On Wednesday afternoons he’s the friendly face behind the front desk at the Senior Friendship Centers in Sarasota. Nick Kovalakides charms seniors as they walk through the door. He’s a knowledgeable volunteer, eager to help.
“Hello there, can I help you find something?” he asks a woman as she enters the center. She says she’s looking for the ladies room.
“You’ll find it right next to the men’s room,” he tells her jokingly.
After the two share a laugh, he gets up from behind the desk to point her in the right direction.
Kovalakides retired in 2000 after having spent 34 years at the University of Maryland, his alma mater, where he filled a variety of roles ranging from head track coach to being the director intramural sports and recreation for 21 years.
“When I moved down here six years ago from Maryland, I had already been retired for a number of years and I had done things like announcing UMD football and basketball games to stay busy,” he said. “But when I first got to Longboat Key everything was new, and I was used to staying busy, so I starting looking for opportunities to volunteer.”
Kovalakides is a former Marine and national track athlete, and his demeanor reflects that of a humble former champion. He grew up in Princeton, N.J., were he graduated from Princeton High School in 1957 after winning the state championship in the javelin three years in a row, as well as becoming state discus champion his senior year.
Shortly after graduating, he went to Greece and threw for the National Greek-American All-Star Track Team in 1957. Afterward, he went on to UMD on a track and field scholarship. He was the Atlantic Coast Conference champion for shot put and discus and twice the javelin champion.
But what his résumé won’t tell you is that Kovalakides is extremely grateful to be where he is today. He lives on Longboat Key with his wife, Trish Thaylor, on the 13th floor of Islands West, where he especially enjoys watching the sun set over the Gulf every evening.
“For me to wake up in the morning and see all the beautiful things Longboat Key has to offer makes me feel like I’m being paid back,” he said.
Neighborhood: Islands West
Your neighbor since: 2008