The youngest of eight children of Greek immigrants, Agnes Koulouvaris was born in Lowell, Mass., on Jan. 11, 1930, and reared in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn. Her father, who sold ice cream from a pushcart, died when she was 14. Her mother, who could neither read nor write, sewed buttons in a garment factory.
The only one among the children to go to college, Agnes earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and English from Brooklyn College and later studied at the Stern School of Business at New York University. She shortened her surname to Varis on entering the business world.
took a job as a chemist with Fine Organics, a New Jersey manufacturer of industrial cleaning compounds. While there, she founded New Jersey Business Executives Against the Vietnam War, an initiative, she said afterward, that did not delight her boss.
She became an executive vice president at Fine Organics before leaving to start Agvar with her life savings and her husband’s — $50,000. She later helped found Marsam Pharmaceuticals, a maker of injectable antibiotics, and Aegis Pharmaceuticals, a generic-drug maker.
Ms. Varis’s husband, who owned a printing business, died in 2009. She leaves no known immediate survivors.
Her other philanthropic projects included support of the Opera Orchestra of New York, Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Jazz Foundation of America and Tufts University’s veterinary school.