grades. But this led immediately to him requesting that I take him on for his PhD. I was a little doubtful to start with. “Nikos”, I said, “your MSc grades were a bit patchy; how do I know you can handle a PhD?” It was then that he explained what ignited his academic passions, and how he focussed on his areas of interests, but not others. In the end, I accepted Nikos onto the PhD program, with some hesitation. What a great decision! In fact, if I had rejected him, it would have been one of the worse calls I would have made in my career.
So, Nikos started his PhD at Exeter in 1995 focussing on his passion for theory testing and statistics. His thesis, approved in 1999, was titled “A self-determination theory approach to the study of physical activity intentions”. His first study was a meta-analysis: “Self-Determination Theory approach to the boundary conditions of the Theory of Reasoned Action and Planned Behaviour: theoretical extensions using meta-analysis”. A key conclusion was “if intentions are less likely to predict behaviour when the motivational process is controlling, it follows that the TRA/TPB can lead to applications that undermine intrinsic motivation and adherence. Also, a more differentiated analysis of intention formation from the self-determination point of view could provide a more appropriate means for promoting adherence”. Nikos was well and truly up and running!
Four other studies featured in his PhD, addressing the theoretical integration of constructs from SDT and TPB, with Study 2 published in the British Journal of Health Psychology in 1997. His focus on intentions was key to his PhD. Study 5 had a title that I’m sure Nikos was proud of: “On the entropic nature of the attitude-intention relationship: the roles of identification and autonomous and controlling intentions in understanding stationarity”.
Similar to his MSc, however, more troubles lay ahead for Nikos. In producing what I thought was a highly novel PhD in 1998, his examination panel didn’t like it! I had just taken up a position at Loughborough University and appointed Nikos to a Research Associate position there – essentially a ‘post-doc’, even though they were not officially called that at the time. His PhD committee criticised Nikos’s writing and, frankly, couldn’t see what I thought was highly original thinking. While I should take some blame for not checking his writing thoroughly enough, to this day I can’t see why the examiners couldn’t see the merit of his work. The outcome was that Nikos had to revise his thesis quite substantially and re-submit later in the year. The descriptions above of some impressive studies were from his revised thesis. Thankfully, he passed! Moreover, while he was at Loughborough I introduced him to someone who was just finishing his own PhD – a certain Martin Hagger. And what a powerhouse partnership that created! Martin was a somewhat dapper, well-groomed and what some might say elegant individual; Nikos, well, was not really like that! Opposites attract I guess. And the field of health/exercise psychology is all the better for it.
Just to reinforce what a mistake I could have made, at least from my point of view, if I had rejected Nikos for his PhD, here are some impressive statistics:
Scopus: h-index = 44; citations = 7,982 (23 papers cited > 100 times)
Google Scholar: h-index = 66; citations = 19,185
His most cited papers:
1,052 citations (Scopus); 2145 (Google Scholar): Hagger, M.S., Wood, C., Stiff, C., & Chatzisarantis, N.L.D. (2010). Ego depletion and the strength model of self-control: a meta-analysis. Psychological Bulletin, 136(4), 495-525. doi:10.1037/a0019486
889 citations (Scopus); 1840 (Google Scholar): Hagger, M.S., Chatzisarantis, N.L.D., & Biddle, S.J.H. (2002). A meta-analytic review of the Theories of Reasoned Action and Planned Behaviour in physical activity: Predictive validity and the contribution of additional variables. Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology, 24, 3-32. doi:10.1123/jsep.24.1.3
Nikos read widely – well beyond psychology. As far as his contributions to health/social/exercise psychology were concerned, he published a number of works addressing the Theory of Planned Behaviour and Self-Determination Theory, continuation intentions, the trans-contextual model, self-control, and the common sense model. He has published in Motivation & Emotion, Personality & Social Psychology Bulletin, Psychological Bulletin, British Journal of Social Psychology, Health Psychology Review, and Journal of Experimental Social Psychology, to name just a few. His track record in the sport and exercise sciences was equally impressive with papers in Exercise and Sport Sciences Reviews, Psychology of Sport & Exercise, and Journal of Sport & Exercise Psychology. And in case you might be thinking he had been solely focused on his own productivity, please note that he regularly reviewed 50 (yes, 50!) papers a year for various journals. He gave his time generously to make these contributions to his profession.
Nikos – I am so proud to have been your supervisor and friend. I can honestly say I learned a great deal from you. You were ‘one of a kind’ and will be badly missed.
Brett Smith: I met Nikos when I started my MSc at Exeter in 1995. I am proud to say that we remained great friends until he died. Speaking with him over Skype many times when he was living with cancer was still an experience! He continued spinning wonderful stories, including many from his time in hospital and about living with the brutal reality of cancer that made me laugh so hard. I look forward to sharing these with friends over time – most are not for print! But for now, I would like to share two small stories that can be printed and which capture, for me, a little of Nikos – my friend who I miss deeply.
* * *
“Brett” shouted Nikos in his thick accent. “I got the job at Exeter. Can I stay with you man, for a week, before I find a flat?”
“Of course mate,” I responded. “You do remember I don’t have a proper kitchen, no oven, and only have a bedroom and lounge. Are you ok to sleep in the lounge on a mattress on the floor?”
“Yes. I’ll be there in an hour. I don’t have much to pack.”
Six months later Nikos was still living with me. We spent many hours after work drinking at the Firehouse, talking about theory, methods, and throwing ideas out. Nikos of course also traded stories about his colourful life that, as you can all imagine, cannot be shared here! But one of my lasting memories of this time living together (we lived together on 3 occasions) was this: Every time he went clubbing to ‘Humphrey B’s’ without me he’d return at 3.00am (if he came back!), climb into my bed, and with his usual generosity say, “Wake up man. I’ve brought you a kebab. Can we watch TV?”
* * *
“Nikos, I’m going to visit my mum for the weekend. Do you want to come?”
“Yes. I want to see the village outside Hull you grew up in.”
“We need to leave early Sunday morning to get back to Exeter because I need to get back to my PhD. OK?”
“No problem man.”
Saturday we spend the afternoon in the village local pub that I had been a regular at whilst working as an college lecturer in Hull before returning to Exeter to study for my PhD. The locals in the pub very quickly loved Nikos. Like most people Nikos met, they were captivated by him – his inquisitive, generous, honest, and playful nature quickly made him everyone’s friend. Walking home Nikos would say “I love this place Brett. It’s a little like Greece. Men are sitting huddled around tables playing domino’s and cards for pennies. Everyone buying rounds, looking a little grumpy, and laughing at jokes.”
Sunday morning came. Sunday afternoon we were back to the pub, with the locals welcoming him back with a loud cheer of ‘Nik The Greek is back. Get him a beer. Come and sit down’. We left my village a week later. I could rarely say ‘no’ to Nikos.
For years after, if Nikos didn’t come back with me, the locals in the pub would welcome me not with ‘How are you Brett? Finished that PhD yet? but with “Where is Nikos? Is he here? Tell him we miss him and to come back soon.’
Nikos Ntoumanis: Nikos C (as I used to call him) and I shared many memories in Exeter and Perth, most of which I cannot share in public! I first met him in August 1995 at the Mount Radford Pub, opposite the St. Luke’s campus at the University of Exeter. I visited Stuart Biddle at the time, as I was about to start a PhD under Stuart’s supervision a month later. Stuart wanted to introduce me to fellow Greek students he supervised. As with many people, I was taken aback when I first met Nikos C, but at least the other two Greeks (Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis and Simos Vlachopoulos) seemed “sane”, so I decided to stay at Exeter!
Some of my vivid memories from our Exeter days include: a) he and I working together to figure out how to implement the Hunter and Schmidt meta-analysis technique by reading their book that Stuart lent us; b) he recovering at the hospital after breaking his ankle playing football at a park; c) he and I sharing food, drinks, and many stories living in the same house in the summer of 1996. Nikos C left for Loughborough University with Stuart in 1998.
Nikos C and I didn’t work on the same campus until 2014 when I moved to Curtin University in Perth, he had moved to Curtin a year or so earlier. I still remember my first day. Cecilie and I arrived there with our daughters and he greeted us in his office. He and the girls got on very well, he was subsequently called by them as “the funny Nikos”. Shortly after meeting the girls, he got out of his office, put the girls on his office chair, and spun the chair down the office corridor. The girls had such a brilliant time! Some colleagues complained about the noise but we had such a laugh!
I visited Nikos at the hospital when he was ill; I always brought with me his favourite juice (watermelon). He looked tired but he had not lost his sense of humour. He and I had several coffee meetings over the last year, and I was very confident that he would “make it”. Up to about a month before he passed away, he was still talking with his usual passion about papers, analyses, and ideas for future work. Then, suddenly, he stopped answering my calls and emails, but I was glad he was able to travel back to his home town of Thessaloniki before he died. I miss our coffee breaks very much!
John Wang: I first met Nikos in 1998 when I started my PhD journey at Loughborough University. He taught me structural equation modelling and many other statistical analyses. I spent a lot of time with him in the lab and in the weekly pub sessions. He travelled with me to many schools in the UK for data collection. When we met every time, we used the Greek way of greeting “Ela, Malaka”. After that, he went to Brunel University and I helped him to move house to London. We remained in touch with each other.
In 2009, Nikos joined me in Nanyang Technological University in Singapore as an Associate Professor. We created many milestones, including the creation of the Motivation in Educational Research Lab, getting many big grants from the Ministry of Education (MOE) Tier 2, Ministry of Health grants, Ministry of Community Development and Youth, and MOE Education Research Grants, and others. Many of these ideas came from the weekly pub sessions with Nikos. In the four and the half years in Singapore, he helped me to grow professionally. He has also mentored many colleagues and graduate students. Nikos was well liked by many of us in Singapore. I was happy for Nikos when he got a professorship in Curtin University, in Australia, although I was sad to see him leave. When he resigned from the university, he wrote two words in his resignation letter, “I resigned”.
When I heard from Stuart that Nikos has been ill in Feb 2020, I contacted Nikos a few times to ask him to drop a line to me. Knowing Nikos, he replied, “Hi, I drop you a line”.
To Nikos: Miss You!
Erika Borkoles: Nikos was a true raw diamond. He shined from within. He didn’t need flashy stuff. He was the most unassuming, most tolerant of differing views and cultures and a very kind person. I see Nikos now dancing under the lights in a night club on the Quay in Exeter. He was very happy. He never lost that optimism that he took to everything he attempted to do.
He had a formidable intellect. I’ve never had such brilliant theoretical and meaningful debate marathons, going on for days, with anyone. He was a man of few words, but when we spoke about theories and science we didn’t stop talking. In these times, I had a rare glimpse into who he really was as a person. He always put others before him. Not many people know this, but he used most of his income to support his family and others he cared for. He lived an unconventional life, but a truly meaningful one.
He was also someone who cared deeply about human rights. When I stayed with him in Singapore, he picked me up at the airport. We hailed a taxi and I casually asked him about what he thought of living in Singapore. He started to talk about the ‘computer says no’ culture, where being gay is still illegal. He said the hidden oppression of the LGBTQ community needs to be highlighted. He deliberately said it so that taxi driver would hear. I kept glancing at the taxi driver in the mirror, waiting for Nikos and me to be arrested! We got out of the taxi and went to his apartment. It was as sparse as any of his accommodations he has ever lived in, devoid of knickknacks and any other personal stuff. I ventured into the bathroom, seeing an enormous hole in the side of the bath. I started to laugh and asked what had happened. He said that he lent the keys to his friend, who had a raging party full of women. I said, I hope he paid for its repair.
Then we hit town, ended up in one of the poshest hotels to watch old men exploiting young women. He apparently, liked the white tea there and people watching. Always an anthropologist, curious about life in general. Indeed, the tea and cakes were second to none. Then we got even hungrier and he took me to a very basic, but obviously locally much appreciated little eatery. The food was scrumptious, but half way through our dinner, a soldier walked in and sat right behind me on the wooden bench and dumped his rucksack next to me. I glanced down and saw what seem liked hand grenades (real or not) sticking out from the military bag. I panicked and asked Nikos to sit somewhere else. The rows of wooden benches didn’t really allow for a great distance from the grenades. Then Nikos said “Look if that thing is going to go off, it doesn’t matter where we sit.” Of course, he was right and we finished our meal without any major incident. After all these adventures of the day, we headed into the centre of town, to a bar in Clarke Quay. I looked up and saw what I thought were giant penises. Nikos then started to walk around shouting to everyone that his friend thinks these aircon monuments are giant penises. Luckily, I had enough to drink by then not to care about being arrested.
Simon Marshall Nikos, you spoke like a poet-scientist – you gave rhythm and passion to complex ideas, effortlessly weaving together concepts and ideas that can only come from drinking four pints in The Swan in the Rushes. While I couldn’t understand most of what you said (not because of language, but because of my lagging intellect), I do fondly recall your stock answer to most questions I had about functions in the Structural Equation Modelling software you were trying to teach me – “It’s not important. That’s only for idiots.” I still laugh about that to this day. Nikos – you were insanely smart, kind, and always up for deep chat over a pint. The world has lost a great mind but an even better person. RIP, you lovely hairy man.
Emmanouil (Manos) Georgiadis: I met Nikos in 1994. We were both attending the Masters course in Exeter Uni and in my eyes he was the “experienced” one having joined the course more than a year earlier. He was always easy-going and ready for a beer in the pub, no matter the challenge he was facing. Hanging out with Nikos was great fun as he had this unique ability to turn every serious conversation into a joyful one. His strong Greek accent made lots of heads turn during our conversations and I remember enjoying the simplified solutions he was ready to provide on all the complicated and stressful things.
Two and a half years later we were both at Loughborough Uni, following Stuart’s move to the prestigious institution of the English midlands. Again, Nikos was the experienced one, being into his post-doctoral studies. He was always hospitable to provide me accommodation during my frequent journeys as I was starting my part-time PhD. During our conversations, I remember him responding in his unique calm way on the theoretical confusions I was encountering. In fact, the outcome of that conversation created the foundations for my first study and helped to unravel the sequence of studies leading to the completion of my thesis. I did not have the chance to tell him how grateful I am for his help back then. Maybe because I knew his response in advance. He would simply say: “…what’s your problem re malaka? Let’s go for a beer and forget about the old stuff!”.
Thank you my friend Niko! I miss you already.
Sviatlana (Sveta) Kamarova: It has been over 10 years of our work and friendship with Nikos. I met Nikos at a conference in Belgium in May 2010 and in September that year I started to work with him first in Singapore and then in Australia. So it was like he became a family to me since I would see him much more. In Singapore, we used to go out with him and his girlfriend on New Year’s and working on Christmas Eve (only next day he realised that that was actually Christmas Eve when we were working on some data at the laboratory). Or on another occasion, he called me at 5.30 am to ask how many conditions we had in an experiment.
Nikos was truly a very unique genuine person, and he didn’t care about conventions and always treated anyone as equal. He set the bar high and I know that there will be no other person like him. He was a mentor not only professionally but in life. When I got upset once about something in my personal life he said “Don’t worry about this, this is not important, think about studies. Let’s go for a drink”.
On the last day before the shut-down due to COVID we went out with him, Dimitris (his brother), my husband, son and me to a pub in Perth. That was April 19th and we were talking that we will come to see him in Greece later this year and where we will drive around there together…
Thank you, Nikos, for all good advice you gave, for being there and showing how wide one’s soul can be. I miss you!
Sakis Papaioannou. I first met Nikos at the end of June 1994 in Exeter. Stuart Biddle and Ken Fox were so kind to invite me to deliver a lecture and maybe collaborate with them and with their very promising research students, some of them Greeks. At that time of the year Marios Goudas was in Greece but Nikos and Simos Vlachopoulos were waiting for me at Exeter central station. Those who know both Nikos and Simos know their similarities and differences; both of them highly intrinsically motivated researchers, with very deep knowledge of their research topics, very competent in statistics, committed to high research ethics standards, speaking relentlessly on theory and research. But so different personalities. Simos the serious, Nikos the crazy. To reach Nikos’ flat we had to pass through a pub, “it’s probably the cheapest in Exeter, I need to save money to study” he told me.
These four days (and nights) in Exeter with Nikos were so unique! Dozens of hours discussing everything about theory and research, society, politics, life, cultures, all in the very unique Nikos style that everyone who loved him understood. When I was flying back to Greece I was smiling for those hours that provided some of the most pleasant experiences I could possibly have in life.
This was the beginning of our friendship. Since then every time that we were meeting each other in universities and congresses across different places in the world, we were spending nights talking about everything, shifting our discussion so easily from research and academia to politics, from projects and psychology to ethics and Aristotle, from education and human rights to projects and research again … I was always impressed by his most updated knowledge about theory and research and maybe about everything he was speaking about. Nikos was a very unique intellectual, a very authentic guy, and mostly a VERY GOOD man, always supportive, always having something good to say or to do for us.
Nikos loved Thessaloniki – we are both from this very old Greek town. When he was coming to his homeland he wanted our meetings to be in the cafes and bars in front of the White Tower, or in the bar of Thessaloniki’s archeological museum discussing in front of ancient sculptures and mosaics, or at least in the cafes and taverns next to Galerius Palace. I knew how much he missed them and I tried to invite him several times to Greece. I also tried to persuade him to return to Greece and find an academic position in his homeland, but he always insisted that “we are international man, we belong to the world, our research must be relevant to all people of this planet, not just to Greeks!” He was truly international, he taught in universities in three continents and he would have worked across all five continents if the damned cancer had allowed him to do so. In fact Nikos almost persuaded me to move away from Greece … but despite his insistence, I always had a hope that one day he would return permanently to Greece to work with us, to work together…
Nikos left us too early, too unexpectedly. His energy, smile, supportiveness, passion for research and life, made me think that he would be always like that, next to us and supporting us forever. If I had ever thought that he would leave us one day, I would have tried to learn more about him, about his personal life, to understand him better. I can’t forgive myself that I didn’t do it when I had the time.
Everybody says that Nikos was unconventional. Well, he has been the most conventional Section Editor of the International Journal of Sport and Exercise Psychology. He was never late, always providing feedback of the highest quality, until the very end of his life. He knew that he would die soon, possibly within the next week or so, but he continued inviting reviewers, providing feedback and making editorial decisions until at least April 16th 2020 (last registered Nikos’ actions in the electronic Editorial system), during a time that he was emptying his house in Perth to return to Thessaloniki and die in his homeland.
Two weeks earlier (beginning of April) I had a 30-40 minute skype discussion with Nikos. He was telling me that he had decided to take an early retirement from Perth due to his sickness, return to Greece and come and work with us in Trikala. His brother Dimitris was already in Perth next to him, hearing our discussion. Only Dimitris and Nikos knew that the cancer was progressing so fast and he would die soon. Nikos didn’t say anything to me or to anyone else – all his actions were as if anything was normal. Later Dimitris told me that Nikos didn’t want to make us sad. We lost contact with Nikos since the end of April. Nikos and Dimitris flew from Perth to Thessaloniki on May 3rd, upon their arrival they went to a Greek hospital. On May 14th I received an email from Sveta that Nikos had died.
Symeon Vlachopoulos. As I believe that many aspects of Nikos’ life and character have been covered by other contributors I will try to be brief. I first met Nikos when I began my doctorate studies in Exeter with Stuart (Biddle) and Ken (Fox). Nikos at that time started his MSc studies. We became friends immediately given that we were both beginning our studies in a foreign country (that later proved to be a very friendly and important country for both of us). It was the first stages of understanding where we are and how things work in order to get started with our mission. The next three years I can say that I considered Nikos to be my best friend given that from early morning to late night the topic of our discussions were psychological research, theory, and statistics. I was always impressed by his original way of viewing things, and his ideas I can say shaped my way of thinking. That was going on even when we were walking to visit a night club. Only when we were in the club, these discussions were ending because of loud music, Nikos having beers, and his attention being somewhere else. After some years he took my post at Brunel University when I left to return to Greece. Every few years we were meeting in Thessaloniki, Greece, his hometown, again to go out for drinks till late night and still the topic of discussion was the same as in the first years in Exeter. To characterize Nikos with a few words, I would use the words charismatic and genuine. He will be truly missed. RIP My Friend.
Guy Faulkner: I had the great fortune to know Nikos while doing postgraduate studies at Exeter and then Loughborough where I was always several steps behind him both intellectually and in terms of graduating. After we went our separate ways, with me moving to Canada and he to Singapore and then Australia, I don’t think I met him again in person. Yet twenty years later my recollection of him and our interactions remain so vivid and extraordinary – whether in the lab, going for walks, or on the dance floor. He taught me the most offensive Greek swear words and also structural equation modelling. Now I only remember how to swear in Greek. He truly was a one-of-a-kind who has left an indelible mark on the field of health psychology. I will never forget him.
Sarah Hardcastle: I first met Nikos soon after meeting Martin (Hagger) in 2008 and got to know him properly, and as my own friend, following my move to Australia in 2014. Nikos was always crazy, in a good way, and fun to be around. He was academically brilliant and achieved so much, yet he was humble, gracious, generous, inclusive, and authentic. Truly one of a kind … at ease talking about anything and everything!
I was fortunate to walk beside him on his cancer journey and his courage and bravery in the face of adversity was amazing. The treatments he had to endure were extremely harsh, but he never complained. He was his funny, larger than life self, even in hospital. Nikos would love to introduce me to everyone as his ‘best friend’s wife’ with a mischievous glint in his eyes. His energy and zest for life never ceased to amaze me, particularly in the past year. We were both applying for jobs in 2019 and his laptop was a bit dodgy so I would bring my laptop to the hospital and he would be doing skype job interviews in the guest chair, concealing his PICC line with a shirt and sweater and I’d be sitting in his bed on his laptop! Crazy times … he would get very excited in the interviews and in true Nikos style, with lots of flamboyant hand waving and ‘yah(s)’ and ‘isn’t it’ directed at the interview panel! We even had dress rehearsals to make sure you could not tell it was a hospital room! You could not make this stuff up! Other people were surviving but Nikos was still thriving!
When Nikos was back at home, he liked hanging out and drinking lots of coffee at ‘San Churros’ and talking research, psychology, philosophy, academia, religion, relationships, and things that cannot be mentioned here for hours on end! Nikos shielded his family from his plight such was his selfless nature and walked a very brave and courageous path. I will miss Nikos very much; he is simply irreplaceable and the world a much less colourful place without him. Nikos left us without warning and his premature departure has left our hearts filled with pain; but though he is no longer with us, in our hearts and memories he will always remain.
Antonis Hatzigeorgiadis: Life in Exeter … with Nikos!
I would love to grasp this chance to confess how lucky I have been in life, but this is supposed to be a brief note! So I can summarize … I was lucky enough in my life to meet Nikos at Exeter in 1994 when I joined THE masters programme!
I was even luckier to have spent together with Nikos some 5 years and utterly luckiest to share some houses with Nikos for about 3 of them in Exeter! How much I owe to Nikos … what a life experience this has been!!!
Typical of Stuart, when I arrive in Exeter he advised me to “meet Nikos, he’s Greek also; he joined the masters last year”; so there I was, meeting Nikos at Sidwell Street outside James Owen Court to go to a pub; not that it mattered which pub it would be, our first time happened to be one of the darkest, loudest, and dirtiest (I thought at the time) places, two floors (it seemed) underground … it had to be The Cavern! … but I can’t complaint about the unspeakable ‘treatment’…
Many unspeakable “Caverns” followed throughout the Exeter years and I can remember, I think, most if not all of the key places where things happened with Nikos … this is what I’m going to share with you, Exeter friends, and I hope you can all join and travel back in time to remember, smile, maybe shed a tear, and honour our great friend the most generous and spontaneous, unique and unforgettable, the original always… Nikos!
Nikos as I met him – more or less – but that expression was forever!
Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani: The first time I met Nikos was in October 1996 at a party at the ‘main’ campus at the University of Exeter (where I was an undergraduate student at the time). This took place the day after I started dating ‘my’ Nikos (Nikos Ntoumanis). He had asked Nikos where he’d been as he hadn’t been able to reach him. When he met me that evening, he said “Ahh, now I know why”.
Later on, while I still studied for my BSc, and needed to move to a friendlier house than the one I had lived in previously, I actually moved into Nikos’ old room in a shared house in Exeter (I believe this was when he went to Loughborough). So I never actually shared a house with Nikos, but we certainly have in common that small room at the top of the house with the magnificent view of Exeter.
Years later, in 2004, we invited Nikos to our wedding; only very special people were invited as we had a relatively small wedding. He, of course, stayed in the some random cheap hotel close to the airport, not because he was stingy (because he wasn’t), but he simply didn’t care about luxury (our wedding was in a reasonably fancy hotel) and he just needed somewhere to crash. It was a brilliant wedding and I believe Nikos had a lot of fun that night too.
I saw him again years later, and I could hardly recognise him as he had lost a huge amount of weight, and was getting super fit. Very different from the man I knew at Exeter, who, in combination with his hard work as a PhD student, was combined with hard partying at the local nightclubs and the compulsory kebab afterwards.
For the past 6 years, we worked together at Curtin University in Perth, Western Australia, and for the past few years, we had offices opposite each other. He would stick his head in now and then and we’d have a chat about projects or papers we wanted to write. I was of course in awe of his massive intellect, and tried my best to follow his train of thought, which wasn’t always possible. He got so excited every time I suggested something which I greatly appreciated. He really instilled confidence in me and wanted to collaborate on lots of projects and papers. We also co-supervised an Honours student together, and the meetings with the student were enlightening in so many ways. We were supervising a project on social comparisons, self-compassion and interpersonal relationships with a very sweet bright female student, who also, at least appeared very young and innocent. When explaining the concept of social comparisons (using the example of attractiveness), he asked the student “Do you think I’m handsome”? to which, of course, she profusely blushed. Oh, I do miss those meetings. His passion in explaining concepts to students was incredible. I will really miss hearing his loud voice across the corridor.
Nikos was extremely generous both in terms of sharing his vast knowledge, and even in a practical sense; he always wanted to pay for everything when we went out and bought lots of stuff for our daughters too. He had a brilliant connection with our two daughters and they were incredibly fond of him. A few years ago, we needed a Santa Claus for Christmas Eve (we had an outfit), and we thought Nikos would be perfect in the role (albeit, I’m pretty sure he would reveal his true self and the girls would have seen through it pretty quickly). He thought about it, even getting excited about the prospect. Unfortunately, for some practical reasons it never happened, which is a shame.
I also appreciated Nikos for always being positive, but also for having great sensitivity. Nikos was a one in a lifetime individual and l will miss him greatly. I wish I had had even more discussions with him over the years.
Stuart Biddle (concluding remarks – 1): I wanted to write an obituary for Nikos. I asked former students of mine and his, plus other friends, to say a few words and not be restricted by formalities. Tell some stories – some funny, some sad. And here we are – 13 stories and recollections and 11 pages later!
If you are a qualitative researcher – something Nikos was not – an analysis of the 11-page text here would be very interesting. I haven’t analysed it fully, but it is clear to see what people thought of Nikos: clever, funny, generous, social, liked (no, loved). I put this text into a word cloud (not something I do very often). Apart from ‘giant penises’ (I hope you have read the text earlier), key words range from structural equation modelling, planned behaviour, and motivational orientations, to human rights, weekly pub session, and late night! I guess this sums up the man. Brilliant, but also eclectic and unconventional, and we love you even more for that, Nikos!
Martin Hagger (concluding remarks – 2): I was very moved by all stories people shared about Nikos, it illustrated how much he was loved and respected. Nikos was like a brother to me. He enlightened my life, and shaped my thoughts and ideas, as he did for many others. It has taken me a while to come to terms with his passing – I miss him so much. It helped to write about it, the resulting ‘in memorial’, appearing in Psychology and Health, is linked here: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/342141265_In_Memory_of_Nikos_Chatzisarantis
Paraphrasing a great work, when I think about him now, I realize that some birds are just not meant to be caged, their feathers are just too bright. However, when they fly away it reminds us that the world we live in is all the more dull and drab without them in it. But Nikos will live on, in our thoughts, our stories, our memories and, for those of us who worked with him, our writing.
Stuart Biddle (University of Southern Queensland, Australia)
Brett Smith (Durham University, UK)
Nikos Ntoumanis (Curtin University, Australia)
John Wang (Nanyang Technological University, Singapore)
Erika Borkoles (Griffith University, Australia)
Simon Marshall (San Diego, USA)
Emmanouil (Manos) Georgiadis (University of Suffolk, UK)
Sviatlana Kamarova (Curtin University, Australia)
Sakis Papaioannou (University of Thessaly, Greece)
Symeon Vlachopoulos (Aristotle University of Thessaloniki, Greece)
Guy Faulkner (University of British Columbia, Canada)
Sarah Hardcastle (Dublin City University, Ireland)
Antonis Hatzgeorgiadis (University of Thessaly, Greece)
Cecilie Thøgersen-Ntoumani (Curtin University, Australia)
Martin Hagger (University of California Merced, USA)